HRC Honors Goldman Sachs & Names CEO to Be Its Marriage Spokesperson as Activists Howl
The country's largest LGBT rights organization has announced that Goldman Sachs' CEO would be the group's first national corporate spokesman for gay marriage.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) presented CEO and Chairman Lloyd Blankfein with its Corporate Equality Award at a dinner last weekend in New York City.
"Lloyd Blankfein is not someone average Americans would think is going to support marriage equality," Fred Sainz, an executive from HRC said. "The green visor crowd is not typically associated with socially progressive policies, and this is further proof that a diversity of Americans are coming to the same conclusion."
Blankfein has been the CEO and chairman of Goldman Sachs since 2006 and has supported marriage equality for sometime, the New York Times reported. Last year, Blankfein signed a letter that asked New York lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage. Additionally, he personally called politicians to discuss the issue.
Although the investment company has been under intense scrutiny it has, however, been forward thinking when it comes to its LGBT employees. For example, it reimburses its workers for the extra taxes they pay on domestic partner benefits. In addition, in 2002 Goldman Sachs offered to pay for employees' sex-change operations.
The partnership between a major human rights organization and a corporation that many see as having contributed directly to global financial instability has caused people on Wall Street as well as gay rights groups to raise their eyebrows. HRC has received criticism for their actions several times in the past. Some claim that the organization wants to be too much on the inside with important decision makers in Washington. Others would counter that HRC needs powerful allies -- and to be well funded. (As Jesse Unruh once said, "Money is the mother's milk of politics.")
If HRC has been in close connection with the rich and powerful, is that a sellout or a consequence of wanting to have a voice among the people who (for better or worse) have direct influence over law and policy?
In New York, a demonstration outside the HRC dinner provided a dramatic contrast between those who work within the perceived status quo and those who reject it wholesale. A group called Queer Occupiers, an outgrowth of the Occupy Wall Street movement, held an Occupy Wall Street-type protest outside the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel during HRC's Manhattan Gala honoring Blankfein and Goldman Sachs.
"The Queer Caucus condemns HRC's decision to honor Goldman Sachs in a time of financial collapse caused by their unethical business practices and greed, and deplores the use of our cause and suffering for corporate public relations," a statement from the protesters read. "HRC honoring Goldman Sachs at this time reveals all one needs to know about the corporate LGBT lobby, and its disconnect from the 99% and the LGBT people it purports to represent."
About 80 LGBT grassroots activists participated in the protest and yelled chants such as. "Hey Hey HRC. Where is our equality?," as well as, "Everyone pays their tax. Everyone but Goldman Sachs." While chanting their slogans, protesters held a large banner that said, "SEEK FULL EQUALITY," "No HRC or Goldman Sachs! Civil Rights Now!" and "HRC in BED with A SACHS Machine."
According to Queer Caucus, "Blending costumes and poignant cardboard signs, the cacophony energized the night as the Queer OWS Caucus was joined by radical activists from Queer Rising and Queerocracy, and Radical Faeries and Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence brought feathers and magic to the mix."
An online petition on activist social media website Change.org calls for HRC to "withdraw the honor from Goldman Sachs and make it clear their behavior is not to be celebrated."
HRC President Joe Solmonese gave his reasons for selecting Blankfein as a gay marriage advocate in a statement: "Corporate America has long since been a leading agent of change and progress for LGBT equality. While the federal government continues to discriminate against committed and loving same-sex couples, America's companies and executives like Goldman Sachs and Lloyd Blankfein have made equality for LGBT people a top priority."
Goldman Sachs has received a stellar 100 percent rating on HRC's generally well-regarded "Corporate Equality Index," which rates American businesses based on their treatment and polices regarding LGBT employees.
"Under the leadership of Blankfein, their Executive Ally program works to create an inclusive environment for LGBT professionals by engaging and educating senior-level straight allies to serve as visible LGBT champions across all divisions," the statement said."
Watch Lloyd Blankfein's HRC video and the HRC protest below: