In fighting the long, uphill battle for marriage equality, it’s easy to reach for any hand of support that’s offering assistance. A temporary alliance with the devil to achieve a greater good may seem acceptable — but it will always end up corrupting the mission in the end. Right now, the LGBT community is in danger of selling itself to corporate interests in order to attain its goal of marriage equality.
This May, the National Organization for Marriage sent a letter to nearly 100 businesses in Minnesota requesting they stay out of the debate on same-sex marriage in the state. A constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage is on the ballot this year, and both sides are gearing up for a fight. Two other anti-gay groups, the family Research Council and One Million Moms, have also urged businesses to stay neutral.
This is a stark contrast from just a few years ago, when anti-LGBT forces actively lobbied corporations to fight marriage equality. Many gay activists see the letter’s wording — asking for neutrality, not support — as a huge victory.
The fact that bigots are now trying to keep money and influence out of politics because they fear which way it will go is definitely a good sign that public opinion is evolving. Corporate America has changed its tune: Many New York-based corporations were influential in persuading legislators to support same-sex marriage in the state last year.
This looks rosy on the surface — the money is finally behind us, right? And we all believe we deserve it. But it’s time to take a step back and look closer on how accepting this help is only perpetuating a system that is incredibly destructive not just in America but across the world.
Corporations influenced politicians in New York to support same-sex marriage — and the short-term outcome was a huge victory for the gay rights. But corporations should not be able to influence politicians at all. This system of lobbying, where money plays kingmaker, is a detriment to society. It created enormous wealth inequality, harms the environment, creates a culture of dependence and allows those with power to hold onto power, thus destroying democracy.
This sounds apocalyptic, but look at our world. The vast majority of the world’s population is exploited — by “good” corporations like Apple that now support marriage equality — so that the wealthy can continue to get wealthier. American companies set up factories in the third world where there are no environmental or worker protection laws for exactly this reason.
Back home, these companies spend billions of dollars lobbying local, state and federal governments to gain favorable tax breaks and regulations that benefit them but cause harm to others. That’s an abstract accusation, so I’ll share a little personal experience of mine to get specific.
I used to work for a public relations firm whose client — a company that makes red-light cameras — paid the firm to write op-eds and letters to the editor from the perspective of a parent who lost a child to a red light runner. The goal was to influence public opinion by pulling at people’s heartstrings so that red light cameras would be installed at intersections across the country, raking in huge amounts of cash for the company.
Not only is this completely false advertising — I can personally attest to the fact that these cameras are solely for revenue, not safety — but I was the one writing these op-eds … and I have no children. After I finished writing a piece and gave it to my boss, he would slap on a sponsor’s name at the end and send it to the press.
Next time you turn right on a red and get a ticket in the mail, you can thank me.
But the point is, we as a community should not sell out and assimilate into this system just to gain what we want right now. General Mills, one of Minnesota’s 10 largest companies, responded to the National Organization for Marriage’s letter by saying it was indeed in their business interest to support gay-marriage — equality laws attract talent.
Read between the lines: General Mills was looking out for its own interests, not ours. Tomorrow, its interest could include opening a sweatshop in Indonesia. It’s great that money and influence are pivoting toward us, but think of the bigger picture, not just the short-term gain. Our interests are just one stitch in the enormous quilt that is America, and we do not want to inadvertently side with entities that cause harm to others in society.