by MK Scott
Amazon’s annual shareholders meeting was held this past Wednesday (May 30th) at the Fremont Studios with about 150 people inside and another 75 or so protesting outside.
A line up of drag queens posed and strutted in support of ‘No Gay, No Way,’ a campaign urging Amazon to place its second headquarters only in a state with strong gay rights laws, which would exclude the states of Florida, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
The day before the shareholders meeting I attended a 60-minute forum and discussion held at the Northwest Film Forum on ‘How Amazon HQ2 Started a National Conversation.’
The event was hosted by Conor Gaughan, founder of Collective Conscience, a social impact media firm. Joining him were Mara Keisling, Founder and Executive Director of National Center for Transgender Equality, and Dr. Laura Durso from the Center for American Progress.
One of the main topics raised in the discussion was whether just because Dallas or Miami are Gay-friendly cities, should they be considered, because the states they are located in have zero LGBT protections. It was painfully obvious that North Carolina and Indiana would be the last place Amazon would choose.
‘For us the system is more set for those who have protection than those who do not,’ Gaughan explained. ‘I think we highlight those, all those kind of things, because they’ve had examples in the public the last couple of years that stand out, of new laws that they’re passing, that are highly recognized cases of discrimination, making it into the national dialogue.’
Gaughan then added ‘So we’re here to try to continue to elevate the conversation around observation protections, to try to continue to pressure Amazon, gently, as a good friend does. You know, our goal is to make a company that’s been really good on these issues not make a bad decision, and actually take it a step even further and become great. So that’s kind of our opening comment.’
Laruso elaborated, ‘But they already think it’s legal to do that. And the fact is, is that it’s not; and we’re working day and day on it. And so having this kind of conversation is not only important, because we’re trying to shape the way Corporate America engages on social justice issues, but also because we have a lot of work to do to pass the laws. And these are the best conversations that can help make that a reality.’
When Gaughan asked the question, ‘What are your takes on the future of corporate social responsibility? What do we see coming out of this? Where do we go from here? Both within the LGBTQ states, but then more broadly, the progressive and general space?’
Laruso responded, ‘Fair question. I think we’ve learned a couple of things from the sides in these different states, from, you know, the conversation that we’re having with big corporations now. You know, one thing I think is that, you know, you like, companies are like a tool, like having that conversation is a means of putting some visibility on the issues with the LBGT people and actively engaging partners and making change.
Keisling agreed. ‘I think everything Dr. Laruso just said; but I’m really hopeful that corporations are starting to understand the influence they can have, and the positive impact they can have on their own bottom line.
‘I’m not a big bottom line kind of person. I wish that’s not, hadn’t been what companies had become, largely, but I think they’re starting to understand that that is true.
‘And then, you know, we’ve been having some really amazing relationships with corporations that are doing some incredible social justice [work]. LUSH Cosmetics now has a dramatic impact in a whole range of issues, including trans rights, but also including animal testing and the environment, and getting plastic out of the ocean, and ending trophy hunting.
‘Things that they’re finding their employees love so much about their company; the company is willing to stand up and fight for things that they all believe in. And I think we’re going to see more companies.’
Keisling added, ‘Can I just say that, you know, Amazon itself, in the marriage equality fight in Washington state – Jeff Bezos really, really stepped up personally and organizationally in ways that they understood the importance of it. They understood the importance of it to their staff.’
Gaughan added, ‘I mean that’s the bottom line of this conversation for corporate responsibility; that these actions matter, and we hope companies like Amazon and research in any major corporation looking at investment decisions is to support LGBTQ protections and social justice.’
For more information on ‘No Gay No Way,’ visit nogaynoway.com/