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Gay and lesbian civil unions are essential for Italy’s economy

Gay and lesbian civil unions are essential for Italy’s economy

The NGLCC meeting Italian business people in Vicenza Town Hall, northern Italy.

In the little more than six months that marriage equality has been the law of the land in the United States, I have seen similar movements for LGBTI inclusion worldwide catch fire and burn brightly.

Across the globe LGBTI and allied citizens are working harder than ever to enshrine respect and dignity for all people in the laws of their homeland. That is why The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and its international advocacy arm, NGLCC Global, strongly urges the Italian Parliament to approve the upcoming bill bringing civil unions to lesbian and gay couples in Italy.

While most advocacy organizations form their arguments primarily on policy grounds, the NGLCC is unique in its viewpoint and expands the foundation for LGBTI rights and protections through an economic lens. Equality in good for business and essential in bringing one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies into alignment with other progressive nations on the continent.

In the fall of 2015 I went on an incredibly moving and inspiring tour of Italy to strengthen and build support for the Italian LGBTI business community. I was invited to Italy by the US Embassy as part of the Obama Administration’s larger mission to promote LGBTI rights abroad.

In addition to speaking in Rome, Milan, Vicenza, and Trieste to discuss the economic benefits of intentional inclusion, I met with tourism officials in Venice to speak about the American LGBTI tourism dollars being put at risk as a result of the mayor’s increasingly hostile statements toward the LGBTI community. I am as certain now as I was then that the time is right for the full inclusion of LGBTI rights in Italian law – as both a moral and economic imperative.

More and more Italians are recognizing their LGBTI compatriots are equal to them in dignity and acknowledge that Italian laws should reflect this. On the other hand, there are those both in and out of the government who continue to block pro-LGBTI legislation and pander discredited and inflammatory stereotypes about us.

By empowering the LGBTI business community we hope to show those groups opposed to LGBTI rights there are significant economic opportunities linked to non-discrimination and an obligation to equality.

The situation for Italy’s LGBTI population remains full of surprising contradictions. A 2013 Pew survey of 39 countries revealed that 74% of Italians believe society should accept homosexuality, ranking Italy seventh, after countries like Spain and Germany, but ahead of France, the United States and Israel.

Consensual same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Italy since 1890, which, for comparison was not the case in the United States until 2003.

As they have around the world, businesses – and particularly business owners – can generate tremendous equity for the LGBTI community, bringing the kind of visibility and strength needed to make laws more inclusive for all.

Over 95% of the world’s consumers and businesses lay outside the borders of the United States, and the American LGBTI business community has both a vested fiscal and humanitarian interest in supporting the recognition of civil unions and marriages for their communities throughout the world.

Economic visibility, just like social visibility, is essential in building a diverse and inclusive society. NGLCC Global calls upon leaders in Italy to follow the precedent set by other European nations to support the dignity of their LGBTI citizens, allowing their dignity and love to be recognized – and ensuring a climate where their families and their businesses can thrive.

Justin Nelson is president and co-founder, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) is the business voice of the LGBTI community and is the largest global not-for-profit advocacy organization specifically dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for LGBTI people. NGLCC is the exclusive certification body for LGBTI-owned businesses.

NGLCC Global™, a division of NGLCC, promotes the growth of small businesses and provides the quickest and most effective path to broad-based economic advancement and empowerment of the global LGBTI community. Through a variety of resources, NGLCC Global connects LGBTI-owned and allied companies, multinational corporations, and international affiliate chamber leaders and members.