City Ordinances

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Last year the HRO was passed for LGBT rights in Jacksonville. Last month I was invited to the Women’s Center’s Open Door celebration and given a personal tour of facilities by one of the board members who had pointed out to me that they were supportive and all-inclusive of both LGBTQIA men and women despite the gendered bathrooms. She showed me two identical single-stall restrooms. One single restroom was for men, and the other single restroom was for women. They were informed that to meet the city’s code, they could not be gender neutral bathrooms. It seemed odd given the fact that the HRO had passed. I took note to think about this at a later time. This afternoon, I went and reviewed the ordinances online which, by the way, was an incredibly tedious process. It seems some businesses including one I visited in downtown Jacksonville, Chamblin Bookmine, have gender-neutral single stall bathrooms. I decided to search the web instead. I came across this article.

“The law does not have any new requirements regarding bathroom usage.”

“Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a set of guidelines regarding bathroom access for transgender workers. The guidelines recommend providing better access to options for transgender individuals with gender-neutral facilities.”

I’m not sure why the Women’s Center could not have single stall restrooms, but maybe this is one of those situations where the inspector was misinformed? I don’t know, but it all seems ridiculous to me. Can you imagine if we were required to have gendered single stall bathrooms at home? What about the campgrounds or art’s market? We seem to accept these gender-neutral bathrooms just fine, but we can’t or won’t allow the ones inside a building.

©An Goldbauer


Transgender Violence On College Campuses

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To some, colleges and universities are “ivory towers” isolated from the larger society. A closer look shows that this country’s academic institutions are reflections of our broader community, struggling with the same social issues and prejudices. Lorri L. Jean, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The Spinnaker, a News Source from the University of North Florida, released an article reporting an incident which involved a transgender student who was assaulted and verbally threatened by a male in a campus bathroom. The report red-flagged the failure of the UNFPD to release a Clery report. The incident took place February 6 of this year and was reported to the UNFPD on February 7th.

It isn’t unusual to hear that police are poorly trained in handling cases of LGBT assaults nor rare to hear of agencies, such as Victims Advocacy and LGBT groups reporting the way these types of incidents (as what happened February 6) are often minimized or dismissed.  The article stated that Chief Strudel’s response was “it is rare, and therefore, we aren’t going to do anything about it.” However, there were concerns expressed by Strudel that his statements were taken out of context when I spoke with him this afternoon. As someone who works as an advocate, activist and photojournalist on LGBT issues, my first reaction in reading this statement in the Spinnaker, was “Is this an accurately recorded statement?” My second reaction was to seek clarification since any incident involving an assault on campus would warrant a Clery report. If you aren’t aware of what a Clery report is, know that it is a set of federally mandated guidelines for universities. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (20 USC § 1092(f)) is the landmark federal law, originally known as the Campus Security Act, that requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses. The law is tied to an institution’s participation in federal student financial aid programs and it applies to most institutions of higher education both public and private. The Act is enforced by the United States Department of Education.

Both Title 9 and the Clery report serve to protect students on campuses, so to have guidelines in place and not follow the protocols would be an act of non-disclosure and not help in the best interest of the population who are most at risk for hate crimes.  Strudel denied that he stated that the case was not a hate crime and in fact, insisted that he kept having to correct the reporter. Strudel noted that the reporter took things out of context. A similar complaint by Kaitlin Legg, when I spoke with her earlier this afternoon, was that she had to repeatedly correct the reporter on some statements taken out of context. Legg is acting director of the LGBT Resource Center.

According to the article, the cameras were not checked by the campus PD. Strudel stated that initially when the report came in on February 7, the day after the crime, some of the details were not available, such as where the offense took place nor the name of the victim. Once the PD received this information the Communications sector on campus reviewed the footage. According to Strudel not all the cameras on UNF campus are updated; some are around 7 years old and are analogs and clarity is an issue. Dr. Thomas Serwatka, VP at UNF, emphasized the concerns he and President John Delaney had regarding the delay in releasing the Clery report and investigated the falling out with the campus procedure as soon as they learned of the article in the Spinnaker. Strudel stated that he recognized that he should have released this report immediately, regardless of not having all the information and felt he was protecting the student. Serwatka noted that UNF does not tolerate hate crimes nor non-disclosures of these incidences and are implementing protocols to ensure that procedures are followed regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity and expression of the individual. The UNFPD is now executing the process for all cases of assaults and had released the crime report later this afternoon. News coverage on First Coast News took place this evening at 11 p.m on the published crime report.

