No Need to Balance
BY LUKE VISCONTI
It was unfortunate that the level of distaste among
our other panelists for Mr. Peter LaBarbera
prevented a roundtable discussion; I would have
preferred an in-person conversation. However, he was
given a full page in DiversityInc to disclose his views,
an opportunity not given to the panel members who
were edited by our staff.
That’s as fair as we can make it.
Mr. LaBarbera appropriates “Judeo-Christian teachings”
and public “opinion” in his statement. He poses a question:
“How do you balance the need to create an open and equal
workplace for LGBT employees with the religious beliefs of
those who oppose same-sex relationships?”
Here’s my answer to his question: There is no need
to balance human rights.
An “open and equal workplace for LGBT employees”
is an urgent human-rights issue because the government has given employers de facto responsibility to provide health insurance to most AN “OPEN AND EQUAL workplace
working Americans. Cancer, for example, does not discriminate. An employer will either en- FOR LGBT EMPLOYEES” IS AN urgent
sure that its employees are treated equally— human-rights issue.
or not. Because our society is evolving from a
place where LGBT people have no widespread rights, a
company that postpones a decision on partner benefits
ensures that some people will die because they don’t
have the same health benefits given to heterosexual
couples. The fact that, in most states, same-sex unions
are not recognized does not prevent metastasis.
Mr. LaBarbera invokes “traditional views” and “
employees of faith” as a justification to impose his interpretation of religious values. There is ample religious
“justification” against many things we now take for
granted—for example, the Rev. Thornton Stringfellow preached the Biblical basis for slavery prior to the
Civil War. The Rev. Horace Bushnell cited the Biblical
case against female suffrage. An organization calling
itself a defender of Christian morality, the Ku Klux
Klan, recruited millions of Americans in the 1920s to
the burning cross in its anti-black and anti-immigrant
reign of terror. In the 1930s, Father Charles Caughlin
became a celebrity with his pro-Fascist and anti-Semitic radio show. Religious leaders like the Rev. G. T.
Gillespie preached Biblical justification for segregation
in the Civil Rights Era.
We have documented the economic benefits of
vigorous diversity-management procedures for the
past nine years. The majority of the Fortune 500 and all
of The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity®
already offer partner benefits. This isn’t charity; this is
market-based recognition from progressive companies
of an advance in human rights. These companies are
creating the pluralistic environment that is a require-
ment of sustainability and superior profitability.
The federal sector may catch up. Every Democratic
candidate promised to end “don’t ask, don’t tell” in
the debate sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign
(Republicans were invited but did not attend). Once
benefits are equally given in the military, it will be very
difficult for a company or state to refuse benefits to a
veteran (as they currently do to closeted veterans).
Our panelists had the right not to appear with
today’s version of the Rev. Thornton Stringfellow. I
felt we had the obligation, however, to publish Mr.
LaBarbera’s statement. I think it’s good to know what
your enemies are thinking.