Oklahoma is not San Francisco. But when an Oklahoma state representative named Sally Kern made anti-gay comments, she ran into trouble not just with gay-rights groups, but with business leaders as well. This shows, as Iâ€™ve argued before, that corporate America is ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to equal rights for all.
Hereâ€™s the story, as reported in the local papers. Back in March, Kern said that gay people were a threat to America, â€œeven more so than terrorism or Islam.â€ Her remarks were recorded and shown on YouTube.
â€œNot everybodyâ€™s lifestyle is equal, just like not all religions are equal,â€ Kern said. â€œIâ€™m not anti. Iâ€™m not gay bashingâ€¦.(But) itâ€™s not a lifestyle thatâ€™s good for this nation. In fact, studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So itâ€™s the death knell of this country.â€
She went on to say that gay people â€œwant to get our young childrenâ€¦so they can indoctrinate themâ€¦gays are infiltrating city councilsâ€¦they are winning electionsâ€¦this stuff is deadly and itâ€™s spreading and it will destroy our young people and it will destroy this nation.â€ Etc, etc.
For what itâ€™s worth, Kern is a Republican, a former school teacher, the wife of a Baptist minister and a graduate of a fine university.
By coincidence, soon after Kernâ€™s remarks got national attention, a man named Tom Maloney, who is vice president of a California-based relocation firm called Staubach Co., visited Oklahoma City. He is looking for new offices for an unidentified corporate client and, while he has not publicly commented, others indicated that his client was spooked by Kernâ€™s remarks. (Unconfirmed reports suggest that the client company is based in San Francisco and led by a lesbian.)
Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, is quoted in the Oklahoma City Journal Record as saying that Maloney told us â€œ straight up â€¦ â€˜I cannot recommend to any of my clients that they should consider Oklahoma City because of that (meaning Kern’s comments)â€¦ When you have one of the nationâ€™s premier relocation experts making those statements, you should pay attention.â€
Williams also said that the chamber wants â€œto embrace differences and embrace diversity, to build a community that is open and welcoming to anyone.â€
Now, according to Brad Luna of the Human Rights Campaign, gay-rights groups and Oklahoma business leaders have joined together to buy full page newspaper ads affirming that message. Under the headline, â€œUnity is Oklahomaâ€™s Business,â€ the ads will say:
As Oklahomans, we take immense pride in our state’s steadfast commitment to unity, compassion, strength, and generosity.
We speak 120 different languages. We honor 73 different religious traditions. We are straight. We are gay. Our strength comes from our state’s unique blend of people and experiences and from our ability to find and embrace the common ground we all share.
Throughout our proud history, Oklahomans have always understood that from unity — from common, shared purpose — comes prosperity. In our role as business and civic leaders from across our great state, we ask you to join us in ensuring that our tradition of respect continues, in the hope that our state will enjoy a second century even more prosperous and distinctive than its first.
The ads are signed by, among others, George B. Kaiser, Chairperson, Bank of Oklahoma; Stacy Schusterman, CEO, Samson Investment Company, a big oil and gas exploration company; and Barry Davis, managing partner of venture capital firm Davis Tuttle.
As Brad says, â€œThis is a great example of how these anti-gay remarks, beliefs affect a stateâ€™s ability to recruit and retain top-tier jobs.â€
Put simply: bigotry is bad for business.