More than two-thirds of Americans say they would be likely to dole out their dollars at businesses that take a public stand for LGBTQ equality, according to a recently released survey.
The poll, which comes four months after a divided Supreme Court absolved a Colorado baker of discrimination for refusing to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple, shows that 68 percent would shop at or support a company that backed nondiscrimination.
Seven out of 10 Americans also say a federal law is needed to protect LGBTQ people from bias in employment, public accommodations, housing and credit, according to the Harris Poll done in conjunction with Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, a nonprofit dedicated to workplace equality.
Even beyond the high-profile Masterpiece Cakeshop case, treatment of LGBTQ people in workplaces and the business environment has been in an intense spotlight in recent years. There have been a number of skirmishes over religious exemption laws that let private businesses cite their religious beliefs to deny services to LGBTQ people.
The toll can be staggering, advocates say, as LGBTQ people often tailor their lives and shift routines to avoid public places such as stores, restaurants, movie theaters or doctor’s offices.
But workplaces are starting to change, and the survey reflects a positive shift, John Gerzema, co-CEO of The Harris Poll, told USA TODAY. There is a “growing desire among Americans for the private sector to step in and champion LGBTQ equality,” he said.
The Harris Poll shows that 75 percent believe that when businesses open their doors to the public, they should serve everyone on the same terms. When asked specifically about companies that provide wedding services, 63 percent say business owners should be required to provide the same services to same-sex couples as they do to other customers.
“Our data illustrates that consumers will buy more from brands that share their values,” Gerzema said. “And this survey is a testament to that growing expectation among consumers … This is a signal to all companies today that consumers have a heightened expectation based on values, and if business are undeserving public values, they will lose equity with today’s modern consumer.”
A public education campaign targeting anti-discrimination in the business world known as Open to All launched in November 2017 in response to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. After the Supreme Court ruling this summer, the campaign took on steam with large corporations such as Yelp and Lyft signing on, as well as 1,500 small businesses.
Businesses who join the campaign make a public declaration they will treat people fairly – and often display signs in their windows with the hashtag #OpenToAll.
The campaign couldn’t be more “critical,” said Calla Rongerude, campaign manager for Open to All. “It’s about our current climate. Hate crimes are up. School bullying is up. And incidents of discrimination by businesses are up.
“We have heard from gay couples who are afraid to take taxis; people of color who are afraid to linger too long over a meal at a diner; and people of minority faiths getting kicked out of cafes,” she said. “People want to know where they will be safe.”
The Harris survey also shows a greater understanding of transgender workers, Gerzema noted. One of the sharpest upticks: 54 percent of Americans believe employers should make health insurance coverage available to transgender people who seek gender affirmation surgery, compared with 44 percent in 2016.
“These numbers show a broadening mindset,” Gerzema said. “This has signaled not only empathy for the transgender community but also a new understanding of the impact of discrimination as a whole on humanity.”