Pride Month, Political Contributions, and Rainbow Washing in Corporate America
It’s Pride Month, which became apparent on June 1st when most of my social media feeds were suddenly draped in rainbow print.
Ever since I came home from a Pride parade in 2010 with a purse full of condoms and a frisbee I caught from the TD Bank float, I’ve been noticing the corporate involvement in Pride month, which seems to be increasing every year. In general, I think this is great! The more we can normalize and mainstream Pride and elevate LGBTQ issues, the better.
However, the cynical part of me wonders how seriously we can take the sudden support of so many large, powerful corporations. They may change their twitter avatar to be a rainbow version of their logo, but–what’s their corporate culture? What are their policies on anti-gay or anti-trans harassment or discrimination? The campaign finance professional in me also wondered what kind of politicians they send monetarily support.
A few days before Memorial Day, I was in my local Walgreens to pick up a prescription and noticed a small display of rainbow gear. T-Shirts, beer coozies, wrist bands, the usual things you need for an outdoor party on a summer day. I took a glance at Walgreens federal political giving in 2020 and the most recent contribution was to none other than David Perdue, the former Senator from Georgia who was ousted in dramatic fashion in a post-holiday season runoff election. The same David Perdue who voted to confirm anti-LGBTQ+ Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and enjoys a 100% rating from the anti-LGBTQ+ organization Family Research Council. I’m sure we all remember this organization’s former Executive Director, alleged pedophile Josh Duggar. What kind of research are they doing?
As I was scrolling through Twitter this week, I kept noticing rainbow tweets and took note. Verizon. Sensodyne. Countless others. While blasting their support for the LGBTQ community through their marketing—are they also giving money to Republicans who voted against the Equality Act, voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, supported anti-LGBTQ legislation, and have made appalling statements about the gay community over the years?
In 2020, Verizon supported our friend of Walgreen’s, David Perdue, and contributed to everyone’s favorite wrestling coach, Jim Jordan. Mr. Jordan has been in Congress a long time and loves a good stunt. Not only has he sponsored legislation to overturn DC’s same-sex marriage bill, he also hosted (through coordination with Family Research Council) Kentucky clerk Kim Davis at 2016’s State of the Union. Ms. Davis made headlines the year before when she refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. It’s worth noting Verizon made this contribution in December 2020 for the 2022 Election Cycle. During a month when all eyes were either on Georgia, Verizon wanted to make sure to show their early support for Mr. Jordan.
Moving onto GlaxoSmithKline, the parent company for Sensodyne, and their GSK PAC, there’s a troubling name on their list of recipients: Virginia Foxx of North Carolina. The same Virginia Foxx who referred to the murder of Matthew Shepherd being a hate crime as a “hoax,” and said when the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage in 2015: “I am extremely concerned about the threat this ruling poses to the conscience rights of people and organizations who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. I will do everything in my power to defend these rights and protect the sacred institution of marriage.”
We could continue this all day.
So, thank you corporate America for the support and visibility, but what are you actually doing? Throwing a rainbow on your social media for the month is nice I suppose, but you hold a lot of power in this country. Your campaign contributions shape policy, and not just the tax/regulatory kind that benefit your businesses. You have the power not to support candidates whose culture isn’t in line with yours. If you’re declaring yourselves an ally during the month of June but then giving money to help elect anti-LGBTQ candidates…well I’ll answer the question for you—yeah, you’re huge hypocrites.
Despite the wonderful gains that have occurred over the last twenty years, the LGBTQ+ community continues to be under attack. There are currently over 100 unnecessary anti-trans bills in state legislatures across the country that do nothing except dehumanize citizens who are just trying to live their lives. The Equality Act is making its way through Congress and has already passed the House and is currently awaiting the Senate (Finally! After being ignored by the previous McConnell-controlled Senate). This legislation would drastically change protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community when it comes to employment, housing, and education. There is something the Verizons, GSKs, Walgreens, and countless other mega corporations, can do right now to live up to the images they are currently promoting of themselves in this month of Pride. Make the Equality Act a consideration for campaign contributions. If you actually care about the LGBTQ+ community like you pretend to every June, you need to have serious conversations with your friends in Congress.
And if these politicians keep supporting an agenda of bigotry, you need to stop giving them money. Or at the very least, stop painting over the anti-LGBTQ agenda you support with a rainbow-clad corporate logo.
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