Opinion: Ga., U.S. need LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws

People carry a LGBTQ flag along Fifth Avenue during the New York City Pride Parade in New York in 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
People carry a LGBTQ flag along Fifth Avenue during the New York City Pride Parade in New York in 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

As a Republican and a small business owner and operator living in Kennesaw, I’m urging people who believe in freedom and fairness to join the effort to pass LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections in Georgia and nationwide.

Right now, 30 states, including Georgia, lack explicit and comprehensive protections for LGBTQ people from discrimination, leaving millions of people and their families vulnerable to discrimination in their daily lives. The U.S. Supreme Court will rule this year (perhaps as soon as this month) on three cases that will determine if federal law will continue to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. Despite the outcome of the ruling, critical gaps in nondiscrimination protections at the federal level will still remain. That’s why it’s more critical than ever that Georgia solidify state-based protections in the face of an uncertain federal legal landscape.

I didn’t always understand how urgently LGBTQ protections are needed. I grew up Catholic and to be honest, LGBTQ people and their experiences just weren’t part of my vocabulary. I didn’t think I knew anyone LGBTQ and it wasn’t a topic I thought about much. Still, I did learn some openness by watching how my mom treated all people — with kindness and respect.

One of my core values, especially as the owner and operator of Universal IT Technologies, is diversity of thought. When I’m looking to bring on someone new, I’m looking at what they will bring to the table – their commitment, their skills, their work ethic, and that we all treat each other with kindness and respect. To fire someone or deny them a job simply because of who they are or who they love is bad for business because it excludes an entire pool of talented, hardworking people. It’s certainly not consistent with our American values of treating others as we would want to be treated.

Kindness isn’t that hard, and LGBTQ equality shouldn’t be a political issue – it’s a moral one. The Civil Rights Act was a milestone back in the ‘60s. And while it didn’t cure racism, it did set the tone for what was and was not acceptable behavior. It would be nice to not need laws in order to get people to treat others with dignity and respect, but that’s not reality.

Real people are being fired from their jobs, denied housing, and kicked out of businesses that are open to the public simply for being LGBTQ. That’s not okay, so we need to pass a law in Georgia – and ultimately on the federal level— that prevents such discrimination. Please join me in making 2020 the year LGBTQ people are added to our civil rights statutes. No matter who we are, everyone deserves the right to the pursuit of happiness.

Gabriel Rodriguez owns Universal IT Technologies.