The year 2015 was a huge year for the LGBT community.
Although the community and its allies ecstatically welcomed the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that effectively made gay marriage legal throughout the United States, the decision sparked some backlash among businesses and members of the public.
There have been highly publicized debates over whether small, privately held businesses should be required to serve homosexual couples.
In August, for example, a Colorado baker refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Forcing these businesses to make a wedding cake or floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding violates the religious freedom of business owners who may be opposed to such unions because of their faith, some businesses say.
And some state and local governments agree. It’s not only low-level county officials like the Kentucky clerk of courts who was jailed for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant recently signed a bill into law that allows businesses and religious groups to deny a variety of services to members of the LGBT community.
Just when there seemed to be a strong movement toward meaningful inclusiveness, the country seems to be taking two steps back.
Case in point
Charlotte, North Carolina, recently passed a city ordinance allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. If you were born a man, but identify as a woman, you would be free to use the women’s restroom. Almost immediately after the ordinance passed, Governor Pat McCrory, in a rare emergency session, signed into law a measure banning cities from protecting such rights.
In response to the North Carolina decision, PayPal, one of the world’s largest online payment systems, cancelled plans to open a new global operations center in Charlotte. The CEOs of other organizations, from Apple to the NBA, have also voiced strong criticism against such lack of inclusiveness.
Why? As North Carolina furniture maker Mitchell Gold told NPR in an interview on April 3, “(this law banning cities from protecting LGBT rights) makes it more difficult, not less difficult to hire the very best talent.”
It’s not just the members of the LGBT community who feel marginalized.
Enacting legislation to restrict the rights of one group sends ominous signals and negative messages to other groups. If local business leaders and government officials don’t like transgender people here, what will they think about other groups like African Americans, Muslims and immigrants? As Gold points out, it’s already difficult to attract top talent. Why push entire segments of the population away to exacerbate the problem?
Our relentless drumbeat continues: inclusion is a business imperative! Be inclusive!
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