This week the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), the business voice of the LGBT community, wrote to the United States House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform to encourage them to reject the so-called First Amendment Defense Act being considered by that committee this week. Not only is marriage equality now a right afforded to all Americans by the Supreme Court of the United States, so is the right to live without fear of discrimination or hatred codified into national law. Furthermore, to hold hearings one month to the day of the most violent mass murder in our nation’s history is a tremendous dishonor to the lives lost and citizens injured at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
The NGLCC is the largest national advocacy organization dedicated to expanding the economic opportunities and advancements of the LGBT business community. Representing more than 1.4 million LGBT business owners, 140+ corporate partners, and 50+ local, state, and international affiliate chambers, NGLCC is the largest LGBT business development and economic advocacy organization in the world. Every day our LGBT Business Enterprises are creating jobs, innovating industries, and growing economies that benefit all Americans, even those with religious beliefs or moral convictions that are anti-LGBT.
Our advocacy efforts, with the backing and support of America’s largest corporations and countless small businesses, have proven conclusively that "Equality is Good for Business." LGBT discrimination, such as that at the heart of the First Amendment Defense Act, goes hand-in-hand with a decline in productivity and success of all American businesses.
Congress must realize that this measure will likely fail any test of its Constitutionality. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves said in his ruling against a similar law in Mississippi: “The United States Supreme Court has spoken clearly on the constitutional principles at stake. Under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, a state ‘may not aid, foster, or promote one religion or religious theory against another.’” NGLCC and its partners fully concur with his reasoning and have asserted the economic benefits of non-discrimination in our work to fight back against these laws, which are both morally unacceptable and deleterious for the economic growth of this country.
We, like many other organizations and businesses, recognize that discriminatory laws like the one they are currently considering will disrupt any hope of a fully inclusive economy that attracts and retains the very best business talent from our diverse country. America’s 1.4 million LGBT business owners, as well as the millions of allies who support them, must know that they would be able to petition their state and federal government when they experience discrimination - something this bill would explicitly prohibit.
This act is not only dangerous to the economic and personal well-being of the LGBT business community, but to the health of all diverse business communities. The First Amendment Defense Act would allow one’s religious belief or moral conviction to blatantly relegate our communities to the status of second class citizens. In 2011 NGLCC spearheaded the launch of the National Business Inclusion Consortium with a goal of bringing diverse businesses communities and our respective advocacy organizations together to address systemic problems that impacted all our constituents. Together we prove that when communities of color do better, so do we. When women do better, so do we. When people with disabilities do better, so do we. And when LGBT communities do better, so do they! We will not stand by and allow legislation to create walls between our communities when we should continue building bridges of inclusion and opportunity.
Just as NGLCC and its partners have agreed to withhold future plans from cities and states that do not adequately protect the rights of LGBT citizens, so to must we encourage our constituents and stakeholders to publicly fight the First Amendment Defense Act and ensure America is safe and open for business for all Americans.
Justin G. Nelson and Chance Mitchell are the co-founders of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.