Equality Isn't Just Right — It's Good Business
When I first joined the insurance industry nearly 30 years ago, the world was a very different place.
As a gay man, I didn’t want my employer to know about my personal life, so I declined dinner invitations and other work-related outings. It was easier to simply avoid the questions and potential impacts on my job that “coming out” might bring.
I wanted to join in, but was afraid of the reaction my bosses and co-workers would have. Back then – and even today in some places – a person could legally be fired just for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender – regardless of their performance.
Fast forward 30 years and thankfully, the world has changed. I’ve had the opportunity to grow personally and professionally as an insurance professional who just happens to be gay. This does not define me. It is only a part of who I am as an agent, a business owner and an employer.
Being an advocate for equality is very important to me, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s good business. Equality is good for me as an agent, and it is good for American Family as a company.
One of the highlights of my career, as the owner of a small business, is that I was asked to comment and sign the Amicus (friend of the court) brief that went before the Supreme Court in 2013 regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Same-sex marriage is legal in my state, (Washington) so a large part of the problem as I saw it, was that DOMA forced an employer like me to put lawfully married employees into two categories, and that created regulatory, tax, benefit and morale problems.
For example: Where most health care benefits are concerned, the law made an employer withhold more from the W-2 of a lawfully married employee whose spouse was of the same sex than was withheld when the spouse was of the opposite sex. I wanted to be able to treat my employees equally and not give same-sex couples an additional tax burden just because of who they loved.
What I hoped for in the DOMA ruling was simple — that the federal government would not stop an employer from treating all lawfully married employees the same way. I wanted to create the best, most productive workplace environment possible, so we can all be as efficient and competitive as possible. It doesn’t serve that objective when the federal government obliges us to treat one set of married employees differently than another.
In addition to signing the historic DOMA brief, I’m active in the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied (LGBTA) chamber of commerce in the country. The GSBA is a nonprofit that serves the greater Seattle area and provides philanthropy, scholarships, business development and advocacy for the LBGTA community. I’m proud to say that American Family is a Gold Sponsor of this organization.
As of today, same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and Washington, D.C. We have come a long way, but the fact that I am still asked to speak on the issue of equality and why it is important, shows there is a lot more work to do.
Together, we’ll make this better for everyone.