In honor of the lives lost in Orlando this weekend, I wanted to open my LGBT blog post with a small tribute to the horrible tragedy that has impacted all of our lives. I’m sure many of you woke up on Sunday morning as I did to the tragic news coming from Orlando. Each Sunday, our kids wander into our room and we go eat breakfast and plan for the day ahead. Well, that happened yesterday too, but Hudson and Sawyer witnessed their dads paralyzed to the TV with tears streaming down their eyes. What do you tell your 2- and 5-year-olds about a senseless tragedy and about death? I didn’t know exactly what to say and I don’t think I ever will, but I will always think of the Orlando club owner when I think of my kids moving forward. She had named the club “Pulse” as it reminded her of her brother’s heartbeat, whom she lost to AIDS years ago. I will always think of my kids’ heartbeat, and also the heartbeats of the 49 victims, each and every day of my life here on earth. My heart goes out to all of the families affected by this senseless act.
Growing up in Mississippi, I was always raised with a value system to love, care for, give back and be respectful. I’ve always looked for similar shared values in the companies and clients I’ve worked for, and being a part of R&R Partners now for 10 years has been a perfect match for me. At the core, R&R is empathetic − we embed with our clients, helping them through whatever situation they are going through. R&R also puts our employees and their families at the forefront of everything we do, as we know it’s our employees who help deliver the results for our clients at the end of the day.
As an advertising executive and gay man, I carry those ingrained values that my family instilled in me throughout my personal and professional life. Recently, my partner and I served as plaintiffs in the successful Nevada marriage equality lawsuit. I was so grateful that R&R supported this endeavor that was so very important to millions of LGBT individuals throughout the world.
The high of the Supreme Court’s decision on the marriage equality victory was recently overshadowed by the ridiculously bigoted rollback of anti-discrimination laws in North Carolina and my home state of Mississippi. I was appalled by the governors in these Southern states and how they’d allow for discrimination to not only affect the lives of many of their residents, but also the economics of their state. These states are losing millions, if not billions, of dollars in tourism dollars. There’s a great website that is tracking artists, from Bruce Springsteen to Cirque du Soleil, who are boycotting these states to stand up against their bigoted leaders. While I hate it for Mississippi, I love it in the respect to standing up for what’s right, and I’m in hopes that these biased laws are overturned in short-order.
The Mississippi discrimination law situation reignited my upbringing and also my desire to work for and with companies who are diverse, respectful and welcoming. It makes me proud to work for a phenomenal, independent advertising and marketing firm that has not only created the path for LGBT visitors to enjoy Las Vegas and our resort properties, no matter who you are, but also has helped fight for equal human rights in the Nevada legislature to pass hospital visitation rights, anti-bullying laws, transgender rights and marriage equality, among other corporate social responsibility initiatives.
AdAge recently published an article with “musts” for those clients marketing to the LGBT community. I’m proud to say R&R Partners has been living and breathing these musts since their existence began 42 years ago, helping lead the way for people like me to be a successful (gay) executive in today’s society, despite the setbacks a few are making us work through.
Fletcher Whitwell is senior vice president at R&R Partners, overseeing multiple offices across the U.S. He is a devoted husband and father of two adopted children. He serves his community on many boards, including Human Rights Campaign, SampleDance, Spread the Word Nevada and Worldwide Partners.