Some argue that it is bad for Philadelphia's ability to attract business for Kenney to criticize Cathy. However, a look at diversity and inclusion work on behalf of Fortune 500 companies tells a decidedly different story.
Our city and nation's leading businesses have learned that supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender inclusion is not just morally right but also good business. For example, the Human Rights Campaign ranks companies based on having a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender inclusive workplace. In 2002, only 13 companies received a 100 percent rating. Today, 190 Fortune 500 companies receive a 100 percent rating, including GlaxoSmithKline, which has operations in Philadelphia. Other companies based in or having major operations in Philadelphia that have received an 80 percent rating or higher include Aramark, Ballard Spahr, Cigna, Comcast, Duane Morris, and Pepper Hamilton.
America's business leaders are increasingly aware that happy, productive, and highly engaged employees are dependent on not just their workplace culture, but also their communities. That is why a growing number of companies have embraced marriage equality, including Exelon, which joined more than 40 other companies in filing an amicus brief for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Chick-fil-A's opposition to marriage equality has harmed its brand significantly. YouGov, which measures public opinion of various companies and industries, found that Chick-fil-A's public image had been high among quick-service restaurants before Cathy's comments. That has now changed significantly. In the Northeastern United States, Chick-fil-A dropped an astonishing 41 points, from a score of 76 before his comments to 35 after.
Based on the long lines for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day (which I called Heterosexual Privilege Appreciation Day), their company sales appeared to remain strong. However, they have gone from being a popular fast-food restaurant to becoming a popular Christian fundamentalist fast-food restaurant. Most corporations can ill afford to so limit their customer base.
Philadelphia needs to be a city that embraces and celebrates diversity. Companies that seek to be 21st-century employers of choice know that locating in such cities is critical to the recruitment and retention of the most talented workforce possible. Our nation's corporate leaders demonstrate that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender inclusion is not just morally right, but is also in the interest of creating jobs.
Let's move beyond jobs. Cathy's statement against marriage equality has exposed Chick-fil-A's financial support - up to $5 million - for organizations working to deny rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. The funding of such groups requires that we examine the damaging impact of such antigay rhetoric and funding.
Don Dyson, professor of human sexuality at Widener University, said in response to the long lines on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day: "For me, the money that they send to antigay organizations threatens my everyday life. It teaches gay kids that they are less than others. It teaches straight kids that gay kids are less than them and results in so much bullying, abuse, and needless hurt. It causes me to live in the fear that my partner of 20 years will be in an accident or fall ill, and I will not be allowed to see him in the hospital. . . . For me, it is not an idea. It is not as abstract as a belief. For me, it is my everyday life. And every person in those lines is saying, 'I will spend my money to hurt you.' That is more than sad. It is frightening."
Kenney's letter to Cathy champions the dignity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender residents of Philadelphia. Furthermore, America's corporate leaders have demonstrated that celebrating diversity and inclusion is good business, and it is important to have that reflected in our political leadership as well. The people of Philadelphia deserve a city business culture and government that support and respect all of its people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
David M. Hall is the author of "Allies at Work: Creating a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Inclusive Work Environment". E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.