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The One, Two Punch of Being Anti-Gay

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First a reputation stain, then the pocketbook strains. That's what lawmakers the world over learned to expect recently when efforts to penalize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people move forward.

In the clamor over Arizona's misguided effort to implement a "No shoes, no shirt, no straight, no service" law, corporate America was the loudest voice of concern on the governor's phone line. From American Airlines to AT&T to Starwood and Yelp, businesses urged Governor Brewer to veto SB 1062. After a raucous week, the governor responded with that veto and one would guess a desire for swift, collective amnesia that her state ever let such an embarrassing bill get all the way to her desk.

On the other side of the world, Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni learned that the $90,000,000 in aid he expected from the World Bank wasn't coming in light of the country's passage of one of the most draconian anti-LGBT law on the books, wholesale life imprisonment for convicted homosexuals. The Bank is withholding aid approval while it examines the potential impact of the law on HIV/AIDS, healthcare and other programs.

Let's look at some basic facts about Uganda. Mr. Museveni presides over a country with a life expectancy of less than 54-years-old at birth, encroaching spillover of violence from Southern Sudan, and a per capita income rate that is a dismal 206 on the world's scale. And where does he choose to focus his energy and political capital? By declaring war on a group of his own citizens.

Does this facet of national leadership by Mr. Museveni -- an obsession with sexual orientation, above other pressing issues -- inspire the confidence of investors? Other world leaders? Apparently not, says the whirr of dollars going elsewhere and admonitions from the Obama Administration.

Writing in response to Uganda, Nigeria and the 81 other countries with anti-LGBT laws, the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim, declared unequivocally in an op-ed Friday in the Washington Post that:

Eliminating discrimination is not only the right thing to do; it's also critical to ensure that we have sustained, balanced and inclusive economic growth in all societies -- whether in developed or developing nations, the North or the South, America or Africa.

Everyday at the Human Rights Campaign, I work with Fortune 500 and other major global companies on issues of LGBT equality. I have also done programming with the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and other international financial entities as they look to align further with their private sector partners.

Our mantra is: "Equality is not just the right thing to do, it's good for business." In the U.S. alone, the LGBT community wields in aggregate an estimated buying power exceeding $830 billion. The value proposition for LGBT inclusion within the corporate community is irrefutable: a majority of the Fortune 500 affords protections to LGBT workers -- something not currently provided under federal U.S. law -- and hundreds of businesses have weighed in on public policy matters such as marriage equality, non-discrimination and LGBT human rights.

For businesses and global leaders, standing up to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is not a proxy fight, it is the fight. LGBT equality is no longer up for grabs as a political chess piece and is instead an essential and valuable indicator of social and economic health. Any entity -- private or public -- that would choose to prevent the full civic, economic and labor participation of its LGBT people, does so at its own peril.

But don't take my word for it, just ask other hard line liberal activists like Jan Brewer, Mitt Romney, Marriott's CEO, the World Bank Group and the myriad others who publicly opposed institutional discrimination against LGBT people.