Queer activists upset that the Human Rights Campaign honored Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs at its annual gala last weekend probably won’t be thrilled to hear the organization has tapped GS chief executive Lloyd Blankfein to be its first national corporate spokesman for same-sex marriage.
Blankfein isn’t new to the fight for LGBT equality—under his tenure, Goldman Sachs started reimbursing LGBT employees for additional taxes they pay on domestic-partner benefits. And Blankfein, who is straight, wrote letters to New York lawmakers urging them to pass marriage-equality legislation.
HRC explicitly acknowledged that one reason they chose Blankfein was that it was an “unexpected” choice to pull someone from such a macho industry; however, the Goldman Sachs executive has long been a marriage equality supporter. The decision to make his support more public might run the risk of alienating conservative Goldman clients, reports DealBook, but it’s also surely a calculated public-relations move for Blankfein, who is rumored to be inching closer to stepping down from running the bank. Will it work?
“Lloyd Blankfein is not someone average Americans would think is going to support marriage equality,” [HRC’s Fred] Sainz said. “The green visor crowd is not typically associated with socially progressive policies, and this is further proof that a diversity of Americans are coming to the same conclusion.”
With this national campaign, Mr. Blankfein is stepping onto a prominent and politically charged stage — at a time when his public persona is suffering. In recent years, he has been pilloried for outsize pay packages and rewarding the type of risk-taking that led to the financial crisis.
As the tumult fades, industry watchers are wondering about his second act. Mr. Blankfein, who has run Goldman since 2006, is one of the longest-tenured chief executives on Wall Street, and speculation is mounting that he will hand over the reins to a deputy this year.
Although he has long supported same-sex marriage, his move could be seen as a public relations play, albeit one with unclear results. The affiliation with a liberal organization could also alienate conservatives who do business with the firm.