Our business is discrimination and homophobia…and business is (not so very) good

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY LYNE LUCIEN/THE DAILY BEAST

If Texas lawmakers piled up hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in the middle of an empty field and set it on fire, there would be massive public outrage. But according to data from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, that is effectively what Texas and other states are already doing by not creating a more supportive atmosphere for their LGBT citizens. As the state-level Williams Institute numbers start to add up nationwide, it’s becoming clear that legislators don’t just cost their states big money by passing attention-grabbing—and boycott-inducing—laws like North Carolina’s HB 2; they are also losing out on potentially billions of dollars by failing to pass laws that protect LGBT people. Those invisible costs of inaction are hard to estimate—and even harder to convey to the public.

How about we, if only for a moment, look at homophobia in purely economic terms? For our purposes, let’s assume that roughly 10% of America’s population is LGBTQ. What sane, rational business could hope to be successful if it decided not to do business with 10% of the marketplace? That percentage could well be higher once potential customers learn of a business’ discriminatory philosophy and take their money elsewhere.

Discrimination and repression may be a great way to win the support of haters, religious zealots, and homophobes…but it’s a damned poor way to ensure your state holds its own economically. Turns out hatred and bigotry are damned poor business practices.

[Williams Institute State and Local Policy Director Christy] Mallory has co-authored several analyses showing the economic impact of allowing statewide discrimination against LGBT people to continue—and thereby incurring the sort of public health costs associated with “minority stress,” a psychological term for the stress that often accompanies social marginalization.

A Williams Institute report released last year, for example, estimates that if Texas could reduce the disparity in depression rates between LGBT and non-LGBT citizens—one of the many public health outcomes linked to minority stress—by just 25 percent, the state could save nearly $290 million dollars in costs associated with lost productivity, health care, and suicide (PDF).

Turns out the simple act of protecting LGBTQ citizens can be very good for business…and public health. Everybody wins with the legal protections providing by enforcing equality as the standard- businesses make money, people don’t have to worry about discrimination, and people treat one another as if they matter…because they do.

All that needs to happen is for states to become more LGBTQ-friendly…because even people whose lifestyle you may despise spend money. If they don’t spend it at your place of business or in your state, you can bet they’ll spend it somewhere.

People are people. Love is love. And LGBTQ money is every bit as legal tender as that of good, God-fearing, hyper-Christian heterosexuals.

Shrink your market at your own peril, eh?

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