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Business community wielding its influence over LGBTQ rights

Companies are throwing their weight behind LGBTQ causes. Nearly 500 companies — including Deloitte, Pfizer, Molson Coors, Nestlé, and Amazon — have signed on in support of the Equality Act.

In February 2021, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act on a 224-206 vote. The act would amend federal law, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, to explicitly include anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals.

It’s unclear when the Senate will take up the bill and what the outcome might be. Democrats broadly support the bill, so assuming the Senate’s 48 Democrats and two Independents vote in favor, supporters will still need to win over 10 Republicans for passage.

Economic impact. In years past, the business community has successfully influenced state policy changes. Event planners cost the state of Indiana $60 million when 12 national conferences pulled out after a “religious exemption” bill would have allowed businesses to turn away LGBTQ customers and potential hires. (The law was soon amended.)

Likewise, North Carolina lost $630 million in canceled sports events, performances, and conventions in the one year its so-called “bathroom bill” was in effect. In Texas, the mere consideration of a similar bill triggered $66 million in cancelled conventions.

Meanwhile, activists are watching and publicly outing corporations that claim to be LGBTQ supporters on the surface while simultaneously giving to lawmakers who are seeking to thwart the Equality Act and otherwise voting against LGBTQ interests.

Millennial and Gen Z workforce. Employee opinions may also be influencing growing corporate support for LGBTQ rights. According to a study from the Public Religion Research Institute, 67% of young adults in the U.S. do not believe that small business owners should be allowed to refuse service to LGBTQ people for religious reasons. That’s compared to 60% of Americans overall and 53% of senior citizens.

As the largest group in the U.S. workforce, Millennials are critical to recruitment and brand strategies. But they’re not the only influencers. Polls show a growing number of U.S. adults identify as LGBTQ.

Gallup recently reported a jump from 4.5% to 5.6% since its last poll in 2017 — with Gen Z leading the way. In press reports, one leading LGBTQ advocate suggested the growth had less to do with an increase in people identifying as LGBTQ but more likely reflected declines in stigma, meaning more people felt safe to identify as such.

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