I'm really getting tired of companies, politicians, donors and other entities using their support of LGBT rights -- something much easier to do these days -- as a way to pose as progressive, often as a PR move to blunt criticism of a bad record or even nefarious actions. And it's time that LGBT activists stop letting them get away with it. At this point, many of these entities need us more than we need them. Let's demand more.
The latest is Burger King, which only weeks ago unveiled "The Proud Whopper" to support LGBT pride -- receiving accolades from many LGBT activists -- but now is fleeing to Canada, buying up Tim Hortons, following other American companies engaged in so-called tax inversions, all to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Who cares if Burger King wraps its Whopper in the rainbow if the company is hurting the American economy, American taxpayers and American workers, including LGBT workers?
Last week I wrote about GOP megadonor Paul Singer, the hedge-fund billionaire who says he supports marriage equality and has given money to LGBT groups and GOP politicians who already support LGBT rights. But he's done nothing to actually take down the scores of viciously anti-gay Republican politicians -- by, for example, backing pro-gay GOPers in primaries -- and is giving millions to anti-gay candidates via right-wing groups and super PACs. While the super PAC he founded is backing a meager seven GOP candidates who already support LGBT rights -- and getting puffy media pieces written about it, which make it appear as if the GOP is more pro-gay than its record bears out -- he's doing everything he can to make sure the GOP gains more House seats and takes control of the Senate. That will only hurt LGBT rights and all progressive causes.
It's not just Republicans. It was a major triumph when marriage equality was passed in New York in 2011, pushed hard by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and gay activists should be thankful. But in the years since, Cuomo has been less than progressive and has sucked up to big business, hurting workers -- and now isn't even getting endorsed by New York's major labor unions. All the while he and LGBT supporters have used his marriage-equality win to give him progressive bona fides. But budget cuts and diminishing workers' rights hurt all of us, gay and straight, and Cuomo shouldn't get a pass and be allowed to use LGBT rights as cover.
Back in 2012 the largest LGBT group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), gave its Workplace Equality Innovation Award to Goldman Sachs, one of the very Wall Street firms that made billions during the economic crisis, in which millions of Americans lost their jobs and their homes -- and many still haven't recovered. Among other things, Goldman benefited directly from the government's financial bailouts, getting $2.9 billion alone from its client, AIG, after it received government relief. The award was simply tone-deaf on HRC's part, doing the wrong thing at the wrong time -- but it was the right time for Goldman Sachs and its PR operation, which needed to soften the company's image. As Andrew Beaver wrote at the time:
In 2012, honoring a New York company for being good to its gay employees is like congratulating it for a passing second grade, since New York City has strong anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people, and most of New York's banking industry has policies protecting LGBT employees. Let's be clear: HRC honored Goldman for money and prestige on Wall Street.
The fact that Burger King so publicly supports LGBT rights shouldn't matter. We should be past the point of being giddy over a nice wrapper. Corporations that dodge paying U.S. taxes while making billions from American consumers are wreaking havoc. We should all be sending a message to the fast-food giant that it is hurting America -- gay America, straight America, all of America.
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