Showing posts with label Commerce and Gay Rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Commerce and Gay Rights. Show all posts

February 11, 2019

Can A Business Turn Down LGBT Customers Because of Who They Are? The Question Persists

                           Image result for Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop

The original story behind the Masterpiece Cakeshop case is both undisputed and well known: a gay couple in Colorado walked into the bakery in 2012 and asked for the wedding cake. The owner and master baker Jack Phillips declined to make a custom cake for their party because he said their union violated his religious beliefs.

The couple filed a complaint with the state's civil rights commission, which found Phillips was violating the state's anti-discrimination laws that prohibit businesses from discriminating against LGBTQ people.

The battle between the two sides, the state, and Phillips, eventually landed in the high court.

Last summer, the court narrowly sided with Phillips — and admonished the state's commission for showing animus against religion.

But because it didn't settle the looming question on whether the First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom are more important than a state or city's anti-discrimination laws, similar cases are again simmering in lower courts — including Arizona and Colorado.

Among the questions: when does an invitation or a cake qualify as free speech?

"The main question is do you get to object to that kind of anti-discrimination law because it's forcing you to convey a message?" said Ilya Shapiro with the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank that has supported some businesses that have turned customers away. 

"Only two justices would have held that the baking of a custom wedding cake is protected as speech by the First Amendment," said Kaipo Matsumura, who teaches law at Arizona State University."The other justices refrained from commenting on the issue and just reserved that question for future decisions in other cases." 

In Arizona, Brendan Mahoney was one of the lawyers in town who people would call when they were fired from a job or refused a room because they were gay.

"It really happened all the time," Mahoney said.

Mahoney, who was openly gay, would explain the reality of the law in Arizona.

"There are no federal protections, no state or city protections," Mahoney said. "Your best solution is to get involved and change the law."

Mahoney eventually took his own advice.

He went to work for the city and advocated for a Phoenix law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The ordinance would apply to housing, employment, and other public accommodations — just as the law already did for categories like race, sex, marital status and religion.

The measure did ultimately prevail. More than five years later, Mahoney said the law has made a huge difference in the lives of LGBTQ people.

"I think the impact was profound," he said.

But one Phoenix business argues it cannot in good conscience follow that law — because they say it violates their freedom of speech and religion.

Brush & Nib Studio designs custom invitations for events like weddings. The shop owners say making an invitation for a same-sex wedding would violate their Christian belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

"The government shouldn't be telling artists what they can and can't say," Breanna Koski, a co-owner of Brush & Nib, said. "We're challenging this law not just for us, but for all artists to be able to create freely."

The owners are asking the Arizona Supreme Court to excuse them from the city's anti-discrimination law. Those who break it face thousands of dollars in penalties — and even possible jail time.

Last year, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled against the duo, which is represented by the Scottsdale-based Alliance Defending Freedom.

The influential Christian law firm also has offices in Washington, D.C. and has become nationally known for challenging nondiscrimination protections. The Alliance has logged nine high court wins in just seven years.

They also represent Colorado's baker Jack Phillips, who is again suing Colorado's commission on civil rights for harassment.

Back in 2017, the day the Supreme Court announced it was taking up the first Masterpiece case, Phillips declined to bake another cake. The cake was requested to be pink on the inside and blue on the outside, celebrating a gender transition.

Phillips said the message about sex and gender identity conflicted with his Christian religious beliefs.

"I believe that God made male and female and we don't get to choose that and we don't get to change that," he said. "And it's wrong for the state to force me to create artistic products."

The state found Phillips had violated the state's anti-discrimination law and filed an administrative complaint against him. Phillips' attorneys are seeking an injunction to halt the state from moving forward on that complaint.

"The pending case is an obvious attempt to harass the baker," said Jim Campbell, Phillips' attorney from the Alliance Defending Freedom.

While both cases make their way through lower courts, both sides anticipate the high court taking the issue up again — for the sake of clarity.

"It may very well end up at the nation's highest court again," Campbell said.

