Companies cannot “have their cake and eat it too” by claiming to be supportive of their LGBTQ+ employees, customers and community, and yet make political contributions to lawmakers who harm and demonize LGBTQ people. Companies can no longer straddle the fence; they must choose sides and take a strong stand as anti-LGBTQ proposals are flooding state legislatures at a record pace.
The latest high visibility situation in recent news concerns the Disney company. They have long been considered a great supporter of the LGBTQ community, but then when the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law restricting discussion of LGBTQ issues in public schools was voted into law in Florida, Disney at first issued a tepid lukewarm statement about the proposed legislation while donating money to politicians who were voting for it.
About a hundred employees at Disney staged a walkout in protest, and I was in full support of their action. An organization simply cannot claim they support a community, yet provide money to those people who are seeking to harm that community. Disney’s CEO has since come out with a much stronger statement against this harmful bill which basically denies the existence and legitimacy of LGBTQ families, and has pledged to no longer fund politicians who legislate harm and hatred of LGBTQ people.
It is a common practice (yet a very bad idea) for companies to make political contributions. The concept is to support and try to elect legislators who will pass laws that will benefit your business so you can make more profit. But far too often, this places profitability over stated values and principals, and compromises integrity. And the LGBTQ community is not going to quietly sit by while companies throw us empty words of so-called support while giving money to those who harm us.
Two final thoughts
First, kudos to my former employer, IBM. They are one of the very few large companies that has never made political contributions. (Read their governance statement about this.)
Second, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) which annually measures and scores companies’ LGBTQ+ support through their corporate equality index (CEI), needs to take a much more rigorous look at this. So many companies are now scoring 100% on the HRC scorecard, but I think much of it is empty words and platitudes instead of real action. HRC does have a practice of deducting 25 points from the rating of any company that does harmful things against the LGBTQ+ community, and now they need to uncover any company that contributes money to lawmakers who vote for anti-LGBTQ laws, and smack them with a “minus 25.” HRC, are you listening?
The LGBTQ community and our allies must continue to speak out loudly against any company that contributes money to politicians who harm us, including boycotts and walkouts, until this arcane harmful practice ends.