If Dayton gets it….

Don’t think of Dayton, Ohio as an old, sleepy place.  The Dayton Bar Association certainly isn’t.  Earlier this month at its annual Diversity Day, the DBA broke new ground by inviting Karla Rothan, Executive Director of Stonewall Columbus, the “visionary, inclusive and fun-spirited” GLBT advocacy organization, to talk about the legal concerns of the GLBT population.  As expected, Ms. Rothan was an engaging firecracker.  And I had to speak after her.

To prepare for my talk, I dug out the amicus brief filed by 278 employers in U.S. v. Windsor, the case recently argued before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.  I wanted to see who those employers were.  I was amazed.

Were they wild-eyed, hyper-liberal, San Francisco-based entities that don’t represent mainstream American industry?  Oh, there may be a few, but those 278 amici included such conservative stalwarts as:

  • Bain & Company, Mitt Romney’s old firm
  • Huge banks like Bankers Trust, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley
  • Insurance bastions such as Aetna, Liberty Mutual and New York Life
  • Industrial giants like Alcoa, CBS, JetBlue, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Marriott, Mars, Pfizer, Walt Disney and Xerox

And 34 law firms signed on as well.  While some were either quite small or advocates for GLBT issues, many of the firms you know or have dealt with:

  • Baker & McKenzie, the global mega-firm with more than 4000 attorneys
  • New York powerhouses like Hughes, Hubbard & Reed, Shearman & Sterling, Skadden Arps, and Wilkie Farr
  • Old line Boston firms like Choate, Hall & Stewart, Nixon Peabody and Ropes & Gray
  • Coastal giants like Fenwick & West and Venable
  • Management-side labor and employment giants such as Seyfarth Shaw and Littler Mendelson

So what does this tell you?  It tells me that resistance to GLBT issues is not a focal point that is emerging.  That happened a few years ago, so today with such conservative law firm and industrial support, the majority of American society is past it. 

After all, you probably have a GLBT lawyer in your firm, even if you don’t know it.  And if not, some of your colleagues have a child or sibling who is gay or lesbian.  Just ask Senator Rob Portman.

And certainly, your clients include gays and lesbians.  But if they look at your law firm and only see straight men and women, how long will it be before they start shopping for the comfort of a more diverse law firm to meet their legal needs?

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