©An Goldbauer

Trans Erasure

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Aristotle once said “To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter.”

This is a case in point for those of us who – not only do gratis work but – who also help fund work. When we speak out as Philanthropists expressing concerns that end up being dismissed, we realize that our concerns are not taken seriously. So, we ask ourselves “do we continue to support an organization whose leadership dismisses our concerns or do we affect change in addressing these concerns privately and when this fails, then publicly?”

As an Activist, Philanthropist and Advocate, I can only share my experience working, on a project for elderSource. The PhotoVoice project comprised of six participants. I tried to remain faithful to the participants, but this was not without challenges. I witnessed how others, who like me, expressed sentiments of not being treated with respect or whose concerns were dismissed.

The gratis work and amount of hours I and my intern put into this project to uphold the authenticity of what the LGBT elders voiced, was not valued any more than the participants’ contributions, as evidenced in the end. All that the leadership cared about was their funding, not the profound statements made by three participants – all on film – all very compelling – rolled out in one statement (Precarious Legal System). Leadership argued that a statement such as this would place their organization at risk of losing funding.

(1) The statement “Precarious Legal System” was made and disputed by the leadership.

One of the participants (near the end of the project right before the exhibit) passed away. The participants had come to know her in all the months we worked closely with them. We suggested a postscript in her honor and as a way to celebrate her contribution as a valuable member of society. She was our one and only trans woman in the group.

(2) Postscript was initially rejected.

The reason that was given for rejecting the postscript? It would take away from all the other participants’ stories and overshadow the voices of the others, even though, her voice was a part of this project.

I worked hard helping the leadership realize in a one-on-one discussion at my studio that this participant had worked equally as hard throughout this project. To not have a postscript in her honor would be a dishonor.

The statement “Precarious Legal System” was placed on the wall of the exhibit at MOCA.

(3) Despite the rights for creative control written in my job description, the statement was shrunk down to a size that conflicted with directives I had given. I was never informed and did not know about the alteration until I arrived at the opening of the exhibit.

(4) I also received the directive, after reaching a compromise, to keep the postscript of the trans woman to one page.

The exhibit was to travel to Baker County, an oppressed area where topics such as LGBTQIA are controversial. We were initially informed that this project would not pose any problems. We were given space in their conference room and hallway right outside of the conference room.

(5) My colleague and I traveled to Baker County’s Health Department where we were informed that they were in a meeting, apparently elderSource and the Director at the County Health Department, all agreed ahead of time to remove the trans woman from the project, despite earlier emails confirming my role and time of arrival.

(6) Rather than stand by their promise to give voice to all participants – and honor terms throughout the traveling of this exhibit – they agreed to erase the trans woman from the project in favor of the organization’s self-interests. In doing so, they devalued the human being – now -deceased and unable to defend herself as one of their participants – like all the others – was informed that her voice mattered.

The act of trans erasure sent a strong message of non-acceptance and rejection to our trans community.

When we asked for a list of their board members, which at the time was not available online, we received only one name.

(7) The President of elderSource’s Board was sent a letter addressing all of my concerns.

(8) The Board sent a response that I felt was condescending and served as a way to shut those of us up by returning the funding to the foundation.

(9) The leadership announced they would do the project themselves and shortly after that dissolved their LGBT Elder Taskforce.

Cultural competency is an added value to any organization’s Best Practices. transogyny is serious and permeates our culture.

Holding organizations accountable who accept funding from those of us in the LGBTQIA community – when their leadership diminishes concerns raised by those in our society – is out of necessity and not meanness. Some of the individuals involved with the LGBT Elder Task Force throughout this project tried to reason with the leadership, but instead of listening, the administration decided to dissolve this task force comprised of individuals who wanted to improve the quality of lives within the elder LGBT community. Just for the record, I was fortunate to have a witness to the Baker County incident, and I knew I did not stand alone. There is history at this organization for blatantly disregarding the issues raised. These ranged from concerns expressed, by others familiar with the organization, over lack of materials available at Pride celebrations. Criticisms made by leadership about the LGBT community failing to support the PV project, never acknowledging that neither did the cisgender community. The need to remind that two LGBTQIA individuals from this community had put up funding before the Kickstarter campaign.

