Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein spoke with CBS News about taking a stand for marriage equality and that while he personally believes in it, the reason he took a stand for it publicly was for his company:
"The only reason why most people are interested in what I have to say is because of what I represent at Goldman Sachs, and therefore I only use my platform for Goldman Sachs issues. This issue is a business issue. It’s a civil rights issue, but it’s also a business issue."
"The ability for employment benefits to be shared among spouses, the ability to move people who are dependent on visas for trailing spouses, all hinges on being able to deal with families of gay people in the same way that you deal with families of straight people. Otherwise, they can't move around. People are not happy, and we can't attract a whole set of very talented people...Even if it's comfortable here, it might not be comfortable, you know, a hundred yards from this place, and, for all I know, there are still people, today, who are living lives burdened by not being able to reveal who they really are and are living in a state of discomfort. That is really unfortunate, and I feel sorry. I don't know who they are, but there has to be someone. I feel sorry for them, and I am not yet saying that we are in a world where everything is easy for everybody."
Lloyd Blankfein became a left-wing hero after the Goldman Sachs CEO came out in support of gay marriage in New York State. Not everyone, however, cheered the money man's decision. Blankfein told a crowd at the "Out on the Street" LGBT finance summit yesterday that Goldman Sachs has lost at least one client since he came out for equality.
At an event discussing Wall Street's role in pushing for greater lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality across corporate America, Blankfein said his stance on the matter was "not without price."
Blankfein said there had been some "adverse reaction" on at least one occasion, where a money management client "did not want to continue a relationship" with Goldman in the wake of his advocacy.
"I won't say the name of the client, but if you heard the name, it wouldn't surprise you," he added.
Billionaire and fellow marriage advocate Paul Singer was also at the event and was asked whether he thought his preferred presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, would further alienate and discriminate against LGBT people.
"I don't think it's going to be a harsh environment," Singer said of a potential Romney administration.
This past weekend at its New York gala, the Human Rights Campaign honored Goldman Sachs with the 2011 Workplace Equality Innovation Award. Accompanying that honor was a video released by HRC's 'Americans for Marriage Equality' campaign featuring Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein (above) and an article in the New York Times:
Fred Sainz, an executive with the Human Rights Campaign, said the organization sought Mr. Blankfein, in part, because he is “an unexpected messenger.”
“Lloyd Blankfein is not someone average Americans would think is going to support marriage equality,” Mr. Sainz said. “The green visor crowd is not typically associated with socially progressive policies, and this is further proof that a diversity of Americans are coming to the same conclusion.”
The LGBT grassroots did not respond kindly to HRC's move.
The Queer Caucus listed three demands regarding its protest:
The Queer Caucus: 1. Condemns HRC for honoring Goldman Sachs, 2. Calls upon HRC to adopt a strategy of Full Equality by 2014, and 3. Demands that HRC create a transparent process that includes the grassroots.
Cops moved the protesters across the street to a location where the black-tie crowd could not hear their chants. Still some protesters entered the Waldorf lobby to make their case. Some gala attendees reportedly mocked the protest via Twitter.
And today, Marketing and communications consultant Andrew Beaver slammed HRC in the Huffington Post. Beaver said giving such an honor to "a predatory company like Goldman Sachs" shows that HRC "has seriously lost its way at a unique time in our country and the LGBT movement's history."
HRC's willingness to whitewash the pasts of individuals and organizations in return for cold cash is nothing new. In some ways I don't fault the group's willingness to look these execs in the eye, take their money, and use it to promote LGBT equality. But this strategy has its limits. In honoring Goldman Sachs, HRC is incredibly tone-deaf to the enormous outrage nearly all Americans feel toward the banks and securities firms at the center of the economic meltdown...
...I'm not suggesting it is HRC's job to police the American economy, nor do I think an organization that represents the spectrum of LGBT opinion should become a mouthpiece for critiques of our economic system, but I do believe HRC should embrace fundamental progressive values, especially those that so directly impact a generation we encouraged to live by those values. In honoring Goldman Sachs, HRC is aligning itself with a company that has nearly bankrupted an entire future generation and would do it again. This past Saturday HRC sent the message of "do as I say, not as I do," and that is very sad.
What are your thoughts about the HRC-Goldman Sachs relationship?