Opinion: Letter to the Editor: LGBTQ Equality Is Good Business

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: LGBTQ Equality Is Good Business

For over 20 years, June has been known as LGBTQ Pride month. This month-long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history commemorates and remembers the Stonewall Riots, which sparked the movement for LGBTQ equality and equity.

For the past six years, Fairfax County has shown our dedication to inclusiveness and equality, each year proclaiming June to be “LGBT Pride Month” throughout the county.

This annual proclamation by Fairfax County is not only morally the right thing to do, but also a smart business decision. Nationwide, 1.4 million LGBTQ-owned businesses are directly responsible for contributing $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy. In the U.S., the adult LGBT population has a combined buying power of over $917 billion. Clearly, the LGBTQ community is an economic powerhouse.

Locally, an environment of equality can help Fairfax County attract industry leaders such as Amazon and Apple. Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, and Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, have both shown a commitment to LGBTQ equality both in their personal lives and in the manner their companies conduct business.

Jeff Bezos is known for his commitment to LGBTQ causes, including donating $2.5 million in 2012 to support marriage equality in Washington State. Amazon has also expressed corporate support for LGBTQ issues, including offering employees health benefits that fully cover transition surgeries for transgender employees

Earlier this year, Jeff Bezos and other Amazon executives toured Fairfax County, a finalist in the company’s search for a location for their new headquarters, HQ2. HQ2 would bring a $5 billion investment and 50,000 jobs to Fairfax County. In turn, 250,000 additional jobs would be indirectly created as a result of HQ2. Given Bezos’ proven track record of support for the equality movement, LGBTQ rights have been speculated to be an “unspoken factor” in Amazon’s quest for a new home.

Tim Cook, the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company, has often been referred to as “the most powerful gay man in America.” A well-known advocate for LGBTQ causes, he has addressed the United Nations and lobbied Congress on LGBTQ issues such as marriage equality and worker protections. In 2015, he led 8,000 Apple employees as they participated in San Francisco’s 43rd Annual Gay Pride Parade. Apple is also very open about the company’s support of LGBTQ causes, most recently by signing an amicus brief supporting LGBTQ nondiscrimination to the Supreme Court regarding a case in which a Colorado baker refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In addition, Apple has consistently scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index every year since its inception in 2002.

Like Bezos, Tim Cook has also recently toured multiple locations in Northern Virginia as potential sites for a new Apple headquarters. This new headquarters, expected to be approximately 4 million square feet — two-thirds the size of the Pentagon — would bring 20,000 jobs to Fairfax County.

Unfortunately, Supervisor Pat Herrity, who represents the Springfield District on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, has continually shown his disrespect towards the LGBTQ community. Every year when the

Board of Supervisors votes to proclaim June as LGBT Pride Month, Herrity excuses himself from the dais during the vote. The end result is that for the past six years, he has turned down the opportunity to support

LGBTQ equality throughout Fairfax County.

It is necessary for all members of Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors to embrace all county residents with open arms — regardless of sexual orientation. Supervisor Herrity has shown through his continued absence

whenever the topic comes up for a vote that he does not respect the invaluable contributions that members of the LGBTQ community make to Fairfax County.

Supervisor Herrity’s lack of support for the LGBTQ community is considered to be part of the reason why Fairfax County’s score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index is only 33 percent while Arlington County’s score is 93 percent. There is no excuse for an elected official’s repeated absence when it comes to equality — inclusion should be the default response of all our leaders, no matter their political persuasion.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will invite representatives of the LGBTQ community and its supporters to appear before the Board on June 5 to commemorate LGBT Pride Month. Let’s hope Supervisor Herrity will embrace the LGBTQ community not only on this day, but everyday moving forward. If he chooses, yet again, to excuse himself from supporting LGBTQ equality, I guarantee that there is someone willing to take his place on the Board who will.

Linda Sperling

The writer is a candidate for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Springfield District.