It's taken me a few days to be able to write about this because it was so devasting, and so hurtful, that I just wanted to avoid thinking about it.
The "it" to which I am referring is the statement the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce put out on its website, encouraging its members to contact the Leon County Commission and OPPOSE the Human Rights Ordinance. The Chamber argued about the "costs" to small businesses in these "tough" economic times if they were pulled into court on charges that they discriminate against the LGBT community in employment issues. They said there was no "demonstrative need" for this ordinance and this represented another layer of bureaucracy.
In other words: we should be able to discriminate against "those people" if we want to. And this from the group that claims to represent the business interests of our community.
As you might imagine, the hue and cry from this salvo launched across the bow resulted in the Chamber removing the statement from its website. But the "apology" from Chamber President Sue Dick was something akin to the type of "apologies" the gay community often gets: I call it "Sorry to have offended you, but...." After carrying on about how the Chamber supports the "positive principle" of respecting all individual rights... Dick added this paragraph:
Before taking any action, we want to urge commissioners to deeply
research the issue further to determine the coverage provided by existing laws,
processes and protections -- and also to provide an economic projection of how
this proposed ordinance is likely to impact local businesses. Thank you for your
thoughtful perspective about this issue. I encourage you to send your input and
comments to either me, Matt Brown or Glenda Thornton (Chair, Chamber
Governmental Affairs Committee).
The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can always write to the Chamber and tell them, again, why there is no need to continously study this issue to death. Tell them that the "economic projection" of NOT extending protections to the LGBT community will result in many Fortune 500 companies looking elsewhere in Florida or Georgia to locate because they don't want to be in a place where some of their valuable employees will feel UNwelcome. And remind the Chamber that currently in Florida, there is NO recourse for LGBT people to seek redress for being fired due to their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. There are NOT federal protections either. In Florida, you have to live in a county that has adopted a Human Rights Ordinance in order to feel protected.
Finally, tell Sue Dick and the Chamber that this only becomes costly to businesses that insist on discrimination. It's simple: treat people right, and you have nothing to fear.
The next hearing on the Human Rights Ordinance is tomorrow at the Leon County Courthouse, County Commission chambers, between 3-6pm. If you are a praying person, light a candle for our community. This fight for our rights is not an easy one.