Already, powerful forces are divided.

In Arizona, the state's attorney general and Republican leadership are siding with the business, while major companies are backing the city of Phoenix. Arizona has no statewide protections for LGBTQ people.

It's a much different political reality in Colorado where the state's new Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser will defend the state against Phillips.

Weiser was elected in a giant blue wave that swept the state last year, along with a new, and openly gay, Gov. Jared Polis. Weiser says the high court, in its opinion, never challenged the state's anti-discrimination laws.

"Equality for all is something that we here in Colorado are committed to, the laws will be enforced," Weiser said. "We will just have to play a few more innings before we win this game."

July 12, 2018

Why The Gay Community Accepts Prejudice 11 Moths a Yr From Sponsors?

Pride or Prejudice?
Here’s a disturbing question. If a company or industry said they can only invest in the black community in February, and they feel free to ignore that community the rest of the year, would that be racist? Of course, it would be. Why, then, does the queer community support companies that only pull out their rainbow flavored logos, Pride floats and ad placements in the local gay magazines as a PR stunt for Pride Month?
Is that homophobic?
Forever grateful to the bold
The question above will ruffle the feathers on the boas that many companies wear annually during the month of June. To be clear, without the pride that many companies have shown during the month of June over the years, the queer community wouldn’t have made the progress that it has seen accelerate over the past two decades. On behalf of the queer community, we’re grateful for the support. I have marched beside companies like Target, USBank, Kroger, Nissan and many more each year at Pride in Denver.

If it weren’t for the support of companies like the hundreds that signed on to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, numerous queer relationships might not be recognized by the federal government today. It’s only because these companies that many of us have some legal protections. Likewise, we’ve joined our straight brothers and sisters in taking advantage of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax benefits that we’ve been paying into all our lives but were denied the benefits until 2015.
At the same time, where are many LGBTQ supportive companies the other eleven months of the year? LGBTQ people exist 365 days of the year. #WeExist365

 Corporate America’s gay-for-pay secret

In the gay porn industry, there’s a term used, “gay-for-pay,” that refers to straight men who perform “gay” sex acts for higher pay than they’d earn doing straight porn. Basically, these actors will do what they must for the money.
Tying the two points above together, does much of corporate America go gay-for-pay in June to lure the $917 billion in estimated purchasing power of the queer community? Are we getting a nod of the cap simply because it makes financial sense but July through May we’re expunged from the business model?
July through May we’re segregated by many American businesses as undesirables in most commercials and in retirement literature of the country’s biggest brokerage firms. Our families are hidden, and our youth are pitched to the streets by shameful parents who see leading companies of the world doing the same to us year-round.
LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are all rainbows, the international symbol for the queer community, in June. By July, it’s as if the sunshine was packed away like a Christmas tree only to be brought out next year.
Why do companies think that’s okay and why does the queer community tolerate this?
Recently on Instagram, Dominique Jackson, the trans model and actress currently appearing on the hit FX show Pose, calls out a big brand for using her. She was asked by this popular, multi-billion-dollar brand to promote and take part in an event during June and was offered no compensation.
Again, has corporate America adopted a gay-for-pay model? We’re useful as product poster children during June but useless the rest of the year.
What real support looks like today
This may seem harsh, and deservedly so, but there are champions of my queer community. There are companies that haven’t gone gay-for-pay and that truly and consistently support the LGBTQ community. It’s just that there are too many companies that use Pride as a PR move, that reach out to the likes of Dominque Jackson and the Debt Free Guys™ and the Queer Money™ podcast for free exposure to win the affinity of the queer community and aren’t there year-round.
One company who continually supports the LGBTQ community is USBank, which has committed to helping the local LGBT centers where the employees can actively support them with boots on the group. In addition, Nissan and Prudential are at Pride parades across the U.S. every year and also sponsor the NAGAAA softball league with financial support and education. There’s American Airlines that is one of the presenting sponsors of the 2018 NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference, which promotes and educates LGBTQ small business owners, connecting them with companies that desire a diverse supplier network. Finally, there are companies like McKinsey & Company that received The Trevor Project’s distinguished 20/20 Visionary Award because, as a company, it supports queer employees and works with The Trevor Project all year because they believe that suicide should never be the solution to being LGBT.
It’s companies like these that have earned the right to paint their logos a rainbow hue in June. They’re the ones that are as proud of our community as they are of the rest of their customers. They’re not scared of shareholders or customer backlash for showing their pride all year long. These are the companies that deserve access to our $971 billion because they see us as equal. They see us as Americans. They see us as humans.
If you believe that companies should treat all members of the LGBT community as equal all year long, click below and share the tweet:

