I wanted to start the New Year on a positive note and one legal story stood out. The Italian Mafia has reportedly opened its doors to gay men for the first time. However, La Cosa Nostra has adopted a type of organized crime “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy implemented by the Clinton Administration.
The breakthrough in equal rights among mobsters has been attributed to the ‘Ndrangheta syndicate out of Italy’s Calabria. Gay mobsters are being asked not to “parade” their sexuality but homosexuality is no longer a barrier.
As recently as 1992, New Jersey mob boss John “Johnny Boy” D’Amato was murdered after his girlfriend revealed that he was bisexual. His body was never found.
Putting aside the cultural and social elements, the move would make economic sense since all forms of discrimination are costly practices for businesses. The economic case against discriminatory policies has always been that discrimination adds marginal costs that are not carried by nondiscriminatory competitors. In this case, the Sicilian mob would be carrying costs that the ‘Ndrangheta syndicate is avoiding in a competitive market. Moreover, since the mob tries operate in a full range of businesses and social enterprises, it makes business sense to be non-discriminatory even if you are not moved by the need for individual equality and dignity as rationales.
Of course, this may not be precisely what Harvey Milk meant when he declared “Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight.” However, progress is progress.