“Legalize Love,” Google’s new international campaign, is not about legalizing same-sex marriage around the world — as exciting and wonderful as it sounds. Nevertheless, Legalize Love is an ambitious campaign designed to secure safety for LGBT people in countries where it’s illegal to be LGBT.
Over the weekend a few news sites incorrectly reported that Google was launching a new campaign to secure same-sex marriage around the world. The announcement, first and incorrectly reported at Dot 429, was mysterious because it wasn’t announced by Google at all.
(The New Civil Rights Movement didn’t report on the news until it could be properly confirmed. You would think that international communications and advertising giant Google would know how to communicate and advertise a campaign that was designed to change something around the world as controversial as same-sex marriage, wouldn’t you? Which is why we waited.)
Sunday afternoon, Matt DeLong at the Washington Post got the scoop, reporting that “the tech giant says its new ‘Legalize Love’ campaign isn’t about gay marriage at all, but rather supporting workers in countries that criminalize homosexuality.”
“‘Legalize Love’ is a campaign to promote safer conditions for gay and lesbian people inside and outside the office in countries with anti-gay laws on the books,” said a Google spokesperson in a statement.
The internationally focused campaign will launch Monday at an LGBT conference in London. Ernst & Young and Citigroup have signed on as partners, the spokesperson said.
CNN reports that Legalize Love “will focus on countries such as Singapore, where certain homosexual activities are illegal, and Poland, which has no legal recognition of same-sex couples.”
And Google makes the program crystal clear. On the Google website, the company that had revenues of $38 billion last year, says that “Legalise Love is our call to decriminalise homosexuality and eliminate homophobia around the world.”
(Note the spelling of “Legalise.” Google is introducing the campaign at the Global LGBT Workplace Summit in London, where they spell “legalize” “legalise.”)
Noting on their corporate diversity portal that “Google believes that LGBT rights are human rights,” Google says they “are partnering with organisations around the world to decriminalize homosexuality and eliminate homophobia.” Google added they are “proud to be recognised as a leader in LGBT inclusion efforts,” and recognized “there is still a long way to go to achieve full equality.”
At Google, we encourage people to bring their whole selves to work. In all of our 60 offices around the world, we are committed to cultivating a work environment where Googlers can be themselves and thrive. We also want our employees to have the same inclusive experience outside of the office, as they do at work, and for LGBT communities to be safe and to be accepted wherever they are.
Dot 429 did get part of the story correct, quoting Google executive Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe at the Global LGBT Workplace Summit in London. ”We want our employees who are gay or lesbian or transgender to have the same experience outside the office as they do in the office.” Palmer-Edgecumbe added, ”It is obviously a very ambitious piece of work.”
CNET’s Chris Matyszczyk, which also incorrectly reported the marriage angle, rightly notes:
Its first governmental targets are Singapore and Poland, two countries with slightly different approaches to life.Having lived in both Singapore and Poland, I feel sure that Google’s task in each country will not be easy but perhaps for different reasons.
In Poland, the Catholic church has considerable influence in politics. The fact that the church’s perception and reality are somewhat in conflict belies the fact that it plays a deep emotional role in the country.
In Singapore, on the other hand, Google’s approach may be more pragmatic, appealing to the highly intelligent, rational (and very well-paid) minds that run that country.
Google wants this campaign to be active in every country in which it has an office. However, it is placing the greatest heat initially on those places that actually have anti-gay legislation.
What’s tragic is that in some of those countries, such legislation is rumored to have been enacted by politicians who are themselves gay but are so fearful of being outed that they hide behind the creation of such laws.
Google’s idea is to mobilize other companies in order to put collective pressure on governments in the countries in which they operate.
Indeed, Ernst and Young’s Harry Gaskell was beautifully blunt at the Summit about the power corporations can bring: “If you are trying to change something — governments can exert diplomatic power, NGOs can martial facts and arguments — but corporations martial economic power. That is something even the most passive of countries will listen to.”
Money is power, and power can change things.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if several large corporations’ CEOs whispered over cocktails with members of government and explained that they would move their offices out of the country unless the government legalized gay marriage?
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