June 13, 2018

Twitter CEO Puts Chicken Foot in His Mouth (Anti Gay Chicken)


For such a smart guy, the head of Twitter walked right into an unneeded fight with liberals. Jack Dorsey made the unforced error of tweeting about a 10 percent discount he enjoyed from Chick-fil-A, a chain with a history of opposing gay marriage.

Apparently, he missed the huge fight with Boston and the franchise when former Boston Mayor Tom Menino blocked the company from the city over the controversy.

Dorsey tweeted a picture of his payment he made using the cash app, Square. He’s the CEO of that company also. He was trying to highlight the “boost” feature which gives cash back when using a debit card from his mobile payment service.

So in an effort to promote another one of his businesses, he shot himself in the foot. He learned a lesson most Twitter users know — think before you tweet! Even the man who has made millions off of the social media platform apparently doesn’t understand how damaging it can also be to your own personal brand.

Here are a few of the tweets sent to Dorsey: “This is an interesting company to boost during Pride month, @jack,” wrote former CNN host Soledad O’Brien.
“Please delete this or follow up with how much free advertising you’re going to give GLAAD,” tweeted another.

Someone else added: “You must love the taste of bigotry!”
The CEO caved to pressure and apologized for his love of Chick-fil-A and the joy of a deal, “You’re right,” Dorsey conceded. “Completely forgot about their background.”
Conservatives were furious Dorsey apologized and flooded him with tweets: “Give me a break. Chick-Fil-A is not some hate company. Just like you are entitled to your own views, so is the owner of Chick-Fil-A. He believes in God and tries to run his company on what he believes are Godly principles. Nothing wrong with that,” a defender wrote.

Another user tweeted: “Relax, it’s just a chicken sandwich.”
In the end Dorsey was essentially social media roadkill making both political parties angry. In the future, enjoy your greasy sandwich in private!

Follow Jaclyn Cashman on Twitter @JaclynCashman.

April 23, 2018

Amazon Employees Pushing Execs to Seek Gay Friendly City for HQ

 Brian Huseman, an Amazon vice president, earlier this year sent a memo to members an employee group in an effort to reassure them that the company would keep LGBT issues in mind when selecting a second headquarters location. 

As Amazon was starting to dig into the 20 communities in the running for its second headquarters, some of the retailer’s employees were pushing internally for the company to place HQ2 in an LGBT-friendly city.

In late February, Brian Huseman, a vice president of public policy at the company, responded to those concerns in an email to members of glamazon  — an employee mentorship and advocacy group on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues  — reassuring them that the company would keep their interests in mind when selecting HQ2. 

“I am personally very proud of our long-standing track record of supporting our LGBT employees and advancing legal protections for LGBT people,” Huseman wrote. “And we’ll continue to join the business community in efforts to oppose laws that discriminate or encourage discrimination, no matter where HQ2 lands.”

During Amazon’s monthslong search for a second headquarters city somewhere in North America, outside observers have been comparing bidders’ data points — from labor market indicators to educational statistics and gauges of housing markets and transit options. The company announced 20 finalists in January, and has been conducting site visits since, with a goal of making a decision sometime this year. 

There have also been questions about what weight social issues would have on Amazon’s thinking, and whether the company, with its first headquarters in progressive Seattle, would seriously consider a second city that was less accepting or had fewer legal protections for LGBT people.

