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Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

For me, there isn’t a very large leap from the cruelty of the 1857 Dred Scott vs. Sanford decision — where the Supreme Court held that the United States Constitution “was not meant to include American citizenship for people of African descent, regardless of whether they were enslaved or free, and so the rights and privileges that the Constitution confers upon American citizens could not apply to them” — to the injustice of this past week’s Dobbs vs. Jackson decision, which implicitly held, among many other intolerables, that women do not have the same rights and privileges as men.

The U.S. and many other countries have a long, dark history of this kind of toxic white patriarchalism, and while one would like to think, and history tends to support this belief, that humanity gradually makes steps in a progressive direction — toward a more expansive and inclusive understanding of freedom and justice — those steps, in reality, often feel like three steps forward and two steps back.

While Dobbs v Jackson is a massive step or two backwards, it might only be the tip of the iceberg, as Justice Clarence Thomas outlines in his concurring opinion last week, where he calls for “overturning the constitutional rights the court had affirmed for access to contraceptives and LGBTQ rights.”

Pride march with rainbow banner

Adherents to the white patriarchal worldview, like Justice Thomas and many in the conservative movement, are clearly not comfortable with certain freedoms — such as who you love and marry, with whom you have sex, and how you do it — while being perfectly content to maintain the freedoms of mixed-up teenagers who buy assault weapons and kill classrooms of six- and seven-year-olds.

The U.S. and many other countries have a long, dark history of this kind of toxic white patriarchalism

LGBTQ+ people face oppression and human rights abuses globally — from punitive laws to bullying and violence perpetrated by individuals or the state. This community, which includes people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, non-binary & asexual among other identities, is also harmed by discrimination in employment, housing, healthcare, and funding.

However, we see some emerging champions for LGBTQ+ in the impact economy that provide some hope, including businesses and investors that are stepping up to champion the principles of equity and liberty; innovators who are developing social enterprises aimed at solving the challenges of this community; and investors and funds that are developing LGBTQ+ or “queer-lens” investing techniques intended to support those solutions. As Meg Massey writes in an IE Magazine article, “as with gender lens investing, an LGBTQI lens considers how impact investing might address the challenges that arise based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

Many of the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ people are unique and separate from those faced by women and require either a more intersectional approach or a different set of solutions altogether.

Lesbian kissing girlfriendFor these reasons and others, Impact Entrepreneur is launching today — on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riotsa new impact economy issue area in our  magazine that focuses on LGBTQ+.

In her article that contributes to the new LGBTQ+ area within the magazine (along with Massey), IE Correspondent Isabelle Swiderski argues that the current battle for LGBTQ+ rights must take on a more ambitious stance:

“In 1969, the Stonewall Inn riots took place in New York City, ignited by trans women of color and Village “street kids” fed up with the constant harassment, threats, and raids perpetrated by police. Though the uprising signaled a turning point for gay rights — as an explicit call for a liberation movement — and paved the way to some hard-won legal rights and freedoms, some might argue that the advances made since then have been largely cosmetic and revocable. That in seeking expediency and the short-term, conditional rewards of mainstream tolerance, the potential to ever achieve true liberation and equity was weakened.

“As with other civil rights efforts, some battles might be ruled on, won, or lost, but the war itself is waged in hearts and minds, rather than in courtrooms. There is a fine, but sharp, line between tolerance and moral acceptance, between adaptation and fundamental change.”

We believe — and we are seeing — how impact business and the finance community can and must step up to the plate in a more assertive way in the battle for LGBTQ+ rights. As Jeffrey Hollender, CEO of the American Sustainable Business Network, insists in a recent IE Magazine editorial, “The stakes are clear. Business leaders must act.”

I have confidence that, while we have recently taken two deeply distressing steps backward, what follows will be three steps forward.

Impact Entrepreneur is committed to giving voice to those who do this necessary work.

Laurie Lane-Zucker is Founder and CEO of Impact Entrepreneur, LLC, an impact economy business that hosts the Impact Entrepreneur Network — a large, global network of “systems-minded” entrepreneurs, investors and scholars of social and environmental innovation — and publishes Impact Entrepreneur Magazine. For over 30 years, Laurie has been a ... Read more

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