Alex Blaze

Homophobia Can Be Good for the Bottom Line

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 20, 2011 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Corporate Equality Index, DOMA, HRC, King & Spalding, paul clement, republican, Target

I don't know how many nonprofit press releases I've read recently that used some permutation of the expression capitalism-gay.jpg"Equality is good for the bottom line." Whether they're talking about how legalizing same-sex marriage can be good for a local economy, how a business with LGBT-friendly policies can attract the best workers, or how sponsoring an LGBT event can be good publicity for a business, the Randian argument appears and raises two important questions:

  1. If acceptance of LGBT people were really good for the bottom line, wouldn't every corporation and business that cares about making money (and they all do) have already implemented it?
  2. If there is a situation where "equality" isn't good for the bottom line, does that mean that it's OK to discriminate?

Michael Hamar points out in a previous post, regarding law firms, something I've been shouting about in my corner of the internet when it comes to the Corporate Equality Index: just because some executive at a corporation or a firm says that they avoid discrimination or provide a certain benefit doesn't mean that they actually do. I knew a guy who tried to get on his partner's health care plan at his CEI 100 company and was told, even though they had lived together for more than a decade, that there was no proof that they were domestic partners (this was in Indiana, with no DP's, CU's, or marriage for same-sex couples).

Verizon got its 70 rating from HRC in part because they have a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and diversity training for workers on matters related to sexual orientation; we find out just this week that they forced their most famous employee to stay in the closet, most likely because they didn't want people to associate gayness with their brand.

And don't get me started on Target, which used to have a 100 rating. Don't even get me started!

It's with that in mind that we find out that a law firm with a CEI 95 rating took on the defense of DOMA. They talk the gay-friendly talk when it costs them nothing, but when it's not good for the bottom line, that talk goes out the window.

And just how good is homophobia for King & Spalding's bottom line? Over half a million dollars good:

ThinkProgress has obtained a copy of the contract House Republicans signed with Paul Clement, a former Solicitor General who earns $5 million a year, to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act. Although Clement's firm is charging less than the $900 an hour they typically bill for their top attorneys' work, Clement will still leave the American people with a massive legal bill:

2. The General Counsel agrees to pay Contractor for all contractual services a sum not to exceed $500,000.00. ... Furthermore, it is understood and agreed that should the $500,000 cap be reached before the Litigation is complete, and if the cap has not then been raised by written agreement...contractor shall not be obligated to continue providing legal services under this Agreement.

3. The General Counsel agress to pay Contractor at a blended rate of $520.00 per hour for all reasonable attorney time expended in connection with the Litigation, and at 75 percent of the Contractor's usual and customary rates for all reasonable non-attorney time...and to reimburse Contractor for all reasonable expenses incurred by the Contractor in connection with the Litigation[.]

At $520 an hour with all the different challenges to DOMA going on in the country, they will hit the $500,000 mark in a year (if they find 18.5 billable hours a week) and the House will still be controlled by Republicans who'll want the litigation to continue. (And, no, this won't drive America to bankruptcy. But there are a bunch of other reasons that this is wrong.)

HRC is trying to apply pressure to the firm:

WASHINGTON -- The Human Rights Campaign called the decision of the law firm King & Spalding to take up the House Republican leadership's defense of the Defense of Marriage Act a shameful stain on the firm's reputation. Earlier today it was revealed that firm partner Paul Clement would represent House leaders in their quest to preserve discrimination against loving married couples.

"The firm of King & Spalding has brought a shameful stain on its reputation in arguing for discrimination against loving, married couples," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "No amount of taxpayer money they rake in will mitigate this blemish on the King & Spalding name."

We can wail all we want, the money will mitigate the blemish on their name. The sorts of people who can and will pay $900/hour for a lawyer didn't get their money through altruism. And the kinds of contacts and pull a former solicitor general has, never mind legal expertise, isn't the sort of thing corporations with needs for high-end legal services will just pass up because K&S made the gays cry.

But I wouldn't expect HRC to let this sort of thing go by without mention and, in one way, it's great that they're making a stink and they should keep on doing it. They should also take away K&S's CEI 95 rating as they did with Target.

On the other hand, though, it's entirely predictable that an organization that's so heavily invested in the "Equality is good for the bottom line" idea, not just through their activism expressed by the CEI but also through their fundraising from corporate donors, will want to do what they can to keep it from falling apart. And they probably do believe in it and believe that when firms do something homophobic it's just because it hasn't been pointed out to them that equality is good for the bottom line, that it's a result of ignorance instead of the fundamental, neoliberal assumption - that everyone trying to get as much money as possible benefits everyone - being incorrect.

Capitalism isn't benevolent and, whatever one can say about it, it doesn't promote altruism. Capitalism's biggest cheerleader, in fact, saw that lack of altruism in the free market as its best feature.

And equality isn't always good for the bottom line. If we want to effect real change, we have to be willing to take on the lowest-common-denominator culture that entrusts power to people with lots of money instead of worshipping and praising that power until it does something to piss us off.

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Brad Bailey | April 20, 2011 3:00 PM

Alex, not to make too fine a point of it, but if you define "the lowest common denomonator culture" as that which "entrusts power to people with lots of money," you're talking about virtually the entire government.

Big government has been in bed with big business for so long and so intimately, they've been virtually rimming each other simultaneously for the past fifty years.

Why do you think none of the budget cuts affects the military? Big oil, big corporations and the military-industrial complex rule this country. "We the people" have been a myth for years. Our government has been one of corporate autocracy for years. That's what I've been trying to tell everybody from the get-go.

Yeah, pretty much. I'd quibble with the phrase "big government" since the usual means of giving corporations power is to sell them a bureaucracy or pay them to perform a government function, which reduces the size of government in my book, but, yeah, the problem is widespread.

Alex,

I agree with your sentiments. Even if K&S ignores the outcry, I hope HRC continues to go after them - as well as other corporations that talk out of both sides of their mouths.

It would also be nice if top law schools called K&S on the issue and barred them from interviewing on campus, although based on the spinelessness of Virginia's top law schools, I will not be holding my breath on that happening.

I think it's important to keep saying that the half a million in the contract is just a minimum. They can always go back and ask for more money if they spend more. It will be at LEAST .5 million.