The gay mainstream

A screen cap from an image on an abandoned Facebook page calling for Gay Inc. to be occupied.

There are groups with lobbyists and corporate sponsors which have the money to give to campaign contributions toward Democratic and Republican politicians to push for legislation on the state and local level. This description may sound a bit like the corrupted lobbies on K Street or those even more established, like the Business Roundtable. But, it is neither. Instead, I am referring to gay mainstream organizations, which I have previously called Gay Inc. The term Gay Inc., however, is too limiting, and it is better to describe such groups as professional, corporatist, and (mostly) liberal. This article looks at eleven of these said groups, [1] the policies they support, and their corporate sponsors in order to set the record straight.

While these eleven groups are different from each other, they also have many similarities. Back in June of 2013 when I looked at many of the same organizations, I wrote that big banks and telecoms bankrolled them, “having more than a shady hand in their support for gay rights.” While this description is helpful, it doesn’t realize the fuller picture. Looking through these eleven gay mainstream organizations and comparing them on hand-drawn charts which meticulous details about the organizations, it is obvious that while big banks and telcoms back the groups, so do law firms, insurance companies, military contractors, investment companies, big tech firms, foundations, and more. It is the same sponsors/supporters over and over again that back these groups. For example, five of the groups have Citigroup and/or Wells Fargo as a corporate sponsor and three groups have Bank of America as a corporate sponsor. [2] Additionally, the average number of corporate sponsors, excluding the two groups that don’t have sponsors at all, is over thirty-five! This doesn’t sound like a recipe for any sort of liberation to me.

What about the policies of these organizations? The policies of big organizations is what critics, mainly on reddit, criticized me for in the past are similar in many ways. Not including those organizations dedicated to the business community, the law firm, and the organization focused on workplaces, the issues seem to be similar. These issues include adoption, hate crimes, workplace discrimination, gay marriage, immigration, discrimination in schools, families, and health, among others. Whether these groups adaquately address the issues they purport to cover is up the the reader and can be easily discerned. These issues are much borader than my most recent article in this publication saying that big gay organizations, which I called Gay Inc., had two big causes: “pushing for recognition of gay marriage” and for “anti-discrimination laws like ENDA.” Still, none of these issues really challenge the established powers that be, since they are policies that can easily be accepted by the neoliberal, business-friendly Democratic Party and some Republicans too. As Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore wrote in the introduction to That’s Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, “a gay elite has hijacked and positioned their desire as everyone’s needs.”

There are three groups excluded from my analysis in the last paragraph which should have a focus as well. The first of these is the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay conservative group, that, through lobbyists in DC and their PAC, wants to advance “gay and lesbian rights” along with issues that “improve job creation and stimulate our nation’s economy” and support an imperialistic, aggressively militarist foreign policy for the US. [3] Lest us forget this group supported the privatization of Social Security. Despite such views, they support laws such as ENDA and have fought for gay and lesbian inclusiveness in the US military through the filing of a case challenging Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT). While they don’t publically display sponsors on their website, through some digging, I found that the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), representing the consumer electronics industry in the US, which includes companies such as Adobe, Amazon.com, Google, AT&T, and over two thousand others, funds them, making the CEA the first technology group to formally support them. Even worse, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans declared that they “take pride in being pro-business and pro-equality…Just as our current immigration policies inhibit efforts to keep international talent here in America, any policies seen as inhospitable to gay people will choke U.S. job creation and the economy as a whole.” What was most shocking of all was their unabashed support for corporate sponsorship. In a May 2011 press release, they criticized those they said were “armchair activists” from gay advocacy organizations for “attacking” companies such as Orbitz for advertising on Fox News. The organization went even further, linking to an article in Metro Weekly which they summarized as being about “corporate America’s recognition that LGBT workplace protections help attract and retain talented workers.”

The article itself, by Metro Weekly‘s political editor, Justin Snow, goes farther than the description by the Log Cabin Republicans, talking about the firing of the CEO of Mozilla for his supposed anti-gay views, the new phenomenon of corporations supporting gay rights which has increased from a small few in the early 2000s, and much more:

…while the debate over LGBT equality may continue to take place among the general electorate…[it] has reached its conclusion among corporate America. To be anti-gay increasingly means to be anti-business…[before] New York lawmakers approved [gay] marriage…legislation in 2011…about 40 businesses from Wall Street to upstate New York fully voiced their support for the state’s same-sex marriage bill. The…shift is apparent with the adoption of nondiscrimination policies [among the corporate sector]…while the adoption of such…policies has been on the rise, major corporations have [also]…begun to take their views on LGBT-rights out of the board room and into the public square. A month before the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments…challeng[ing] the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA]…nearly 300 businesses…including…Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter…and [others] filed a brief…[saying that] DOMA [should] be struck down as unconstitutional…[Elsewhere, Jane] Brewer [the governor of Arizona, became one of first]…member[s] of a party with deep ties to the business community to find herself siding with equality following pressure from the nation’s most profitable companies [, with another example being] Hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer…[At the same time, according to] Gregory T. Angelo…of [the] Log Cabin Republicans…knowledge of which corporations in certain districts have pro-LGBT policies has proven [to be] an important talking point [for ENDA]…[all while] anti-LGBT views [currently] find themselves [to be] increasingly marginalized in the business world.”

