LBGT CITY CONTRACT SET-ASIDES; FOR OR AGAINST? I have been trying to write a blog in rebuttal to Mayor Daley's saying that he would support a city effort to give preferential treatment of city contracts to businesses owned by gays and lesbians. I had started and stopped the blog about 10 times as I had not been able to find the politically correct wording for my sentiments of being against the idea. Because I am not a lesbian, I was afraid anything I would write would sound discriminatory and biased. I spoke with an African-American Alderman on Thursday and asked him how he felt about the possibility of set-asides for the LBGT community. He is against them. He said that the idea behind the set-asides was to create a level playing field for groups of people who had been discriminated against in the past. He added the thought that how could you prove that there had been contractual discriminations against a gay-owned business in the past? How do you even know it is a gay-owned business? I brought up the fact that I could easily prove that I was a woman by allowing a doctor to examine my genitalia, but without showing sexually-oriented video, how does one PROVE that they are gay? Just as I was about to give up on writing on this topic; I read Greg Hinz blog in Crain’s Chicago Business. Hinz, who is gay, is the political columnist for the magazine. I respect his writing and his views. Hinz does not want set-asides for gays and expressed it so well; Hinz wrote what I wanted to write. I have copied his blog below. His blog can be found daily on the Crain’s web site at www.chicagobusiness.com. Dear Mr. Mayor: thanks but no thanks on set-asides for gay businesses Posted by Greg H. at 7/30/2009 1:38 PM CDT on Chicago Business
Mayor Richard M. Daley may have thought he was doing gay men and lesbians a favor when he pretty much endorsed a proposal by Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), the city's first openly gay alderman, to set aside a certain share of city contracts for firms owned by homosexuals.
On behalf of what I suspect is a pretty big share of the community, I want to thank both for their gesture. I also want to suggest that this bad idea be filed right back in whatever drawer it came out of, 'cause this is not something Chicago needs, for straight or gay people.
Most gay and lesbian people just want what everybody else wants, to be treated the same as everyone else. That means no nasty names — I'll allow an exception if the queen next to me won't shut up when I finally get around to seeing Bruno — no discrimination and, yes, indeed, the right to be just as miserable in marriage as most straight couples pretend to be.
"Equality" doesn't mix with "preference." And that's what's wrong with this proposal.
For African-Americans, who clearly suffered decades of legal discrimination — and slavery — set-asides may make sense. The black entrepreneurial class was destroyed. It's just now beginning to get on its feet. Go to any African-American neighborhood and see who owns the stores if you don't believe me. Making up for past injustices was a matter of, well, justice. But even among blacks, it's come at a cost. African-American who make it on their own now surely have to face some degree of a new kind of prejudice: questions about whether they made it on their own or only because they got extra help, and therefore really aren't as good.
While gay folks surely have suffered pain from discrimination — e.g. being taxed as singles, no matter how long a couple has been together — I don't know that their businesses have lost work because they're gay-owned.
To double-check that theory, I checked with one of my favorite lesbian entrepreneurs. That would be landscaper Christie Webber, whose firm of the same name is doing just fine — in part because Ms. Webber knows the usefulness of a well-timed campaign contribution to the right pol. But we don't need to go there.
"For me, being a lesbian actually is an advantage," Ms. Webber says. If she's out on a job with a bunch of blue-collar boys and they start eyeing some foxy babe, both parties (the boys and Ms. Webber) can agree that, yes indeed, "she's hot." Kinda breaks the ice.
Now, Ms. Webber says she can image that gay men have the opposite problem, at least in some professions. She may be right. But I gotta tell you, America, the ghetto profession no longer is hair burning or similar stereotypical gigs. It's information technology. We keep your computers running, and most of us do just as well as anyone else.
Ms. Webber raised another point of interest: corruption.
Any political reporter worth his salt knows that, if you want to find a scandal, you go pull all the records on minority set-asides. When favoritism gets involved with government, bad things happen, however good the intentions.
Ergo, "Maybe they ought to fix those programs first, before adding a whole new category," Ms. Webber says.
And there's one other little detail: proof.
If you're black or Hispanic, it's pretty obvious. But if you're gay or lesbian, how do you prove it? Spend a night with Rich Daley? Sorry, he's not my type. Someone on his staff? Sorry, the two really cute guys there have moved on.
So, alderman and mayor, thanks for your concern. But in a city that's hundreds of millions of dollars in the hole, there's got to be something more important to worry about.