Friday, January 20, 2012

Gay rights and the corporate, capitalist world

Andrew Sullivan, over at Daily Dish, makes the point--and one would be hard pressed to say he’s wrong in this instance--that the recent news that all of the companies on the Fortune Best 100 Companies to Work For list have anti-discrimination clauses that protects queer people is a triumph of the market. None of these companies are pandering or catering to a queer audience and they aren’t doing it for any particularly noble motive. Rather, they want the best talent they can get and do not want to lose that talent because someone is queer. Given that we’ve been waiting for ENDA for the better part of a quarter century but this change has happened right under our noses, I’m hard pressed to say that the market didn’t work.
A story from my way-back days in tech will be illustrative here. I used to work for a start-up in Oakland. This was my third job in the computer industry. I came in the door as employee thirteen. When I started, the company did not cover domestic partner benefits. As I was doing all of my paperwork on day one, the office manager came to me and said, “Don’t fill out your insurance forms yet. We don’t cover DP because it never came up before but now it has so I just have to call Aetna and it’ll take a few days to get it all sorted.” At the time I was only dating some woman, we’d had all of two dates and I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I didn’t have a domestic partner.
That said, the next three hires were queer and so they benefitted from it. I was kicked out of the military for being queer. I never lost my job for being queer and in all the time I’ve worked in the field (since 1994) I can only think of one time that my being queer was the likely cause I didn’t get a job and that was because the organization was an arm of the Lutheran church. Since 1994, I’ve worked for two non-profits (including the YWCA), two start-ups and two multinationals. I’ve been treated fairly and equitably and been a valued member of the teams I was on.
I will give the last word to Sullivan.
This is not because they are somehow being noble. It is because they are serving their shareholders by employing the absolutely best people for the jobs they have and do not want to miss someone's talents because of something irrelevant like sexual orientation.
Hence capitalism enables equality. And the last entity to get with the program is the government.
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