The "worst of the worst" identified by Zero for Zeros include (from left) Steve King, Louie Gohmert, and Marco Rubio.
If you’re anything like me, you probably pay more than just passing attention to how the companies you buy products or services from, spend those dollars down the line. Whether it’s Ben & Jerry’s decades-long public support for marriage benefits or Chick-Fil-A’s infamous anti-LGBTQ donation history, for those of us in the LGTBQ community, our dollars can literally be used to save our lives or dramatically shorten them. Luckily, I’m pretty good at knowing where and where not to send my consumer support, but even I learn things from time to time that make me really question if I’m doing this right.
It’s with this in mind that I think so many of us were surprised and ultimately angered to hear that a principal in the Equinox/SoulCycle brand was hosting a multimillion-dollar fundraiser for the president, arguably the most anti-LGBTQ commander in chief in contemporary American history. Now, anyone familiar with Hobby Lobby or Domino’s Pizza understands that the president has some seriously wealthy, anti-equality corporate donors, but it seemed to catch so many of us off guard to see brands so closely associated with LGBTQ people providing substantial support to our most aggressive enemies.
The entire experience has forced a reexamination of my own spending habits, the corporate research that I try to do, and most especially my understanding of the value that our allies and our actual enemies bring to the table. In short, I expect our allies to support us, and understand that our enemies will oppose us.
Unfortunately (and frustratingly), however, it’s not that simple.
I’ve been learning a great deal more lately about how our corporate allies spend our dollars and, in fact, some of the “best” allies to the LGBTQ community contribute to the worst of the worst anti-LGBTQ members of Congress. It’s not just discouraging; it’s dangerous and there’s no reason for it. That's why I am fully on board with the work of the Zero for Zeros campaign. It is well-researched and narrowly focused, and uses a straightforward methodology to identify the 29 most anti-LGBTQ members out of all 535 members of Congress as well as the 49 companies that have received a 100 score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index yet support these 29 congressional zeros.
This is simple: If our “friends” are supporting the elected officials who attack our families every day, that's unacceptable. Our communities have fought far too hard for far too long to allow our allies to bankroll the bullies who don’t just want to stall our progress, but to take us backwards. That's why the research that Zero for Zeros has done is so valuable to me. By defining the worst of the worst, it has given us the information that we need to ask our corporate allies to take a stand with us. They have stood with us many times before and should absolutely do it now. This is not a big ask, it's actually quite a small one.
The 29 "worst of the worst" represent 5 percent of the entire Congress, which leaves 95 percent for companies to work with to protect their business interests. Many of them employ government affairs staff that work year-round to build and maintain relationships. It's absurd to suggest that these relationships are solely based on corporate PAC contributions. Corporate PACs are funded by employee contributions, yet companies want to use them to advance business interests with elected officials who want to hurt their LGBTQ employees. These corporate PACs should help, not harm their employees. It is offensive for LGBTQ employee dollars to go to these enemy politicians.
Over the next year I’ll be working with my staff and colleagues to review and consider legislation that takes a more critical eye to the entities my state is doing business with and what their actual record on supporting equality looks like. I don’t believe my tax dollars should support companies that don’t support my full equality, and I don’t think a state that believes in that equality should support them either. I’ll also be reaching out to my colleagues in other legislatures across the nation to urge them to support similar measures.
Please join me in supporting the work of Zero for Zeros, whether you are an employee at one of these companies, a fellow legislator somewhere around the country, an editorial writer or CEO. Let's help our corporate allies take one small step with us and send a message that the hateful rhetoric of the "worst of the worst" politicians is unacceptable.
Brian Sims is the representative for Pennsylvania's 182nd state House district and the first out candidate to be elected to the state's legislature.