This experience of mine with this particular organization has me evaluating how we can affect change in a positive fashion. Continually receiving conflicted messaging was disturbing to me. Other participants also verbalized receiving conflicted messaging. What stood out even more profoundly was a letter from an LGBT Elder Task Force member, counseling the leadership to try to work matters out with me to save the project from collapsing. After receiving a copy of the letter from its author, the author resigned from the task force. If the project was abandoned because I chose to uphold my end of the terms and adhere to my commitment to the participants as opposed to defending the self-serving interests of the leadership, then it is not a surprise to hear others say that their concerns were dismissed. This means a lot.

When I inquired who would deny them funding, I was informed “The State.” What happens to elders who express concerns about this agency or others in not meeting their needs? Are they heard? Are they dismissed?

During one of our meetings at MOCA, there was another attempt made to revoke my creative rights. I reminded everyone that I had been working on this project for six months before completing it. To have it altered right before the event was not reasonable nor a part of the agreement. We were running out of time.

Some of us were dismissed many times, and at one point I was called names during a phone conversation I had with one of their staff members. I was accused of being aggressive (typical of sexism when females assert themselves in business). I had insisted that the terms of my job description gave me creative rights over the project.

This organization was not interested in agreements, let alone upholding any agreements with venues for the exhibit. At one stage, the struggle became overwhelming, and I realized very quickly that my creative rights to ensure that this project would remain intact was about to fall through, I offered to revoke funding until they could live up to the terms of my job description or decide to do otherwise. I was accused of sabotaging the project. Shortly after this, I was told that I am a “bitch” in a private conversation held at late hours over a four-hour phone conversation to try to work through finalizing the marketing and brochures for the exhibit. The lack of professionalism was very telling. How the participants were selected in the first place (no men, no people of color, etc.,) and why the PhotoVoice project was an interest at all remained baffling when they were not willing to use the one profound statement of the three participants who used it. It was their voice, after all.

The censoring of this statement opened Pandora’s Box for some of us. After all, what legal system is not precarious? Those who experience marginalization and discrimination have not always had the law on their side, particularly in the absence of human rights protections. The educated individuals at this organization failed to understand terms of the job descriptions they approved for this project. As someone who worked with Best Practices in healthcare, I wondered what their understanding was of other contracts they held with service providers? The lack of cultural competency could be pulsed, and if I were to ever fund or recommend to others to support an organization’s project again, I would begin with funding a healthcare consultant trained and well versed in cultural competency.

In the end …, the leadership (prematurely) received an award for the project before it went on display at MOCA. The Board probably never really knew the other side of this story and the participant will never know that she did not make a contribution once the exhibit traveled.

Trans erasure occurs every day. JamieAnn Meyers in The BLOG of the Huffington Post wrote a beautiful article on Trans* Invisibility. It’s up to trans* people to be proactive and make certain that our individual and collective voices are heard loud and clear by the public and the media, and that we continue to be written into the record of queer history.

Laverne Cox stated in an interview taken from an article by News Editor, Jamilah King Friday, September 13, 2013, “There’s consistently an erasure of trans identity when we have these discussions,” said Cox, who’s skyrocketed to stardom because of her pioneering role on the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.”

My perspective and expertise in Best Practices tell me that this isn’t unique to this one particular organization. It raises the question that when organizations make statements, they are allies to the LGBT community, whether they do so to try to get funding or whether they actually understand their ally-ship to the LGBTQIA community, needs to be demonstrated through actions and not run parallel with conflicts of interests.

©An Goldbauer

Understanding the Gay Culture

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“There is a lot of brokenness in the Gay community” once said a friend of mine during a conversation we were having on his porch about what life is like inside our borders. Eventually, I would have to agree with him.

There are many individuals who, as children, did not have their emotional process affirmed or accepted, because of parents and caregivers being dismissive of their gender identity/expression or fluidity during their growth and development; a painful journey for many and certainly one, in which anyone who has gone through it in their childhood, leaves residual, emotional scars.

