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Proudly Out: Branding Politics

Proudly Out: Branding Politics

Mitchell Gold, openly gay owner of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams is selling more than sofas. He's a model for LGBT activism using his money and influence to speak out about bigotry.

I like Mitchell Gold's style and I'm not just talking about the savvy branding he's used to turn his furniture company, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, into the go to place for comfortable but stylish sofas, chairs and accessories.

No, I like Mitchell Gold's style because he puts his money where his mouth is. Here's an out gay man who, along with Williams, has built a $100 million business in the country's furniture hub, N. Carolina. He treats his employees as if they were all namesakes-he treats them like gold with on-site day care, a college scholarship fund for their children and great benefits.

But go beyond the comfie sofas and chairs and you find a man who is driven by a commitment to gain full civil and human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. He's been on the board of the Human Rights Campaign. The business supports the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York's statewide LGBT political organization. But Gold knows that simply working the legislative process or waiting for the courts to do the right thing isn't enough.

He's taken his marketing know how, his commitment to LGBT civil and human rights and his own money and formed Faith in America, the only organization in the country that is focusing a pinpoint laser on the religion-based bigotry that has held back our advancement.

According to Gold, the reason why we now have constitutional amendments banning marriage equality is because our opponents did a better job of selling their religion wrapped message and we didn't a good enough job of calling their efforts what they were-religion-based bigotry.

Those are fighting words if I've ever heard any. He's taking Faith in America to towns-small and big-across the country to reframe the Radical Christian's Right rhetoric as religion-based bigotry. He's branding the Radical Christian Right as he brands Faith in America as one of the only LGBT organizations willing to stand up and call the Radical Christian Right for what it is-a bunch of bigots who hide behind the Bible.

"When all the state amendments were fought," he told me in a recent interview "when you look at those campaigns, no one educated the voters to tell them they were falling into the trap of religion-based bigotry."

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Gold believes we have to connect the dots-we have to make a compelling case to show the connections between the civil rights struggles of the 1960's and those of today. He told me of a conversation he had with the Rev. Al Sharpton who told him that those fighting for freedom can not let the oppressor define the terms we're going to use to work for full equality.

Gold and Faith in America are defining the terms through a media campaign that makes it clear that religion-based bigotry is what kept women and people of color from reaching their full potential and is what kept interracial marriage illegal until only 42 years ago.

He's also connecting the dots through publishing. Gold edited a book called Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America. "The book has exposed a lot of people to the fact that there are gay teens in a lot of trouble because of this type of bigotry," he told me. "Almost everyday I get an e-mail from someone who has read the book and told me how transformative it was."

He told me of an 80 year old woman who wrote to say that she had always been judgmental of lesbians and gays and, after reading the book, she realized the harm that her thinking and her standing by and doing nothing have caused.

When Gold was on PBS' The Charlie Rose Show last November, he said that religion-based bigotry was "one of the great moral failings of America."

As a Jew, Gold isn't interested in ridding America of religion-nor for the record, am I. He is interested is religion having its rightful place in people's personal lives not in the public arena.

"It is OK for people to have whatever religious beliefs they want," he said on Rose's show. "It is not OK to use your religious beliefs to legislate civil rights for others. American is better than that."

I say, Amen to that.


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Libby Post