By Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Corporate support for LGBT equality is obviously a plus, and obviously growing. But as I’ve written before, it also raises the question of “what to do when someone with big money is good on your issue, but bad in other ways?” That was back in February, when HRC honored Goldman Sachs for their support of LGBT equality, but when GS was much in the news for its Wall Street ways. The familiar (to advocacy groups) conundrum is similar to the dilemma of what to do when an Elected is good on your big issue, but not so good on others. Just as importantly, how do you handle Electeds and corporations when they are inconsistent in their support? You can sometimes find yourself wanting simultaneously to cheer and jeer the same corporation or Elected.
Take all of that and place it in 2012 context, and then think about the following recent queer news. Maybe one conclusion is: gaining equality is a messy slog. There are those wonderful high moments, but only because enough people have pushed through the daily, often unpleasant, grind.
Last February, JCPenney’s faced down the ire of the American Family Association’s One Million Moms, who demanded they drop Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson. An “openly lesbian” was clearly a threat to the Moms, though it’s likely their kids are among the growing number of youth who don’t get the big deal about gay or lesbian. JCP not only didn’t get rid of Ellen, one of the Father’s Day ads includes
… real-life dads Todd Koch and Cooper Smith with their children, Claire and Mason.
The copy reads: … What makes Dad so cool? He’s the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver – all rolled into one. Or two.
Which is very cool. And although that ad doesn’t directly address marriage equality, it’s certainly supportive of the “normalizing” of same-gender couples, parents and families. Marriage equality, in fact, has become a, if not the, key issue, certainly in terms of general public attention. And corporate support is a factor, both in terms of reflecting the achievements of the hard work of advocacy, and in helping to further it.
Abby Phillip, in Gay marriage advocates gain corporate support (just to say, again, “marriage equality” or “marriage between same-sex or same-gender couples”, are preferable to “gay marriage”; it will be nice when we can just say “marriage”):
Gay marriage advocates have a new and powerful ally in corporate America. One by one, national corporations like Microsoft, Starbucks, Boeing and Google are wading into the once-risky business of taking a position supporting gay marriage in states across the country.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, which a federal appeals court called unconstitutional on Thursday. Forty-eight companies, including Nike, Time Warner Cable, Aetna, Exelon Corp., and Xerox had signed a brief arguing that the law negatively affected their businesses.
Like Electeds, I think corporations are more prone to check the polls and the political landscape, and then decide what and when to offer support than they are to take the lead. But there’s no doubt that, for example, a sitting president to say he personally supports marriage equality is a big deal. An even bigger deal, though, may be the court decision referenced above. Or rather, a series of decisions. You can bet Electeds and corporations are paying attention to that, as well.
Via Gothamist, on June 7:
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was dealt another body blow yesterday when U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones struck down a key part of the law dealing with benefits for partners in gay marriages, ruling in Manhattan that the Act’s efforts to define marriage ‘intrude upon the states’ business of regulating domestic relations.’
Judge Jones is now the fifth judge to find the 1996 law unconstitutional, a view held by an increasingly large number of politicians (not to mention the White House).
California’s Prop 8 also received another judicial decision. From The Advocate:
Court Won’t Rehear Prop. 8 Case
Only two things can happen now. Either Proposition 8’s backers appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or same (sex)-couples can begin marrying in California.
You’ll remember that when Obama said he had come to personally support marriage equality, he also said he thought it was a state decision. And this November, four more states will allow that decision to be made by voters: Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and the latest, Washington state.
As long as equality is determined by popular vote, we have a problem. Still, the change in the corporate and Elected worlds is clearly moving toward support of equality. From Phillip’s article:
Last year, 25 executives including the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Viacom and Alcoa lobbied New York legislators to approve same-sex marriage. In January, Microsoft, Boeing, Vulcan and Real Networks were among those who voiced their support for a bill approving gay marriage in Washington state. The corporate activism is a change from as little as five years ago, when major companies shied away from same-sex marriage issues in order to avoid a backlash.
That change, and the same move toward support of equality by more Electeds, is a clear indication that the work of local, state and national advocates is adding up, and making a difference. A part of that work is knowing when it’s appropriate to cheer, and when a firm jeer is required. Frequently, there really are reasons for both at the same time. Advocacy is challenging work.