Brokenness can be seen within our borders with the use of drugs and alcohol; measures to self-medicate are not all that unusual. Brokenness can be witnessed among those who are religious addicts who have swapped out chemicals for religion. Then there are those who are unable to stop the G-d talk or giving lectures to the point of saturating and driving everyone away; compromising friendships.

Another friend once said “We have allies who try to convince us that they are our best friends and have our best interests at heart. Don’t believe all of them.” She was referring to outside of our borders and in particular, referencing straights who claim to be allies, because they happened to like gays. What does it take to be an ally for any cause? Isn’t it good enough to like gays?

Good ally-ship requires training and education on the culture the ally supports. Allies who do not seek proper training and education fail to understand the dynamics, the history of how critical issues played a force in the human rights movement and they won’t know how to hold a conversation if the translation of language is not well understood, so in seeking information it is equally important to speak with individuals who are able to translate the gay language. Speaking on issues which affect the rights of a human population requires having the conversations, being able to participate in dialogue and agreeing to remove all caution and stop signs and signals in order to keep the dialogue flowing and moving forward. Once censoring is employed traffic jams occur and the conversation stops; imploding the process. We welcome allies who are schooled, but we run from those when we see the damage that was done because they failed to understand their position on issues affecting the oppressed group.

“Straights who think they can speak for the LGBT and who claim they give LGBT a voice is somewhat insulting”, said another friend of mine. “We have a voice. We aren’t heard because they don’t want to hear what we have to say. Big difference!” We hear the expression Giving Voice, a lot.

Do people realize how this is perceived by those, whose voices are never heard, because they either are not invited to the table or if they are they are overshadowed by the greater force? Do people realize that when they speak out on behalf of the marginalized group that this is still not really giving the individuals of the oppressed group their voice? Do they not realize that the more they speak out, swapping places and swapping expressions, which originated with the oppressed group, that they are partaking in silencing the very group to whom they should be giving the stage?

Another friend of mine said this … “They don’t really respect us; if they did then they would ask for our insights and knowledge on the subject.” We see LGBT human rights groups send in straights to serve as leaders and role models for LGBT organized action as if the LGBT movement for decades has never had any experts in this realm.

LGBT see B.S. a mile away. We recognize mixed messages in a heartbeat. We see patronizing behavior coming before the person finishes delivering. This stems from years of marginalization, having to identify sublimable behaviors and messages. When we witness this within organized groups for action we see the writing on the wall.

My personal accounting, living as a gender fluid queer, has been agonizing – while at other times – liberating when I surround myself with other queers who understand the language and the power in words to help raise awareness of a subculture within a culture. When we are prevented or reminded of who we are through messages from well-meaning straights that sound something along these lines, … “Why do you have to talk the gay stuff all the time?”; we realize we don’t have the same rights to joke or have access to conversations unless they are heteronormative.  The conversations are driven down a one-way street. The traffic only flows in one direction. To cross over into other lanes of identities and discussions becomes a hazardous endeavor.

I can talk the gay talk, walk the gay walk, live and breath the gay who I am, but only if I am with gays. This privilege is not extended to me once I cross into the hetero world of those who practice living heteronormative lives as cisgenders in a  binary world. I have watched the gay community agree to the limit setting imposed on them by cisgenders.

Even in our gay community, we have people who don’t want to move away from heteronormative roles. It is perplexing to me how someone can be gay and be so closed off to the rest of the gay culture. These individuals are equally as guilty as those who refuse to listen and learn about the gay cultural movement.

My friend was correct. We are a broken community inside our borders, but we are also witnessing the brokenness outside of our borders from cisgender allies who insert themselves, uninvited and challenge our gender non-conforming behaviors, swapping the language and describing those who are gender benders and non-conformists as aggressive and angry while they would herald these qualities in cisgender men, challenge these qualities in women and the LGBT.

Privilege is a lovely thing to have, but it is only lovely when you recognize it and appreciate having it. It is an ugly thing when it becomes a power struggle, leads to entitlement and superiority; egomaniacal individuals who need their egos fed at the expense of another end up serving in roles as predators looking for a host on whom to feed and in the end serve only their own best interests.

If we could just stand up for each other, be kinder and forget what it will do for our popularity, we would actually get somewhere to civil and the world might be a better place for all of us. It must start with language and not just a few words as this would abandon the rest of the gay culture. A lesson which could easily apply to any oppressed group.

