Fifty years ago, during four hot summer days in New York City’s Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Riots sparked the LGBTQ movement that continues today. More than just a series of fights, marches, protests and arrests, the historic event planted the seeds for the movement of pride, acceptance, equality, visibility and empowerment that is still growing.
Jonathan Lovitz, senior vice president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, served as the keynote speaker for the LGBTQ Pride Month Observance June 20 at the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support in Philadelphia.
Stonewall brought together a community that wanted to be treated as regular citizens, no matter their skin color, sexual preference or gender identity. Diversity was at the heart of the movement from the start, Lovitz said.
“They were not all cisgender white men under 40, as most people assume the demographic of the gay movement was because of what they’ve seen in the movies,” Lovitz said. “These were men and women of color. These were trans- and gender-nonconforming people. All of these things that are very prevalent now that were just called, ‘those queers at the bar.’ But they got angry, and they fought back.”
This began a conversation that led to the Christopher Street Liberation March in 1970, he said. It was the first pride march. This year, pride marches are being held all over the world throughout the month of June.
In his role with the NGLCC, Lovitz oversees media relations and public policy, political affairs and strategic partnerships. He said the chamber’s overall role is to help LGBTQ businesses connect with the private and public sector workforce, and to contribute to the U.S. economy.
As a news commentator and a public speaker, he said promoting visibility is at the heart of what he does. But, Lovitz noted, the U.S. Census currently does not count the LGBTQ community.
“You cannot help people you cannot see,” Lovitz said. “Visibility is key to our movement, but it’s really hard to be visible when you’re not counted.”
According to Lovitz, there are 1.4 million LGBTQ business owners in the U.S. who represent $1.7 trillion in gross domestic product.
“Our businesses and our economics were something that were never factored into the equality movement,” Lovitz said. “We, the business owners that are in the supply chain, were never included in that dialogue.”
If LGBT business owners were their own country, it would be the 10th wealthiest in the world, he said.
“They don’t track us on the census, but they sure love the tax dollars,” Lovitz said.
Despite 50 years of progress since the Stonewall riots, equal rights and protections are not guaranteed for the LGBTQ community. The Equality Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May and awaits the Senate’s decision, would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
As a gay man, Lovitz said, he can legally marry his husband in all 50 states, but he can be fired for simply having a photo of him on his desk in 28 of them; 32 if he was transgender.
Feeling comfortable in the workplace is a “dollars and cents issue,” Lovitz said. A discrimination-free work environment allows employees to be more productive on the job and happier at home because they aren’t wasting energy being afraid or hiding who they are, he said.
The most successful corporations and agencies and places to work put diversity and inclusion as a non-negotiable top priority, he said.
“Events like this prove that diversity and inclusion is the right thing to do. It’s the moral thing to do,” Lovitz said. “If you want the best and brightest to work in defending our country, in making its industry work, they have feel empowered to be who they are at work, and they have be empowered to talk and bring their innovation to the field.”
DLA Troop Support Deputy Commander Richard Ellis echoed Lovitz’s message on diversity to the Troop Support workforce.
“It’s all about diversity. We’re a better organization when we have a diverse workforce,” Ellis said. “Doing the things we need to do, it’s all about having a diverse workforce and being able to get a broad spectrum of ideas to accomplish our mission.”