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6 Ways Straight People Benefit From Gay Rights

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Earlier this week I came across a critique of College Humor's popular "Gay Men Will Marry Your Girlfriends" video, which pointed out that the video reinforces stereotypes about gay men and straight men to make its point in favor of same-sex marriage. It's true: The clip portrays all gay men as bodybuilding, fashionable, Pinkberry-loving dancers, and all straight men as unsophisticated, out-of-touch slobs. For all its stereotyping shortcomings, though, College Humor's video has a point: Straight people benefit from gay rights. It's not a major reason to support LGBT rights (such rights stand on their own merits); it's just a fact. (But if it swayed somebody on the fence, though, I'd be OK with that.) Here are six reasons, based on facts, not stereotypes, that straight people will benefit from acceptance and equal rights for LGBT people:

1) LGBT people are your friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors.

Oppression hurts. Because of homophobic attitudes, which are supported through government discrimination, LGBT people are more likely than straight people to experience hate crimes, become depressed and commit suicide. That suffering doesn't just affect LGBT people themselves but touches everybody they know.

2) Straight people are protected, too.

Anti-discrimination laws, anti-bullying policies and hate crime laws generally cover a person's actual or perceived sexual orientation. For instance, if a straight man with a lisp and a high-pitched voice is mistaken for being gay during a job interview, he would be legally protected from discrimination if Congress passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

3) Better school outcomes.

Each month, nearly one third of LGBT-identified high school students skip at least one day of school out of concern for their safety, and many other LGBT students have dropped out altogether. Greater acceptance of LGBT people and cracking down on anti-gay bullying can help to make LGBT students feel safer at school, which means they're more likely to graduate and become productive contributors to society. With a safe environment, some struggling students will go on to do influential things, like contribute to a scientific breakthrough or start a small business.

4) Economics.

When companies can and do discriminate based on sexual orientation or any other status that has nothing to do with one's qualifications (e.g., race, sex), they end up with a weaker employee pool, which means less innovation and less efficiency. When they hire based on merits and what the employee can bring to the company, efficiency goes up. Or, to put it another way, if the best heart surgeon in the region happens to be gay and your hospital won't hire him because of that, let's just hope you don't need a triple bypass.

5) Allocation of resources.

Speaking of economics, a lot of people spend a great deal of money fighting for LGBT rights. Other people put in a lot of time. Both are well spent. But once LGBT people have equal rights, though I am sure covert homophobia will stick around for some time, people will spend less time and money on things like fighting for marriage equality and employment nondiscrimination legislation. That frees up time and money for things like ending poverty, finding cures for cancer and other worthy causes.

6) We actually do marry your girlfriends... sometimes.

But unlike in the College Humor video, gay and lesbian people who marry or are in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex don't tend to be open about their orientation. That made some sense a few decades ago in an oppressive society in which same-sex relationships were unthinkable for most people. Fortunately, I'll bet that there are fewer gay and lesbian people marrying people of the opposite sex today than several decades ago, thanks to increased acceptance of LGBT people and more visibility of same-sex relationships. But it still happens. Who wants to be the woman to learn that her husband or long-term boyfriend is actually gay and wonder what all of those years in the relationship meant? Best to have a society that doesn't have a problem with gay people being gay.