The Washington Post on Friday reported that Amazon had “quietly made rights for and acceptance of gay and transgender people part of its criteria” for a second headquarters, citing two unnamed sources. The newspaper said that company representatives have asked elected officials about policies related to LGBT rights.

In February, No Gay No Way, a coalition of activists, started a campaign to push Amazon to avoid places with a history of discrimination. The group placed advertisements on trucks driving through Amazon’s Seattle campus, and on banners towed from planes above, to get Amazon’s attention. They also went the direct route, sending Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos a letter. The group highlighted nine states, home to cities under consideration for HQ2,  that they said lacked comprehensive protections for LGBT people.

Amazon employees raised similar concerns inside the company, prompting Huseman’s response.

“I have appreciated the opportunity to hear from glamazon about the HQ2 selection process, and wanted to respond directly to you about our efforts to ensure a positive climate for Amazon’s diverse employee population,” Huseman wrote.

Huseman cited language in Amazon’s original request for proposals, noting that the project “requires a compatible cultural and community environment for its long term success.”

Matt Day 

This article is for registered and Int.readers only.  

March 5, 2018

Sky Diver Donald Zarda, Plaintiff For Getting Fired for Being Gay, Not Here to See His Victory

“It was a good landing,” Donald Zarda told a TV reporter as he unstrapped his helmet after landing safely on the ground in Castelo, Brazil, where he was competing in the 2013 World Wingsuit Race. “Any landing you walk away from is a good landing.”
At that time, Zarda was 43 years old. He had taken up BASE-jumping just a few years earlier and had been skydiving for more than 20 years. Extreme sports, especially skydiving, were his life’s passion, according to his family, and they were also the cause of his untimely death in 2014, four years before a landmark gay-rights lawsuit would be decided in his favor. 
In 2010, while working as a skydiving instructor at Altitude Express in New York, Zarda told a female student that he was gay. According to legal documents, he often informed his female clients of his sexual orientation to “mitigate any awkwardness that might arise from the fact that he was strapped tightly” to them during a tandem skydive.

This 2006 photo provided by Melissa Zarda at her home in Kansas City, 
Missouri, shows her brother, Donald Zarda. Melissa Zarda / AP

In this particular instance, however, his disclosure backfired. The woman informed her boyfriend about Zarda’s comment, and her boyfriend in turn complained to Altitude Express, which promptly fired Zarda.
When Zarda found out the student had also accused him of inappropriately touching her during their skydive, he was “absolutely mortified,” according to William Allen Moore, Zarda’s former partner.
Citing Zarda’s professionalism and obsession with safety, Moore said there was “absolutely no way” Zarda would have touched anyone inappropriately.
In September 2010, Zarda filed a lawsuit against his former employer claiming the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against him because of his sexual orientation. 
Zarda and Moore met nearly 20 years ago in Dallas, Texas, when they were 30 and 26, respectively. Zarda had been working at a skydiving company near Austin at the time. Moore recalled meeting the “very handsome, Greek god” in a Dallas club and said they immediately hit it off.

 William Allen Moore and Donald Zarda's first jump together in Texas. 
Courtesy Of William Moore

Looking back, Moore said he was not surprised when the very next morning Zarda invited him to go skydiving. Moore has jumped 10 times since that first jump with Zarda. “He was the person you wanted to go with if you ever went skydiving,” Moore said.
Zarda lived a rather nomadic lifestyle, jumping from one place to the next, from one continent to another, Moore said. As Zarda traveled and skydived around the world over the years, Moore would often accompany him.
The third of four children, Zarda grew up on a Missouri estate where horses, chickens and stray cats were commonplace. Anyone who knew “Don,” as he was affectionately known by his friends and family, knew that he loved animals, according to Moore. The couple had even shared six cats in their Dallas home.

