Interesting juxtaposition in an AP article this morning about the coming special session to sign off on incentives to attract a major expansion of Lockheed Martin’s facility in Camden. Andrew DeMillo notes that the “postscript” to the 2015 session gives Gov. Asa Hutchinson an opportunity to refocus the agenda on job creation, considering how thoroughly social issues came to dominate the political environment with HB 1228 and SB 202 and the various local antidiscrimination ordinances that have resulted from that ugly fight.
Of course, as Indiana showed, economic development and LGBTQ rights do not occupy separate universes, not anymore — much as Republicans may wish that they did. Lockheed Martin is a Fortune 100 company, and like so many of the corporations dominating the American economy, the company has made it clear it starkly opposes discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Lockheed won a score of 100 percent on Human Rights Campaign’s “Corporate Equality Index” for several years running. From its website, a statement from an executive: “The 100 percent rating reflects our mission to embrace the diverse talents and perspectives of our people to power innovation and business success.” Lockheed also has an established Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Leadership Forum.
A transgender engineer, Christine Bland, received the 2014 LGBT engineer of the year award from the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, according to a profile from the Denver Post. I wonder, would Bland want to live and work in Camden, Arkansas — a town where state Sen. Bart Hester and fellow sponsors of SB 202 want to make it illegal for local civil rights protections to be enacted?
Lockheed employees created a moving video as part of the It Gets Better Campaign, which is intended to prevent self-harm and suicide for LGBTQ youth marginalized by their communities and families — one of the clearest and most direct tolls of bigotry. How do those employees feel about state laws that sanction discrimination against LGBTQ people, therefore making it clear to families and communities that it’s fine — in fact, moral — to treat gay and trans kids as different, deviant and wrong?
But maybe this is the most interesting item: In 2013, Lockheed stopped donating to the Boy Scouts over that organization’s stated discriminatory policies towards gay and lesbian adults. Here’s what the company said in a statement at the time:
While we applaud the mission of the Boy Scouts and the good things they do in our communities, their policies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and religious affiliation conflict with Lockheed Martin policies
We believe engaging with and funding an organization that openly discriminates is in conflict with our policies.
What about engaging with and being funded by an organization that openly discriminates — namely, the Arkansas legislature? Let’s come right out and say it: Is Lockheed sure it wants to invest in a state that has recently taken proactive steps to keep discrimination alive and well?
And for Arkansas legislators: Are you sure you want to give taxpayer dollars to a company that’s so beholden to the radical gay agenda that it dissociated itself from the Boy Scouts over their discriminatory policies? Are we sure this is the right fit, guys? Maybe we should find a straighter weapons contractor for Camden.
One other minor point of interest from DeMillo, regarding the Lockheed project itself: Evidently, Rep. Doug House (R-Little Rock), a sometimes iconoclastic legislator who’s spoken out against taxpayer-funded economic development in the past, says he is probably on board with the Camden superproject:
Republican Rep. Doug House, who voted against the amendment earlier this year and against the Big River Steel financing two years ago, said he’s likely to back the Lockheed Martin project. House said he views this proposal differently, since the bonds are expected to go partly toward job training for the program and it’s contingent on the company winning the defense contract.
“It’s a tremendous investment, not just handing out money and hoping things go right,” House said.