While the writer of this article, Justin Snow, seems to sympathize with big corporations stepping in the fight for gay rights, I find it deeply problematic. Additionally, I’m not sure how there can be “equality” or even liberation for the gender, sexual, and radical diversity of lesbians, gays, queers, bisexuals, trans* people, intersex people, and so on, within the U.S., with corporate support and sponsorship.

The strong corporate influence is even more unsettling when you consider groups such as Out & Equal Workplace Advocates and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). Out & Equal claims to be dedicated to “creating safe and equitable workplace environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees” and a working to create a world “free of discrimination,” but this is questionable considering their seventy-nine corporate sponsors. [2] How could you even make a workplace equitable, safe or “free of discrimination” by working with big companies like HP, AT&T, Boeing, DuPont, Bank of America and Wells Fargo? The answer is you truly can’t. Even unions that embrace business unionism, or a type of unionism which has a root belief “that workers and bosses have common interests” while unions work closely with the employer in order to force concessions, do a better job at looking out for workers than Out & Equal. If they really want to have “safe and equitable” workplaces and no discrimination, then why don’t they drop their corporate sponsors and work directly with workers across the US economy? Oh, I forgot, that approach would be too “scary” and would disrupt their position of serving their masters in corporate America, questioning why they should even exist in the first place.

The NGLCC is even worse. They have record number of 111 corporate sponsors, the most of any group analyzed in this article, and act as almost as the US Chamber of Commerce (and you know how bad they are) for gays and lesbians. Like Out & Equal, they focus on workplaces, including those that are “LGBT-owned.” Additionally, they helped form the Business Coaltion of Workplace Fairness, which is a joint project with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) which has supported laws like ENDA or the Ensuring National Discrimination Act, back in November. At the same time they also support pro-business and “LGBT inclusive policies” like gay marriage, immigration reform, ENDA and Fix the Debt. There is no need to look into how Fix the Debt or immigration reform are pro-business, as that has already been written about before (see here and here). The same goes for ENDA, which as, I wrote recently, was (and still is) supported by the corporate community because they believe that (mainly) gays and lesbians are a new “marketplace to sell goods and services” or a “’new’ market of ‘wanting’ consumers.” As for gay marriage, a whole new door is opened into why such a policy would be considered pro-business.

On the subject of gay marriage, there is one, single issue organization I haven’t covered. It is even narrower in its focus than the law firm, funded by Bank of America, Macy’s, Liberty Mutual and others, called the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), that works on cases dealing with LGBT rights, AIDS law, transgender rights and youth issues. This organization is called the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which you would think, just from its name, that it has a broad focus. While AFER does not have any declared corporate partners or sponsors, it has a very moderate board of directors composed of corporate directors, high-brow filmmakers and others, and it has two main causes which are based on legal cases: gay marriage and fighting traditional marriage amendments. It also has funded and has helped produce a play called “8” which portrays closing arguments in the court case about California’s Proposition 8, which didn’t allow same-sex couples to marry in California, Perry v. Schwarzenegger. If all the states in the US approved of marriage tomorrow, then AFER would have no use, unless they chose another issue to advocate for. The organization itself also shows the extreme of the focus on gay marriage in the gay rights movement.

The gay mainstream is throughly flawed. It is absurd to cry for “equality” or “freedom” when the struggle for gay rights is supported by the corporate sector. For these corporations, as Metro Weekly rightly pointed out, “to be anti-gay…means to be anti-business.” Some people somewhere may be cheering that it is great that this is a reality and that we’ve “come so far” since the 1970s, but I’m not. Just like a number of environmental organizations which serve as “corporate leeches”, the eleven gay mainstream organiations analyzed in this article are leeches in and of themselves. If corporate support and sponsorship is not abandoned, which it won’t happen unless there is some extraordinary miracle, then it may be time to walk away from the gay rights movement. In its place, the best course of action is a radical with a movement, already brewing in groups like SF Gay Shame and the Radical Homosexual Agenda, that challenges capitalism, established institutions such as government bodies, marriage itself, militarism, and more, while fighting the root causes of problems in communities with gender, sexual and radical diversity in America. The struggle for civil rights in the US didn’t start with some big businessman stuffing dollars into the pockets of agitated commoners. No. It came from grassroots action by people working to improve unjust conditions. Such action, in the form of creative and nonviolent resistance, is what is needed today.


[1] The groups analyzed in this article are as follows: the Human Rights Campaign (HRC); PFLAG National; the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NFLTF); GLAAD; Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD); Log Cabin Republicans; Family Equality Council; Out & Equal Workplace Advocates; National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC); and the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER).

[2] For the purposes of this computation, the sponsors of Out & Equal’s 2014 Workplace Summit are counted as corporate sponsors.

[3] Similar organizations have popped up to the Log Cabin Republicans most similar to the now-defunct 527 organization GOProud, which lasted for five years, and similar in terms of issues, but different in terms of party, to the Stonewall Democrats, which lasted until 2013. Other organizations have an even narrower focus, like the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which only exists for one silly reason: to elect gay and lesbian politicians to public office, and it is funded by companies including Bank of America, Pacific Gas and Electric, AT&T, Shell, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, according to their most recent annual report.

Leave a comment