Wednesday, September 18

Can't we all just get a quota? - The Wash Blade dutifully repeats the complaints of gay-owned businesses that they don't qualify for "minority status" in government and business set-aside programs. The irony is surely lost on most of the readers.

Most civil rights laws are about making voting, employment, housing and accomodations "color blind" (or religion, ethnicity and -yes- orientation blind). Set-asides and quotas are a different stripe of cat. They are about mandated access on the basis of color, etc. The only half-decent argument that can be made for quotas is that they are a specific, time-limited remedy for a particular historical harm, like the policies that blocked African-Americans from attending most good white colleges until late in the last century. It used to be that you'd have to go to court to get this kind of relief, but somewhere along the line we decided to just assume the facts and incorporate the principle into legislative fiat. Now, most people have forgotten that some kind of harm should be proven and a finding of fault accepted before anyone is required make restitution. It's just about entitlements now. How can we gays get a piece of the action?

The Blade story actually gets this point, sort of. The voice of reason appears in the form of consulting firm owner Wesley Combs. Combs is quoted as saying "We as gay business owners would always want to be treated fairly and judged on what we have to offer, based on our knowledge base," he said. "By saying you have to be minority-owned to win this business is reverse discrimination." Speaking of his efforts to be hired by the Fortune 500, he says "I should be judged on my expertise and the experience I bring to the table." Even if the subject is gay advertising, "It doesn't make me better prepared because we're gay-owned." Amen, brother.

I reject the notion that the government and large American and transnational corporations are guided by prejudice in their contracting decisions. It would be a real error for us to push gay leaders to get involved with the quota industry of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. We'd sure don't need the bad publicity that would come from joining their shakedown machines.