March 26th, 2013


gay marriage decisions and your God-given "right" to be homophobic at work

Obviously, I really hope the Supreme Court smacks down prop 8 and DOMA, validating the fact that same-sex couples can get married. And I think it'll happen, because every year that passes by I see more and more public support for gay marriage, we were told it would happen, I actually didn't think it'd happen this fast. But every year more "younger than me" people reach voting age. I guess that's one good thing about getting older... seeing your more progressive views grow mainstream over time.

What I did want to comment on was this profile that NPR had last week on an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, who knows her side is losing, and is now starting to shift her efforts towards just making sure that people have a free-speech right to be homophobic and protected for it:

""I have always believed that gay people are human beings with human dignity who need to be treated with respect," Gallagher says. "But that's different from having a foundational norm that says there is no morally relevant difference between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships and [that] if you see one, you're like a bigot who's opposed to interracial marriage.... I do worry about other people — I worry when I get an email from a woman who's a nurse in a hospital, who wrote a letter to the editor opposing gay marriage, and finds that she fears her job is in jeopardy."

First off, I think there are plenty of workplaces where it's 100% safe to be a total homophobic nutcase. Forget letter to the editor... I hear comments outloud, which I suspect is really what the advocates of "traditional marriage" (whatever that means) seem to think they have the right to do.

Second, I think it's accepted that this is a national dialog. Right after this quote, the point was brought up that Barack Obama himself only recently offered spoken support for gay marriage, and nobody was calling him a bigot before that.

And lastly... workplace etiquitte is not about you and your right to freely discriminate against people. It's about your company retaining its trained talent. This is something I've actually stood up in meetings and spoken about: the business case for diversity. It's in our economic interest to "have a foundational norm" that accepts same-sex couples, pure and simple.

Sure, you're the majority, you can band together and say "We don't think same-sex relationships are valid like ours are. They're not moral. They're bad for kids. They go against tradition. They're gross. They're too rainbow-y." whatever your defense is. But when you do that you're telling a person who might work three cubicles down from you that they just aren't wanted here. They're not like you, the person they love isn't like you, and they deserve to feel uncomfortable.

I think we have two obligations: the high moral one of just being a nice person to other humans, and the corporate one of "don't do anything to screw up that guy's productivity or drive him away". In my world of engineering, we have a hell of a time getting kids into the field, recruiting and retaining talent. It's just not worth it to drive some away because they're not the right race/sex/class/sexual orientation. That's my concern, and why I don't feel like homophobia should be "protected" in the workplace. We can debate whether people choose to be gay, but I KNOW people choose to be assholes. So let's tell them to leave it for the weird little churches or blogs nobody reads, and be nice to their coworkers, that doesn't sound too difficult.