In the afterglow of Tuesday’s election, the term “historic turning point” for LGBT rights is hardly an overstatement. The passage of equal marriage rights by popular vote in three states, the blockage of an anti-equality constitutional amendment in a fourth (after losses in 30 other states), plus the reelection of the first president to ever publicly ally himself with same-sex marriage equality, demonstrates a dramatic shift in public attitudes.
Equally dramatic, however, and perhaps even more significant, has been the willingness of large businesses and major corporations to lend both their names and dollars toward the cause. In Washington State, in particular, a blue-chip list of high-profile companies — Starbucks, Nordstrom, Amazon, Microsoft, REI, to name just a few — took a prominent stand in support of the marriage-equality referendum. Amazon chief Jeff Bezos tossed in $2.5 million of his own toward the campaign. Bill Gates wrote a check for $100,000.
Less than 20 years ago, in 1994, Senator Edward Kennedy’s staff had a difficult time trying to convince corporate executives to testify on behalf of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the first attempt to bar employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at the federal level (a measure that still has not passed.) Their companies had successfully implemented internal policies that did the same; the executives were even on record saying they thought it was a good idea. But testify before Congress? No, thanks.