 The Zarda family stands in front of an airplane during the mid-1970s. Mom (Shirley Zarda), Grandma (Elma Greer), Grandpa (Vester Greer), in front - (Donald), sister (Kimberly Zarda), sister (Gara Zarda). Courtesy Of Melissa Zarda

From extreme sports to sharpshooting to computer networking, Zarda’s younger sister, Melissa, described him as a jack-of-all-trades.
“He was incredibly smart. That's the first thing anybody would say,” Melissa Zarda said of her big brother. “I remember playing with cars and trucks, while he would be wiring circuit boards and drawing blueprints as a little kid.”
She said her brother attended Wentworth Military Academy and College in Lexington, Missouri, as a teenager but never finished his training at the military junior college. Shortly after, he left home, picking up odd jobs wherever he could find them.
 Zarda with his late sister, Gara Zarda while attending Wentworth Military Academy. Courtesy Of Melissa Zarda


 Melissa Zarda recalled a time when her brother, then in his mid-20s, had been away for several months, and when he finally returned home, he came out as gay to the family.
“It was a non-event,” she laughed, saying everyone had already suspected he was gay and was just waiting for him to come out. “I think he was kind of disappointed nobody had any big questions.”
“We went to the park afterwards, and he was driving, and we came up to a stoplight. I told him to go straight, and he responded, tongue-in-cheek, that he could only go forward,” she added.
Zarda was a “big civil rights proponent” and an active member of Dallas’ LGBTQ community, according to Moore. He was also a bit of a rebel and enjoyed breaking stereotypes and gender norms, Moore added. 
Moore recalled a time when Zarda broke his leg on a jump while in New York. At the hospital, the doctor asked him what color cast he wanted. “Pink,” he responded matter-of-factly. Moore recalled the tall, athletic Zarda hopping around for months with his bright pink cast and matching toenails.


By his early 20s, Zarda had decided skydiving was not just a phase, but one of his life’s greatest passions, and he wanted to make a career out of the sport.
“From the moment of his first jump, he was hooked. It was like a switch went off,” Melissa Zarda said. “He sold whatever he could [in order to get] all the certifications, classes, you name it.”
Donald posses for a picture in his skydiving jumpsuit. Courtesy Of Melissa Zarda


His love for skydiving and the career he had built around it made the loss of his job at Altitude Express and the ensuing lawsuit even more unbearable, according to his sister. She recalled the numerous times he would cry on the phone talking about it. “It was a weight he carried,” she said.
After his termination, he quickly sunk into a deep depression, according to his sister and Moore. They said he feared he would be unemployable, because the allegations would be the first thing to appear in a web search of his name.
He had been pursuing a bachelor’s degree in aviation management, but he had lost all motivation to complete the degree, according to Moore, who said he pushed Zarda to finish. Even after he did complete his requirements, Moore said he was “discouraged and never applied for his degree.”
“After he died, I made a point to ask his sister to apply for the degree,” Moore added.


BASE-jumping is an extreme sport where one jumps off a fixed structure or cliff with a parachute or wingsuit. Considered much more dangerous than skydiving from a plane, it is prohibited in most of the U.S.
While Zarda had tried BASE-jumping prior to his termination, Moore said he began aggressively pursuing the fringe sport soon after. Moore said it was his way of coping with the situation, as he believed he had lost the chance to ever work as a skydiving instructor again.
“Had he not been fired, the insane BASE-jumping in Europe never would have happened,” Moore said. 
Before his death, Zarda could be found jumping off rock faces in the Swiss Alps or off snowy mountain tops in Italy. He could no longer find work as a skydiving instructor, and he “had nothing to do anymore,” Moore said. Beginning in 2011, Zarda would go to Europe from June to November on BASE-jumping trips with friends.
Moore said he would tell Zarda that he was playing Russian roulette. “I knew he was going to die from this, and I think he knew he was going to die from this, too,” Moore said.
In October 2014, two weeks before Zarda was to return to the states, Moore got a text from a friend of Zarda’s who was with him in Switzerland on a BASE-jumping trip. “He told me there had been accident,” Moore said. “There is no one who walks away from an accident in BASE- jumping.” 
by Vanessa Chesnut
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December 27, 2017

Amazon Seems to be Looking for an LGBT Friendly City for HQ2

A rendering of Baltimore’s Port Covington neighborhood, one of many contenders for the new Amazon HQ2. (Image courtesy Plank Industries).