Bring out the dictionary and let the lesson begin with words.

For more information on good ally-ship please select the link below.

©An Goldbauer

Pope Francis

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The Pope has recently made the statement “Who am I to Judge?” when asked about LGBT. Did he make this statement because the Vatican is in a financial crisis? A commentator for, Leslie Hudson, published an article, February 20, 2013. Hudson wrote, Italian authorities placed the Vatican bank on the U.S. State Department’s list of countries for money laundering after seizing $29 million. J.P. Morgan tried to obtain information from the Vatican due to large deposits and withdrawals of money. When the Vatican failed to provide the information, J.P. Morgan closed one of the accounts. The Vatican hired outside financial advisers to address the Vatican bank’s compliance in meeting financial regulations. Who are they? How many other reports exist?

The Daily Beast posted an article from World News by Barbie Latza Nadeau, July 2, 2013, and author of Angel Face, a book about Amanda Knox. Since 1997, Nadeau has reported from Italy for Newsweek and appears on some networks, such as CNN,  BBC, and NPR. The article is a painful reminder of the underground activities at the Vatican.  Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, former Vatican finance official who became a priest at the age of 32,  also known as Monsignor 500, because of his habit in carrying around cash, was arrested this year in an attempt to smuggle $26 million from Switzerland to an unidentified bank account in Italy. General Director, Paolo Cipriani and deputy, Massimo Tulli, both resigned on July 1 and are under criminal investigation by Italian authorities for assisting Msgr. Scarano. The former Vatican’s bank president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi provided his friends with a list of enemies after claiming, last year, that he was in fear for his life.

He should. After all, Nadeau referred to Roberto Calvi “Three decades ago, another of “God’s bankers,” Roberto Calvi, was found hanging from a noose under Blackfriars Bridge in London.

In an article published by Catholic News Agency, Andrea Gagiliarducci, July 15, 2013, reports that according to the authorities, Msgr. Scarano was the mastermind of the plot and included a former suspended agent of the Italian Domestic Intelligence agency, Giovanni Maria Zito, along with the financial broker, Giovanni Carenzio.

Lizzy Davies from Rome wrote a piece for The Guardian, June 26, 2013, on the Vatican’s image and Pope Francis vowing to uphold moral, financial reform. Ernst Von Freyberg, a German Financier for the institution, and a lawyer validated that the Vatican had some cleaning up to do while the seven possible incidents of money laundering are under investigation.

Religion News Service posted an article on February 15, 2013, written by Alessandro Speciale, concerning Freyberg, who took over from the former ousted president Tedeschi. His new position with the Vatican bank triggered an uproar. Freyberg served as the chairman of the executive board of German shipyard Blohm + Voss. Apparently, this enterprise was involved in the production of warships under Nazi Germany.

The Vatican defended selecting Freyberg and claimed that it has never in the previous history, hired an international headhunting agency to do the scouting. The question is how does an international headhunting agency decide Freyberg’s moral excellence when the Vatican Bank president is a descendant of one of the shipyard’s founders as confirmed by Blohm + Voss? Who recommended the international headhunting agency?

In an article, posted on February 16, 2013,, Freyberg not only is a minority shareholder in Blohm + Voss, but he is also a treasurer of the German association of the Order of the Knights of Malta, founded during the Crusades in the Middle Ages. The religious lay order has approximately 13,500 members around the world.

Breaking News from NPR reported by Sylvia Poggioli, February 09, 2013, Knights of Malta’s 4,000 members, Pilgrims and tourists, celebrated the 900th Anniversary at the Vatican and marched to the tomb of St. Peter. Poggioli writes that the mission of the Order is humility and charity.

Not only is Freyburg treasurer for this Order, but he is also the Vatican’s Financier.

NDTV released an article by Associated Press, May 19, 2013, reporting that Pope Francis led a rally to encourage moral conscience, after having deliberated in talks at the Vatican with Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel. He expressed disappointment with the economic crisis. In his speech, he told the crowd that the true crises lie with moral values.

Clearly, the Vatican bank isn’t off the hook?

