By D. Osborn
I understand and appreciate Rick’s concern with the over-commercialization of Pride parades and events and share some of his dislike at the monetizing of our weekend celebration. I also want to make sure we don’t forget our history, or the important role many of our corporate allies have played in the advancement of LGBTQ rights and acceptance.
I’m part of the generation that remembers the fear and exclusion many in the LGBTQ community felt in the larger society — before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, before the White House was lit up in the colors of the gay rainbow flag, before national leaders “evolved” in their opinions of LGBTQ issues, before local politicians lined up to be in our parade and pop stars were grand marshal, when some states still considered gay sex a crime and you could be fired just for being gay [editor’s note: this is still the case in some states], even before Will and Grace brought a gay persona into American homes.
Before these advances, when LGBTQ people were still marginalized, it was many from corporate America that marched in our parades and stood up for our equality and made policies to ensure our rights — before the courts, politicians and laws caught up.
I remember tears coming to my eyes when the large global management consulting firm I was working for announced ground-breaking new non-discrimination policies that included gays and lesbians; this at a time when many in the country would rather we stay hidden deep in our closets. It was America’s corporations that offered same-sex partner benefits years before the courts and laws caught up. Later, as an employee of a large biotech company, I was placed on the diversity committee primarily because I was gay; management wanted to ensure that gays and lesbians were recruited, welcomed and valued as important, contributing members of the company. Corporate America realized the benefits of a diverse workforce, including LGBT, years before our government did.
And when companies, like Wells Fargo, started to march in our Pride parades, it may have been in part marketing strategy, but given the sentiments in society at large at the time, I think it was more an act of corporate courage to do the right thing and support and value our community.
Even today, when places like Indiana and North Carolina enact laws that discriminate against the LGBTQ community, it’s in large measure, pressure from our corporate and business allies that leads to the reversal of those laws.
Now we find ourselves as a community going from having had a seat at the table in the White House, to having a president with conspicuous silence during Pride Month and a vice president and an attorney general who see people in one of two big buckets: good people and bad people — sadly, the LGBTQ community as a whole is in the bad people bucket for these leaders. We again need our corporate allies to stand with us and to stand against attempts to claw back our rights.
So when we see our corporate sponsors and allies in our Pride parade and at our festival, when straight allies give up their Saturday morning to march —rather than disdain and disrespect — we should all stand and cheer their willingness to stand with us. We will likely need their help and support again over the next four years.