HRC Blog

Turning Down Your Billionaire Boss: “The Ultimate Political Act”

This post comes from author and HRC board member William Donius:

It isn’t unusual for influential bosses to ask employees to make a political contribution during election season. But what to do when your powerful boss is asking you to donate to a candidate who you don’t support? What to do when that candidate is Mitt Romney, and you are gay – and stand to be adversely impacted by the policies of a Romney administration?

A friend of mine recently had to turn down a request like this from his boss, and he was honest as to why: under a President Romney, he would not be able to marry his partner. Under a President Romney, that employee and his soon-to-be-husband would face a myriad of challenges that so many others wouldn’t face – all because Mitt Romney doesn’t believe in the dignity of same-sex relationships.

In a separate case familiar to me, a gay executive buckled under pressure and attended a Romney fundraiser, donating $5,000 by writing a check from the joint account with his partner. When he met Mitt Romney at the event, he suggested the candidate for President considering changing his mind about same-sex marriage. He stated there was just a blank look on Romney's face in response. Days later the Romney campaign called to state they were returning the check because it was from the joint account of an unmarried couple. The executive replied he was unable to get married in his home state, Missouri. The staffer politely asked if the executive could send another check from his individual account. "No," was the response from the executive. He stated, "There is only so far I'm willing to go." 

It seems that this year is shaping up to be a tipping point for same-sex marriage and edging closer to full equal rights for the LGBT community in America. Even high-level executives who formerly were either in the closet or who've been careful to not rock the boat with their bosses are choosing a different path. The choice is very stark. The cost is too high, it's proving too difficult to subrogate one's long term partner, family and friends to placate even a billionaire boss. It's no longer the younger with less to lose who are coming out and demanding it's time for equal treatment, at last also the older with everything to lose are doing so as well. A long -time human rights activist and friend, David Mixner, said decades ago, "Coming out is the ultimate political act." He is still right.

This is how change happens in America. 

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