The Guardian posted an article by David Leigh, Jean François Tanda, and Jessica Benhamou, January 21, 2013, with the Headline “How the Vatican Built A Secret Property Empire Using Mussolini’s Millions.”  The writer’s reported the lengths taken by the Vatican to keep matters undisclosed. Investigations reveal that at the height of the bubble in 2006, of the £15m the Vatican purchased 30 St. James Square where it housed the investment bank, Altium Capital, bought by the company, British Grolux Investments Ltd.  The Vatican’s purchases also included properties, New Bond Street and in the City of Coventry plus properties in Paris and Switzerland.

Mail Online published an article by Mario Ledwith, January 22, 2013. Ledwith wrote that the Catholic Church owns many luxurious London properties and that it has been claimed that the property empire initially was funded by a fascist dictator, Mussolini. Ledwith goes on to write that the Vatican’s foreign company portfolio is worth around £560 million.

Could we arguably say that Pope Francis is recruiting LGBT and others to build the census, to recover from the financial crisis and to rebuild the Vatican’s reputation?

Is the message here that gays are being recruited because the Pope has had a change of heart or are gays being recruited merely because it makes economic sense? After all, he still claims what so many other Christian Fundamentalists have said, Love The Gays, Don’t Love The Sin.

©An Goldbauer

Diversity Matters

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In March of this year, Centers for American Progress released a report on why diversity in the workplace could help organizations improve their performance and increase their profit margins.

When businesses and large corporations lose opportunities in hiring the best of the most qualified and skilled labor force, cities are equally and adversely affected.

Discrimination drives away the skilled and qualified labor force. Companies compromise their fiscal stability and experience a decline in profit margins with net losses.

Centers for American Progress reports that the price of discrimination cases is a hefty one for businesses. The annual estimated cost of losing and replacing workers who leave their jobs because of discrimination amounts to $64 billion.

In fact, according to Centers for American Progress, a Transgendered employee at IBM filed a discrimination suit against the organization. It cost IBM millions in unrealized profits. The cost of employee replacement occurs at a national rate of $5,000 – $10,000 for hourly employees and $75,000 to $211,000 for executives. In one aggregate study, employees who work in a hostile work environment will cost companies an annual $1.4 billion.

Shareholders recognize that companies with all-inclusive hiring policies improve their profit margins dramatically because the pool of applicants is comprised of the top performers. Shouldn’t we expect cities to adopt all-inclusive policies if cities rely on organizations’ financial earning power? Successful organizations contribute to cities in many ways. When businesses can no longer remain fiscally sound this affects the financial markets and the welfare of the city in which the company operates or has its headquarters.

According to Scott Quehl of Brookings Research, it took Philadelphia and New Haven financial planning to recover their millions of dollars deficit. The cities were either at Junk Bond status or just above Junk Bond status. Investments were deferred, and short fix-it methodologies were running out. Their deficits prevented them from borrowing from capital markets at percentage rates that they could manage. By 1999, both cities recovered with a budget well exceeding their expectations. They improved by cutting costs and expenses among some strategies, one of which was to open their doors to a broader market.

But, when corporations cannot attract well qualified, and skilled employees and cities cannot attract tourists, then the market shifts and results in lost earnings and fiscal instability.

The cost of relocating organizations to gay-friendly cities, where legal protections do exist for LGBT, might initially be a costly endeavor, but in recognizing a link between shifts in profit margins and a decline in employee retention rates, organizations realize that where they position their headquarters matters. If a company has all-inclusive policies which raise the bar, both regarding employee morale and regarding recruitment but have to risk losing opportunities in recruiting the best candidates for the job, isn’t it best that their shareholders, civic and corporate leaders speak out? Why when a city relies on the success of organizations, would it not offer protections and adopt all-inclusive policies as a matter of Best Practices when its’ leaders step up and speak out?

Are shareholders willing to ride the waves and if so, for how long of a period of time? After all, the bottom line is what matters, and when shareholders cannot see a return on their dollars, the risks in gaining opportunities by relocating to other parts of the State or country might outweigh the risks of losing investors. These concerns do concern those who are running the organizations.

According to authors, Dr. Robert Brown and Ms. Ruth Washton, of Packaged Facts, a division of Market Research which conducts research of the Gay and Lesbian Market in collaboration with another Marketing firm, WiteckCombs Communications, LGBT consumers spent 660 billion dollars in goods and services. The projections for 2011 were set at $835 billion, a rounded 21% increase in four years. LGBT have spent a trillion in consumer spending. Their spending across the globe accounts for 6%.

