Activists have long been preaching that the best way to win LGBT equality is for people to come out of the closet. And to a degree, that’s true: John Doe’s views on LGBT rights are more likely to weigh in our favor if he’s personally acquainted with a friend, family member, or co-worker who’s gay.
However, as we’ve learned from people like Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin (who may or may not have actual gay friends), the simply act of knowing someone from the LGBT community doesn’t automatically make you an advocate for LGBT rights. And so the slant of the attack is slowly shifting to economics: the financial facts of equality.
Whether we like it or not, that’s the sort of argument that works well with elected officials. Sure, you can argue that LGBT equality legislation is “important” or the “right thing to do”, but taking the argument out of the bedroom (where conservatives like to place it) and putting it into the bank account can be far more persuasive.
As someone who works in the arts and advocacy, I can vouch for the effectiveness of this approach. For years, we told legislators that arts education made for happier kids, we even talked about the arts’ positive impact on SAT scores, but no one at the capitol really started listening until we were able to say, “arts events and arts program provide a 7-to-1 return on the government’s investment: for every $1 the state puts into arts funding, we generate $7 for our communities via gallery sales, dining out, hotel stays, small business purchases, and so on.”
This particular ad from RockForEquality.org doesn’t go quite that far — it still relies partially on the “equality is the right thing to do” argument, and I also think it takes WAY too long to make its point. However, viewing LGBT equality through the lens of finance makes it much harder to argue against: