The Illinois Family Institute is on a tear about the Gay Games. Their latest target is Walgreens, which has donated $100,000 to next year's international sporting and cultural event in Chicago.
IFI earlier this year went after Kraft and Harris Bank for their support, and has also been attacking the State of Illinois for a tourism grant the Gay Games has applied for. Last I checked, gays and lesbians pay taxes, and tourism dollars come from taxes paid by gay and straight tourists alike. Does IFI really expect people to believe in taxation without representation? That's so 250 years ago. I know all my GLBT friends would be happy to be exempt from all taxes if the IFI truly believes we are not entitled to the benefits which flow from a tax-based system.
I am chair of the fundraising committee for Gay Games VII. As co-vice-chair of the Gay Games board, my primary responsibility is coordinating all of our development and fundraising efforts. Some would say the IFI attacks will provide more visibility for the Gay Games. While that is true, it also creates a scare tactic impacting all of corporate America, for all gay events.
But this is not 1985, and corporate America is actually further along on GLBT issues than our elected officials in Washington, D.C., or in most states. Corporations realize the importance of being good citizens, and good to their GLBT employees and consumers. It is bad business to be biased, and good business to welcome everyone to the table.
Part of the reason for this change is the seemingly infinite number of affinity groups at corporations large and small. Another reason is that GLBT consumers are among the most loyal to those companies which are consistent and steadfast in their support. It's not just about buying some ads in the gay press, but about being serious and intimately connected to the GLBT community through charitable causes, strong workplace policies against sexual orientation and gender-based bias, and truly 'getting it' company-wide.
Many corporations from conservatives industries are stepping up to the plate and hitting anti-gay bias out of their company ballpark, falling over each other to get a 100% rating on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index. So many companies are now at 100% that the bar may need to be set higher.
But all of these successes don't mean that these corporations are not vulnerable to attacks. The attacks are an annoying waste of time, an attempt to set back gay progress and gay rights, and they are mean-spirited and cynical.
Does IFI's Executive Director Peter LaBarbera really believe gays shouldn't be allowed to play volleyball at Navy Pier, or sing at Millennium Park, or spend millions of dollars in Chicago next summer? His organization is walking on the backs of gay people to raise money and try to get media coverage of their attempts to blackmail companies.
If the IFI really cares about families, their small organization should focus on family issues such as education, child care, homeless youth, domestic violence, divorce, poverty, unemployment, or a hundred other issues that impact real Illinois families every day.
Maybe LaBarbera is really just jealous. A red-state mind living in a deep-blue state that embraces diversity.
We can ignore the LaBarberas of the world for the small-minded foes that they are, but their pitiful attacks are part of a larger attempt to drive GLBTs and other minority issues back into the closet. The right wing fears when we work together, either as GLBTs like during the Gay Games, or as interconnected movements like the Millions More March last weekend. Gays were embraced ( although admittedly at arm's length ) by some of those behind the March, and Rev. Jesse Jackson once again made sure to include gays in his laundry list of groups that are discriminated against and attacked.
When we work together, we accomplish so much more.
I am part of the Gay Games organizing group because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for our community to host a worldwide event, with tens of thousands of visitors from more than 70 countries. We have nearly 100 sponsors assisting in this effort, and corporate America will be a key player in making sure we run the best Gay Games ever.
But our political allies and our business sponsors are under attack. And they deserve our support. The right wing is so much better at going negative and attacking companies. GLBTs mostly are 'live and let live' and don't always respond when attacked. Our silence makes us invisible. Our political and corporate allies need our help and support to continue their jobs, to make their lives less difficult.
It was so great to see, during pride parades around the country this past summer, signs in support of Kraft and Harris Bank. But all of the Gay Games sponsors need your support. Somehow, the Gay Games is just a bigger target, and gets the right wing better media coverage. But sponsors of all gay events are sticking their necks on the line.
This latest round of IFI attacks is targeting Walgreens, Mayor Daley, and the State of Illinois Tourism Department.
Tourism Director Jan Kostner has been slammed with anti-gay letters, and could use some nice comments for a change. She is at email@example.com, or at the State of Illinois Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601-3220.
Or please write Walgreens CEO David Bernauer, Walgreens, 200 Wilmot Road, Deerfield, IL 60015; 847-914-2704; firstname.lastname@example.org .
Mayor Daley is at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle Street, #507, Chicago, IL 60602.
As LaBarbera himself writes to Walgreens: 'Make no mistake: the 'Gay Games' was conceived as a way to build acceptance for homosexuality, in the name of sport—a perversion of the athletic ideal. I urge you to withdraw Walgreens' sponsorship of the 'Gay Games'; until you do, I will be looking elsewhere to shop when I normally would have gone right down the road to the Walgreens store near my home.'
I take that as a call to action for all GLBTs and our allies to make sure Walgreens is on our own shopping lists.