In fact, this number would be exponentially so many times more than this, if businesses global-wide were gay-friendly. Could we venture to guesstimate? The researchers report that Sixty-six percent of LGBT consumers indicated that they would purchase from gay-friendly businesses even if the unfriendly businesses offered lower prices and were convenient.

So why do cities refuse to adopt bills which otherwise would provide legal protections against discrimination for LGBT, if this would improve their economy social standards? How do we get venture capital to flow from booming industries to industries in need of capital?

When we cannot recruit the level of performers corporations to need due to the lack of protections, cities miss out on valuing cultures. Cities which have added value have in turn boosted their economy and their scores on a national level go up.

Folio FLOG Weekly reported in their online August 28th publication Activist and frequent City Commission critic Ed Slavin asked commissioners to amend the city’s Fair Housing Act during public comments.“It sends the message that St. Augustine is open for business, and our hearts are open,” Slavin told Folio Weekly after the vote.

Some of the business owners in Jacksonville, argue that they have the right to select to whom they will open their doors. But, if they are a public entity serving the public, can they? ACLU won a case in Vermont on behalf of a Lesbian couple, who were turned away after the Wildflower Inn learned that they were Lesbian and argued that they turned them away because of their religious beliefs. ACLU won the case based on the federal laws which prohibit discrimination. The message is an important one for business owners that clearly says to everyone – “Open your doors to the general public, you have to follow the same rules that apply to everyone else, and you can’t use your own personal religious beliefs to pick and choose who you want to serve. This is not a new idea.”

According to the Corporate Equality Index of 2004 firms such as some of these referenced moving forward have stepped up their Best Practices by incorporating diversity training, building diversity teams and ensuring that policies include the necessary language for training and protections of LGBT, along with providing sensitivity awareness training in recruitment practices.

If corporations cannot retain their top-performing employees because their city doesn’t offer protections for LGBT against discrimination, they are settling on a mediocre employee while long-term vested employees relocate to gay-friendly cities in exchange for a better lifestyle.

Lifting the glass ceiling to people of color and the spectrum of gender matters a great deal if it means hiring or promoting someone who is qualified for the job. Sexual orientation and gender identity/expression are not what drive business away. What drives business into the ground is the lack of Best Practices and the focus on personal features that hold very little weight in regards to skills sets and performance.

The Williams Institute of Law at UCLA in October of 2011 – Economic Motives for Adopting LGBT-Related Workplace Policies – lists statements made by top 50 federal contractors. The following organizations made these statements.

Diversity and inclusion are part of Boeing’s values at the highest level. Having diverse employees, business partners and community relationships is vital to creating advanced aerospace products and services for our diverse customers around the world. The company’s commitment to diversity means providing a work environment for all employees that is welcoming, respectful and engaging, with opportunities for personal and professional development. This, in turn, increases productivity, quality and creativity and innovation.”

As HP has grown and expanded throughout the world, its workforce has become more diverse. HP believes that this diverse workforce helps the company realize its full potential. Recognizing and developing the talents of each individual brings new ideas to HP. The company benefits from the creativity and innovation that results when HP people who have different experiences, perspectives, and cultures work together. This is what drives invention and high performance at HP. We believe a well managed, diverse workforce expands HP’s base of knowledge, skills and cross-cultural understanding, which in turn, enables us to understand, relate and respond to our diverse and changing customers throughout the world, connecting them to the power of technology. Our overall commitment is reflected in our diversity and inclusion philosophy.

Centers for American Progress lists some of the corporations with these Best Practices. In looking at the corporations cited in the article by Crosby Burns, Research Associate for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., the corporations are mostly positioned in markets where diversity is welcoming, and some protections exist.

Morgan Stanley and Bank of America along with J.P. Morgan, Pepsico, and IBM all have their headquarters in NY. While Microsoft has its headquarters in both Redmond, WA, and NY.

