A torrent of anti-transgender bills has been sweeping through state legislatures this year, and U.S. corporations finally seem to be pushing back. Rather than simply issuing individual statements affirming their support for LGBTQ rights, more than 400 U.S. businesses have joined together in the largest coalition of its kind in the U.S., and they have pledged to put their muscle behind the federal Equality Act.
Biggest ever display of support for LGBTQ rights: Why now?
It is no coincidence that a record number of businesses have organized in support of federal LGBTQ protections this year. The Equality Act has been introduced in previous legislative sessions, but the events of 2021 have made its passage more urgent than ever before.
This year has seen an unprecedented rampage against transgender Americans by lawmakers across the U.S. Since January, state legislators have introduced a record number of bills that would have an impact on transgender rights for both children and adults, numbering more than 100 pieces of legislation in 33 states by mid-April.
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Many of the bills are reportedly modeled on legislation composed by staff of the multinational legal organization Alliance for Defending Freedom, which is recognized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
As described by SPLC, stopping transgender youth from playing school sports is just a foot in the door for ADF’s global agenda. The organization aims to criminalize homosexuality in the U.S. and elsewhere.
SPLC draws attention to a 2012 speech in Spain by ADF’s then-global counsel Piero Tozzi, who said in part that “homosexual acts are incapable of bearing fruit — indeed, strictly speaking, they are not sexual, as they are incapable of being generative or procreative. Thus there is the need to desensitize and corrupt young minds, both to undermine resistance to the agenda and for recruitment among those that are at an emotionally vulnerable stage of development.”
More recently, SPLC drew a picture of ADF as a powerful international organization that “works with policymakers and other organizations to outlaw abortion, deny equality and marriage to LGBTQ people worldwide, and continue to push for a hard-right Christian theocratic worldview that is reflected in legislation and policies.”
LGBTQ rights and globalism at the door
Right-wing pundits and politicians have spent considerable energy falsely branding the Democratic legislative agenda as a socialist takeover orchestrated by globalists. Meanwhile, ADF and its boilerplate anti-transgender bills are actual globalism in the guise of legislation that can upend the lives of millions of U.S. workers and their families through their attack on LGBTQ rights.
The rising influence of an international anti-LGBTQ organization in state legislatures across the U.S. is clearly a matter of fundamental concern for American business leaders who recognize the bottom-line benefits of drawing their employees from the nation’s richly diverse pool of talent.
“Employers care about their employees' ability to rent an apartment, send their kids to school, visit the dentist and pick up the groceries free from discrimination,” the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the U.S., emphasizes. “They realize that when LGBTQ employees and their family members are protected in their daily lives, it makes them more secure and confident in their jobs, and also more productive.”
Next steps for the LGBTQ rights movement
Business leaders finally appear to be awakening to the danger of real-life globalists exercising their influence on state laws, contrary to the interests of U.S. corporations.
Earlier this week, the Human Rights Campaign announced that 416 U.S. businesses have now joined its ongoing lobbying effort in support of explicit federal protections for LGBTQ rights through the Business Coalition for the Equality Act.
The Equality Act has achieved some success this year, having passed the U.S. House of Representatives in February. Passage in the Senate, though, will be practically impossible. At least 10 Republicans need to join the Democrats for a filibuster-breaking majority of 60 in favor.
Nevertheless, this group does provide business leaders with an opportunity to make themselves heard. Their influence could become a deciding factor in the coming months as Democrats wrestle over the question of modifying or abolishing the filibuster, thereby enabling key legislation to pass with a simple majority of 51 votes.
Next steps for American democracy
In terms of bottom-line operations, the members of the Business Coalition for the Equality Act do wield a big stick. “The 416 member companies of HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act represent a major swath of America’s economic engine, with member companies overseeing business operations in all 50 states, company headquarters spanning 33 states and a combined $6.8 trillion in annual revenue,” the Human Rights Campaign explains, adding that collectively they employ more than 14.6 million people in the U.S. alone.
In addition to employing 14.6 million people, the business coalition includes well-known names that touch practically every individual in the U.S. at some point in their lives, regardless of their political affiliation. The list includes Amazon, Best Buy, Coca-Cola, CVS Health, Dow, Facebook, Google, IBM, Kellogg, Levi Strauss, Marriott, Microsoft, Monsanto, Nike, Target, Unilever and Twitter, among 400-odd others.
As if that is not enough firepower, the Business Coalition’s membership roster currently includes 647 civil rights groups along with labor unions and religious, professional, and trade organizations across the U.S.
Unfortunately, for all its numbers the coalition has so far failed to make a significant difference as the wave of anti-transgender legislation continues to move through statehouses across the nation.
In addition, a concurrent flood of new state-based voter suppression bills is all but certain to cement Republican control over key statehouses in the coming years, leading to even more oppressive laws.
The real test will come at the federal level. U.S. business leaders will make a real difference if they mobilize their financial resources to support federal lawmakers working for passage of the Equal Rights Act, and stop devoting campaign funds to Republicans in Congress who supported the failed Jan. 6 insurrection.
Another potentially powerful aspect of the Business Coalition is the inclusion of leading labor unions alongside corporations that have gained a reputation for resisting unionization, with Amazon being one especially notorious example.
That is a significant turn of events, considering the historic role of unions in turning out the vote. The Business Coalition could help motivate some corporations to take a second look at their campaign donations and deploy more resources in support of pro-union candidates who also support LGBTQ rights.
Corporate support for the union voice already passed a test earlier this year when the Major League Baseball Players Association responded to a new voter suppression law in Georgia by successfully advocating for the organization to move the 2021 All-Star Game to Colorado.
Business leaders who come out in support of the Equality Act and voter rights may soon find themselves riding a wave of support from athletes in other sports. Earlier this week, nine other professional sports players’ unions signed on to a public letter asserting the universal civic responsibility “to defend the right to vote and to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.”
Notably, mens’ professional basketball, soccer and football unions signed the letter along with unions that are in the crosshairs of anti-transgender legislation aimed at youth sports, including the National Women’s Hockey League Players Association, National Women’s Soccer League Players Association, Professional Women’s Hockey League Players Association, United States Women’s National Team Players Association, and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association.
It remains to be seen if ADF and its allies have awakened the sleeping dragon with their anti-transgender bills, or if the corporate response and rally for LGBTQ rights is all hot air and no action. However, the emergence of a union-corporate coalition on LGBTQ equality and voting rights is a promising sign that support for President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda will continue to grow stronger as the 2022 midterm election cycle gets under way.
Image credit: Cecilie Johnsen/Unsplash
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.