(WB) In a little-noticed development, Amazon’s surprise announcement in September that it plans to open a second headquarters has prompted growing speculation on whether the corporate giant will consider a state or city’s laws on LGBT issues as a factor in choosing the location of the new headquarters.
Based on the size and scope of its current corporate headquarters in Seattle, observers familiar with the tech company say the new headquarters will likely result in a workforce of 50,000 and a $5 billion boost to the local economy of the city and state Amazon chooses.
LGBT rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, have noted that Amazon is among the most LGBT supportive corporations in the nation. It received a perfect 100 percent score on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.
In October, HRC named Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos the winner of its National Equality Award for his and his company’s LGBT supportive policies, including his personal financial support for efforts to bring about marriage equality. Bezos appeared as one of the lead speakers at HRC’s annual national dinner in D.C. at the time he accepted the HRC award.
Given Amazon’s strong support for LGBT rights, many in the LGBT and the business community have speculated that the company would at least consider a state and city’s record on LGBT issues as a possible condition for selecting the state and city for its new headquarters.
In some cities, such as Atlanta and Houston, which are considered to be among the top contenders for the new Amazon headquarters, LGBT activists have expressed concern that their respective states’ poor record on LGBT rights could jeopardize their chances of landing the Amazon headquarters, even though the two cities have strong records of support for LGBT equality.
“The reality is many of the big cities in America, particularly in Texas – Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, El Paso – are islands in a big toxic red state,” said lesbian activist and former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who was named earlier this month as CEO of the Victory Fund.
“And it’s painful to have the cities where many of our LGBTQ community live and work and where many of our officials are elected be penalized because of state actions that are discriminatory,” Parker told the Washington Blade on Tuesday.
Parker said she doesn’t know the status of Houston’s bid for Amazon’s new headquarters, which is being referred to as “HQ2.” But she said that as someone who represented Houston in the recent past she doesn’t want to see the city penalized.
Jeff Graham, executive director of the statewide LGBT advocacy group Georgia Equality, said he was hopeful that Amazon and other corporations considering moving to Atlanta would look past efforts by some in the state legislature to pass an anti-LGBT “religious liberties” bill.
Georgia’s Republican governor, Nathan Deal, vetoed a so-called religious freedom restoration act, or RFRA bill, in 2016 and has urged the state legislature not to jeopardize Georgia’s effort to attract Amazon by trying to pass a similar bill again next year.
LGBT rights advocates say the RFRA laws give businesses and some individuals a right to refuse to sell products or provide services to LGBT people on grounds of their personal religious beliefs.
“While Amazon has not been explicit about the impact that legislation such as RFRA would have on any specific bid, most observers agree that this is likely to be a factor in the determination of where their new headquarters will be located,” Graham said.
“It also should be noted that while the state lacks LGBT protections, the city of Atlanta has had an inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance on the books for nearly 20 years,” Graham said. “Finally, it’s important to point out that some 700 companies throughout Georgia have signed the Georgia Prospers pledge,” said Graham.
He said the pledge explicitly states that a prosperous business environment is dependent upon communities that are open and welcoming to a diverse population, including members of the LGBT community.
Other cities and states that have announced they have placed bids for the new Amazon headquarters include D.C., Virginia, Baltimore, Miami and Pittsburgh.
An Amazon spokesperson did not respond to a request from the Washington Blade to confirm whether its criteria for selecting a city and state for its new headquarters include supportive laws and policies for the LGBT community.
Amazon observers have pointed to the request for proposals that Amazon released when it announced it was looking for a location for its new headquarters. Among the criteria mentioned in the RFP was a reference to a “cultural community fit” for its workers along with the “presence and support of a diverse population.”
Some have interpreted that to mean the company wants the new host city and state to be supportive of LGBT people who would be expected to be part of Amazon’s workforce.
The Seattle Times, which closely covers Amazon-related developments in the company’s Seattle headquarters, reported that the company has disclosed some factors it would also look for in a new location include a close proximity to an international airport, a tech talent pool in the workforce, and a relatively low cost of living in the city or state.
Sara Warbelow, HRC’s legal director, said HRC is closely monitoring the impact companies like Amazon have on efforts by LGBT rights groups to push for supportive laws and policies in states and cities.
“One of the things we have asked corporations to do is weigh in with governors and state legislators explaining to them why it’s bad for business to target LGBTQ people in negative ways and to not adopt common sense nondiscrimination policies for LGBTQ people,” Warbelow said.
Warbelow was cautious in her response when asked whether HRC has specifically called on Amazon to adopt a state’s record on LGBT rights as criteria or condition for selecting a location for its new headquarters.
“We do a lot of education to a variety of corporations using our tools, including the Corporate Equality Index, the Municipal Equality Index and State Equality Index,” she said. “We are constantly providing information to corporations about the rights of LGBTQ people and impacts on us.”

