Demonstrating once again that the private sector is better at almost everything than the public sector, the current issue of The Advocate has a couple of stories about how large corporations are becoming increasingly gay friendly. No, I do not have a subscription, nor do I even buy issues (what if a family member should discover it? Never mind that I am currently at least 500 miles from any relative), instead I go to the bookstore and read them there. This library method also saves money that I can spend on more "respectable" things like issues of the Economist, or um, Men's Health. I was casually thumbing the current issue at the bookstore coffee shop--which incidentally is a big step for the kid who just a year ago would walk to the magazine rack with some oversized book of presidential portraits or something, furtively slip the magazine into it and then go read my disguised Gay mag in some extremely low traffic section like "Mathematics"--and two found an article that excited me: the first is called Starbucks is Hot and the second is Corporate Pride (only one of the articles is available online right now).
Starbucks is Hot describes how Starbucks, Inc is leading an effort to encourage large companies to be more GLBT-friendly. The article notes that in just a few short years, the number of fortune 500 companies that explicitly enumerate sexual orientation in company non-discrimination policies has gone from 25% in 2000 to 86% in 2007. [Note: I had orignially and incorrectly stated that the percentage in 2007 as 65%]. Corporate Pride lists some of the gay friendly policies some industry leaders are implementing. What's more, Corporate Pride states that over 100 major corporations include gender identity in non-discrimination policies. While we still wait (and wait) for ENDA, The Big Boys are already making the issue moot. Hell, even conservative behemoth Walmart is making strides in equality.
Now, I understand that although the trend is positive, some may be skeptical that it's lasting, and a federal law would not ensure that more companies join the bandwagon, but that none will get off it later. I am not as opposed to non-discrimination laws as I am to hate crime laws (non-discrimination ensures only that protected groups are treated the same ans non-protected ones), but I am more optimistic for the reason that being gay-friendly makes economic sense!
Gay people, though a minority, make up a considerable share of the market (and I don't even mean just because of the living-above-their-means-hyper-consumer stereotype). A reputation for being gay friendly is likely going to give a company an advantage over its gay-neutral or gay-hostile competitors, by attracting not only gay customers but also customers who support the gay community. It just is bad business to be hostile and to alienate this group, along with it's supporters from a customer base by giving in to irrational bigotry. Furthermore, gays are more than just consumers, they are workers, and workers who statistically have a higher level of education than the general population. Gay inclusive non-discrimination policies attract this pool of workers, and it would be silly not to try to capture part of it.
Certainly there is an economic cost to these policies, for instance Disney's gay days that attracted boycott from the Theocrat crowd. While there may be some backlash from certain elements, the economic advantage almost certainly outweighs this cost (or else they wouldn't do it). Although many in this country are still very homophobic, one would have to be blind to think that gays haven't come a long way and that things are still improving for us. While few companies have the courage to be the pioneer in possibly controversial social causes, when public opinion shifts as I think it is, even fewer want to be the dinosaur. You may think it unseemly to break down something that is a "moral should" to something as base as economic advantage, but in the end, it's what works. Selfish motives are stronger than altruistic ones, and outcomes based on profit are more robust than outcomes based on moral guilt-tripping and especially those based solely on fiat. That's just fine with me.