SCOTUS, DOMA and the Power of Commitment

Yesterday’s news about the Supreme Court’s decision regarding marriage equality captured my attention in a way few issues have. In fact, the issue of equality has been something important to me for years because, quite frankly, I think it’s important for all people to be treated equally. That part’s easy. But, for me the ruling on marriage equality struck a personal chord.

Flash back to the mid-’80s if you can. I was working on Senator Bob Packwood’s campaign for reelection in Oregon. One day, a young guy walked in the office to help with press and the Senator’s speeches. He had been a key aide to the Senator for years and was joining us as a trusted senior advisor. We became fast friends and continue to stay in close contact today. You see, that young guy is Bob Witeck.

After the campaign, Bob returned to Washington DC and headed Hill & Knowlton’s public affairs practice before starting his own firm, then Witeck-Combs Communications and now simply Witeck Communications. I don’t recall when it was that I learned Bob is gay because it really didn’t matter.  But was does matter is Bob’s commitment to the cause.

Soon after the campaign Bob disclosed his relationship with his longtime partner, also named Bob. None of us were surprised and…it didn’t really matter. That’s when Bob became more open about his commitment to ensuring the end of discrimination against same sex couples and people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. His firm was a pioneer in LGBT public relations and marketing, working with a variety of national companies on programs that would show their support for all.

Bob has given too many seminars to count, coached more people than we can imagine and worked tirelessly toward yesterday’s ruling because of his commitment to equality for all. It’s a departure for this blog but I feel Bob’s commitment to the cause so dear to him is something public relations professionals…really anyone…can learn from. If you believe in something you need to be ready to put yourself on the line for that.

As public relations professionals we really need to be active participants in the causes we care about. We have a responsibility to lead and strive to affect change. At the same time, we need to be respectful of others and always listen. As strategic communicators, we should be always surveying the landscape and looking for ways to help achieve the causes we care about.

The road isn’t over for equality and may never  be. But if you consider how far things have come since that office in Southwest Portland in 1985, we’ve definitely come a long way.

Think about causes you care about and how you as a PR professional can support that cause. What will you do to affect change in your world? How far will you go?

Thank you Bob for caring so much!

The Barber Group

Gig Harbor, Washington


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