NYC has legal protections for LGBT. In fact, recently NYC’s mayor, Andrew Cuomo, signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

Let’s look at corporate conglomerates such as Lockheed Martin whose headquarters is in Bethesda, Maryland and Dell’s headquarters in Austin, TX, all organizations along with Johnson & Johnson’s headquarters in Brunswick, NJ exist in cities where diversity is welcome. GM’s headquarters are in Detroit, MI which does not have legal protections for GLBT. Yet, Detroit benefits from the hiring policies GM has in place.

Joann Muller, Forbes Detroit bureau of the chief writer, reports that Tim Bryan, chairman and chief executive of GalaxE Solutions, says “If you don’t capitalize on opportunities, you get left behind.”

Muller writes that the entrepreneurs and business leaders are capitalizing on opportunities to turn a city on the brink of bankruptcy, is to gain on realized profits. By bridging with Detroit’s police force in addressing solutions to a rapidly growing crime rate and offering protections to the citizens and collaborating with the city’s existing smaller businesses, funding programs which provide for green, sustainable agriculture in urban food. Whole Foods contributed $10 million to local businesses to help them grow and become financially independent as business operations.

Jacksonville, FL continues to coexist despite the massive debt it carries. Civic leaders and CEO’s who run corporate conglomerates and small businesses have come to city hall in the recent year and months to encourage the city council members to pass legal protections for LGBT. Among these bigwigs were ex-mayors who reported seeing the backlash of a city which refuses to recognize gay rights. Some of them said a decline in employee retention rates and lost opportunities in hiring the most qualified and skilled individuals in the labor force. City council members in Jacksonville, however, were more concerned over their own small business operations despite expert witnesses such as educators and leaders from programs well versed in LGBT matters.

None of the arguments in favor of passing the human rights bill mattered. Some of the city council members in interviews with the press argued that LGBT would result in turning away their loyal clients who would live in fear that their rights would be placed at risk. They argued that Transgendered persons would pose a threat to their children and clientele, while others claimed it would be against their religion to accept the lifestyles of the LGBT and one city council member went as far as filing a bill 2012-377, pledging religious freedom. She also runs a congregation and has published books which address homosexuality as a sin. Sentiments shared by some of the citizens ran parallel with attorneys from the Family Research Council making a case against voting in favor of bill 2012-296 for fear that this would be damaging to families.

The data presented by some of the leaders shed light on what happens when inefficient hiring and firing decisions result in costly and harmful business practices. None of which seem to sway this group of city council members. What persuaded 17 city council members were the arguments from Family Research Council which were based on misaligned data while the caveat came from First Baptist Church whose leader, on YouTube, announced that they were pleased the city council heeded their advice and voted against protections of LGBT.

Shouldn’t legal protections against LGBT discrimination weigh considerably more when it affects the city’s economic downturn? Doesn’t a city have fiscal as well as social responsibility? Is Jacksonville caught in a gridlock of religious warfare? The arguments during the council hearings were mostly religious. When the federal government has federal protections in place against housing discrimination, and small independent entities can discriminate, aren’t they in essence in violation of the federal laws if they are operating as public entities? Which does raise a red flag on the rental housing industry since they are managing public properties for rental income?

Is Jacksonville hedging towards a fiscal cliff? The answer is yes.  Many cities are facing fiscal cliffs by year end 2012. With the amount of debt Jacksonville is in can it afford a zero tolerance policy? COJ reported in their Quarterly Summary of August 2012 that the city has over 3 billion in outstanding debt. The short end of the story? When a city has to declare bankruptcy then who will provide and pay for public services? Who pays the garbage company for collecting garbage? Who pays the utility company? Who does or doesn’t receive their pension? Is this city in need of city council members who can serve its’ best interests without serving their own first and at the city’s welfare?

What are Jacksonville’s Best Practices? Are Jacksonville’s city council members operating in the city’s best interest when they avoid legalizing protections against discrimination for LGBT? What in the end will this cost the city?

Is Jacksonville placing itself at a competitive disadvantage compared to cities such as Orlando and Miami?

Will Jacksonville, along with these corporations, be adversely affected?

Will large corporations relocate?

Prosperous cities have recognized that narrowing their diversity pool ranging from tourists to employees are some of the reasons for economic shifts and the best way to avoid fiscal cliffs is to adopt Best Practices in providing policies that protect LGBT from discrimination. The best message a city can send is in opening her doors to a diverse market.

©An Goldbauer