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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 1, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 27
MARK MY WORDS Corporate equality, from Comcast to Charlotte
Section One
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MARK MY WORDS Corporate equality, from Comcast to Charlotte

by Mark Segal - Philadelphia Gay News

When you're in the media, you get invited to events where you see other media professionals with whom you work. So it was no surprise when I showed up at a press conference last month to preview Philadelphia's annual Fourth of July Wawa Welcome America celebration that I saw my friend David L. Cohen, who is Comcast Corporation's senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer.

Diversity is an issue he takes very seriously. He asked me, 'Did you hear what happened at the shareholders' meeting?' When I said no, with a smile, he suggested I look it up.

Here's the gist of what happened, according to the Hollywood Reporter: 'Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts answered questions about the liberal bent of MSNBC and the presence of company staff at the GLAAD Media Awards. Comcast 'must appeal to all sectors of the population,' said one shareholder in a submitted question, arguing it shouldn't take positions on any cultural issues that 'divide' people. 'The recent Xfinity LGBT presence at the GLAAD Awards was 'no more neutral than it would be for Comcast to hire picketers at an abortion [clinic],' the shareholder argued. Xfinity is Comcast's digital cable service. Roberts responded, 'We are a diverse and inclusive company, and we respect all perspectives and points of view' of employees and customers,' adding, 'Thank you for your point of view.'

If I can be so bold to translate corporate-speak, that was a diplomatic way for Roberts to say that Comcast, the nation's largest media company - yes, larger than News Corp. or Disney - is proud of winning awards from GLAAD, just as it would be proud to win awards from organizations representing the African American or Latino communities.

Roberts' reaction also makes a very clear point: Those who truly support LGBT equality are not apologetic about it. And there's another important issue Roberts raised. When President Obama referenced, in his second inauguration speech, 'Selma, Seneca Falls, Stonewall,' he made it clear that LGBT rights should be put on the same level as the fight for all other human rights. Roberts' polite reply made that same point.

I serve on Comcast's Joint Diversity Council as its LGBT representative. The council advises the company on issues of diversity. I've watched this company excel in addressing the inclusion of African Americans, Latinos, Asian/Pacific Islanders, people with disabilities, Native Americans, LGBT people, and many more. Comcast not only meets the challenges of inclusion, but in many areas it is now a corporate leader. Besides advancing diversity inside the company, Comcast invites diverse groups, including the LGBT community, to bid for company business as outside vendors.

So let me take it a step further: Corporations that step forward are the new front in our struggle for equality, and they should be welcomed when they do so in meaningful ways, other than those who look at LGBT inclusion as just window dressing, especially in areas where few if any LGBT rights exist - or where the government has actually taken away LGBT rights, like in North Carolina. While many performers have boycotted the state, thus far most of the corporations with major business interests in the state have only signed on to the weak Human Rights Campaign letter, if they've done anything at all. PayPal, to its credit, cancelled a planned expansion in the state, but others must step forward. American Airlines has its number-one hub in the nation in Charlotte, the sixth-largest airport in the country. Maybe it would help if they did more than simply sign on to the tepid HRC letter.

The Charlotte Airport is the engine that propels North Carolina's economy, so American Airlines' help in this area surely could move North Carolina.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation's most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. His memoir, And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to Equality, is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite bookseller.

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