On June 30, 2023 the Supreme Court ruled to allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT+ individuals.
There’s no doubt that this has stirred up a myriad of emotions. I wanted to address these feelings and share some thoughts and ideas about how we can respond as both a community and as individuals.
First and foremost, let me acknowledge the anger, sadness, and fear that many of us are experiencing. There are countless reasons to be upset, and it’s normal to feel anger toward those who seem to believe they are superior to us based on their sexual orientation. It’s also enraging that certain religious beliefs are being prioritized over our very existence – and our ability to participate fully in the marketplace.
However, in navigating these emotions, it’s essential for our own well-being to be discerning in where we direct our anger. It’s important to remember that not all Christians are bigots. In fact, many of them are us or are standing alongside us as allies, and their support is invaluable.
While these bigoted actions may aim to marginalize us, the objective truth is that we have a greater number of supporters than opponents. We have to keep a cool head and resist the temptation to view our straight neighbors with undue suspicion, as this is precisely what these bigots want. We need straight people – they are the ones who keep making gay babies!
I also feel sad today because the experience of encountering signs that read “NO GAYS ALLOWED” may soon become an unfortunate reality.
Personally, I will think twice about returning to certain places (like visiting family in the South) where the likelihood of being denied service has significantly increased. We saw through Trump’s presidency what it means to give license to hate.
I’m also sad today for the message this sends to those who are already struggling with their identity – and what it must feel like for them to hear that being gay is somehow “less-than.”
Then, there’s the fear.
Because the question that looms is this: where will this stop?
Will a physician’s Hippocratic Oath take precedence over his religious beliefs?
Can a restaurant, claiming culinary artistry, deny service to gay customers?
The impact of this ruling will be very, very real for us.
But we cannot succumb to fear, we must remain resilient and united.
And we have to consider how we will respond as a community and individually.
That being said, I think the idea of a one-to-one retaliation is a bad one. We shouldn’t decide that since they are going to deny us service, we are going to deny service to Trump supporters or Christians (like I’m seeing suggested in many places online today). Who really wins when you race the devil to hell?
I don’t think any of us want to live in a world with that kind of division on steroids. All money is green – just like it was yesterday. Let’s fix this issue and this Court without continuing to demonize one another. No, it’s not fair, but it is what is necessary. Remember…
The case that prompted this ruling centered around a hypothetical scenario rather than an actual instance of discrimination. This was a manufactured problem that didn’t exist.
We can use the power of our dollar against those who would discriminate against us. This isn’t a new idea for us, we’ve been doing this for years. See HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. Remember the Chic-fil-A thing? We know how to do this.
Allow me to share some ideas and fantasies regarding our collective and individual action:
- If a business owner wishes to refuse service to LGBT+ individuals, we should help them make that clear. We need to summon our creativity to ensure that they wear their prejudice like a Scarlet Letter, an unmistakable symbol of their bigotry.
- I hope that tech companies will enable businesses to clearly indicate whether they discriminate or remain open to serving everyone. Demonstrating support is not enough; we must make it easy for bigots to self-identify. This is not about spreading hate; it is about empowering ourselves to know where our dollars have no value.
- We should make it very easy to look up a business online and immediately know if they “Serve Everyone” or see who they have chosen to discriminate against (this will not stop with gays). We will have to be creative and clever about it – give them a cool badge that says “Traditional Values-Based Company” or some other idiocy that makes them feel special – but tells us exactly what we need to know about them.
- It is essential that professional associations take a stand against these bigots. They should deny membership and access to conferences and events to anyone who promotes discrimination, just as they did on June 29, 2023. This policy should extend to all professional and service organizations (looking at you Rotary Clubs), leaving these bigoted businesses isolated from the mainstream.
- Companies with vendor programs (looking at you Keller Williams and other large real estate brokerages), should require that the businesses who are part of these programs remain committed to serving everyone. If you are committed to equality, then the companies that serve you, your agents, and their clients should be too. There should be no question that if you refer us to a business, that we will not face the indignity of discrimination.
- Private financial institutions, including banks and credit unions, should refuse accounts, loans, and other services to companies that openly identify as discriminatory.
- Any private organization that raises money or sponsorships should make it clear that they do not take funds from or offer sponsorships to businesses that practice discrimination. This should apply up and down the ladder – from little leagues, to arts organizations, to universities.
In this fight, we must work harder to support one another.
- Every business owner should make it unequivocally clear that they serve everyone. You don’t have to plaster your business with rainbow flags. A simple sign in the window or a message in the website footer stating “We Serve Everyone” will suffice.
- If you’re gay-owned, get certified through the NGLCC and put that logo on your website. NGLCC needs to make it easier and more accessible for gay business owners to get and stay certified. They also need to create additional categories of membership that allow ally businesses to be members.
- We are going to need to utilize and support more resources like Pink Spots and local Gay & Lesbian Chambers of Commerce. Take a look at their directories and see if you can patronize businesses there rather than the ones you are currently giving your business to. Making a few simple swaps in our consumer habits can have a profound impact on these businesses and our community as a whole.
- Organizations like HRC, NGLCC, and Out & Equal need to invest heavily in technology that allows our community to identify those businesses that support us – by creating partnerships with existing tech companies who already have the reach and ability to make this happen quickly (looking at you Yelp and Google).
- Gay people – start businesses! If you’ve had an idea about starting a business – dog walking, bookkeeping, marketing services, real estate, restaurant/catering, flower shop, salon, taking your medical practice private, life coach, window washing, mover, lawn care, or whatever, do it now. This is your time and we need you!
These are just a few ideas and people much smarter than me will have better ones. I just hope that this gets you thinking about how you’re going to respond – emotionally and strategically.
Today sucks, there’s no doubt about that. But – we are not powerless. On this final day of Pride Month, let’s remember that we have fought for every right we have. And we are not powerless to continue that fight.
Let’s take this opportunity to do more to support one another and lift one another up.
Let’s be the generation that never settled for less – who, even in the face of setbacks, furthered the march of progress.
With unwavering strength and solidarity,