— Lou Chibbaro Jr, Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.
South Florida Gay News

October 16, 2017

The Reasons Japanese Business' are Endorsing The LGBT Community

In faraway Toronto, an art exhibition titled “The Third Gender – beautiful Youths in Japan” is an eloquent statement on Japan’s attitude towards gender. Long before the term LGBT came into vogue, Japan went its own way regarding gender definitions, as the exhibition shows. It harkens back to a more relaxed era, depicted in art as the “Floating World”, before the Meiji restoration in the 19th Century opened Japan to Western ideas and concepts, including a more Victorian attitude towards sex roles. That is changing rapidly in Japan, led by big business seeking to tap into the underappreciated market for lesbians, gays and transgender people estimated at US$50 billion.

Japan schools a ‘hateful’ place for LGBT students, says rights group

The online shopping mall operator Rakutan earlier this month announced that it would recognise same-sex relationships for spousal benefits. Under the new rule, employee couples of the same sex can receive the same benefits and treatment as married couples, including condolence leave and condolence payments.
Supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT) take part in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade. Photo: AFP
“We are very proud to support and provide an inclusive work place with services and benefits that recognise same-sex partners,” said Akio Sugihara, managing executive.
Rakuten is known as a trend-setter in Japanese business circles. It made news earlier when it announced that it was demanding that all 13,000 employees learn to speak English for the company to work better in a global setting. But other more venerable Japan Inc. companies are following suit.

Hong Kong to propose hosting the gay Olympics: ‘the Gay Games needs to come here because we need to improve LGBT rights’

The massive electronics emporium Panasonic announced it too would recognise employees in same-sex relationships by conferring on them paid leave and other benefits. One motivation is the 2020 Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo. It has a rule prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Panasonic aspires to be a prime sponsor.
Drag queens take part in a gay pride event in Tokyo. Photo: AFP
Japan Airlines and its affiliate Trans Ocean Air Company together sponsor the Pink Dot festival on Okinawa, becoming the first Japanese airlines to sponsor a private LGBT event. Beginning this year, JAL will also allow officially certified same-sex couples to share their frequent flier miles as family members. Both JAL and Trans Ocean, based in Naha, rely heavily on tourism.

Indonesian LGBT groups set up safehouses as ‘cacophony of hatred’ reaches fever pitch

“We can see the ripple effect among numerous additional Japanese companies”, says Ayumu Yasutomi, a professor of social ecology at Tokyo University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Asia.
Like its counterpart in the United States, Tokyo Disneyland sponsors an LGBT Pride event. This includes a popular marriage hall, which performs a kind of symbolic marriage ceremony for same-sex couples. Nomura Securities, was one of the first major LGBT-friendly companies in Japan when in 2008 it bought the US investment bank Lehman Brothers and adopted its marriage equality policies.
Two women take part in a gay pride event in Shibuya, which has introduced “Proof of Partnership” documents. Photo: AFP
Hakuhodo DY Holdings, a major Japanese advertising firm, this spring established a think tank, the LGBT Research Institute, to cater to Japanese firms that feel they need to learn more about sexual minorities and their buying habits. “The LGBT market is still largely uncharted territory,” declared institute chief Takahito Morinaga. His research shows that LGBT people tend to spend more on travel, art and pet goods, he says. “I believe there are tremendous big business opportunities,” he said.

Hong Kong’s LGBT community left disappointed by long awaited report on discrimination against sexual minorities

Change is coming, albeit more slowly, in the public sector. The self-governing Shibuya district of Tokyo created quite a stir when in February 2015, it declared that it would begin issuing “Proof of Partnership” documents, providing same-sex couples with rights traditionally reserved for married couples, stopping just short of fully–fledged same-sex marriage certificates.
The Setagaya district quickly followed suit, but since that initial outburst, no other Tokyo district has done so, although the small city of Iga in Mie prefecture became the first government entity outside of Tokyo to issue Proof of Partnership documents for same-sex couples.
A gay pride event takes place in Tokyo's Shibuya and Harajuku shopping districts. Photo: AFP
One might reasonably question that if these districts are issuing documents for same-sex couples that are practically marriage certificates, why not take the next logical step and fully legalise same-sex marriages. The answer has less to do with views on homosexuality, which are fairly relaxed in Japan, as it does to more practical concerns such as inheritance and the definition of the family under law.

Hong Kong’s annual LGBT festival: where pink means party

In Japan, couples can go through any “marriage ceremony” they wish, from the most traditional Shinto wedding ceremony to marriage halls in Disneyland and Hawaii (combining the wedding with the honeymoon). But no one is actually and legally married until they go to the city hall and enter their names in the family register or koseki. For married couples only one family name must appear.
The koseki system performs by itself the roles taken on in other countries through several documents, including birth certificates, death certificates and of course marriage or adoption. So many conservatives are loath to tinker with it.
Two Japanese men take part in an LGBT rainbow rally in Tokyo. Photo: AFP
As a rule, then, Japanese don’t have much cultural hostility to LGBT people. Homosexuality has been legal in Japan since 1880. Neither of the two main religions, imported Buddhism and the native Shinto, has any position on sexuality. (The tiny Christian minority does not much exert influence.)
A law passed in 2002 allows transgender people to change their legal gender after obtaining sex re-assignment surgery. There are no laws governing which bathrooms to use. Indeed, there are occasional signs in front of public toilets saying this stall is gender free.

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The current exhibition of Japanese wood-block prints running in Toronto is itself a fair indication of Japanese attitudes towards gender. In the kabuki theatre men play women’s roles, while in the Takarazuka review women play the men’s roles.
Supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT) take part in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade. Photo: AFP

Japan’s politicians have been slow to react to LGBT issues. In the recent upper house election in July, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s manifesto contained some vague language of support for LGBT issues but was placed towards the end of the document.
“The Liberal Democratic Party of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would probably try to get by without dealing with LGBT issues. Without outside pressure [the Olympics] things might not have gotten this far,” says Akiko Shimizu, associate professor of gender and sexual studies at Tokyo University. “But doing nothing looks bad.”

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Japan’s constitution, written by occupying Americans in 1947, goes farther than even the US constitution in guaranteeing women’s rights and specifically places women on an equal plane with men in terms of consent and inheritance, but does not mention partners of the same sex.
For the first time since the war, the ruling LDP has enough votes in both houses of parliament to call a national referendum on amending the constitution, which has never been changed since it was first promulgated.
However, the LDP’s proposed amendments, which it published in 2012, contain no references to same-sex marriage, and indeed, proposes strengthening definitions of family. These proposed amendments can be changed, of course, but it doesn’t seem likely that the conservatives who now dominate the government will be willing to go down that road.
Todd Crowell has been a journalist in Asia for 30 years, in Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan
South China Morning Post

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