Here’s something I just found at Yahoo News that proves my point that was is legal isn’t always right.
I’m no lawyer and haven’t studied this matter, but I understand what the Virginia attorney general is doing. He’s making a legal case against including gays in civil rights issues. I read this and it made me roll my eyes (not just because of the dim comments that followed the story), but because it goes to show lawyers are great when you need to argue in a court of law, but abysmal when it comes to the court of public opinion.
As a public relations practitioner, I’m aware that we often lock horns with legal counsel over what to say and not to say to our various publics. Lawyers will argue you aren’t legally bound to make any statements and shouldn’t, lest ye wants to incriminate thine self. PR folks (like me) believe it’s more prudent and more valuable to be frank with your publics and open a dialogue with them.
Because more often than not, when you close the doors and hide behind “no comment,” your publics lose faith in you and begin to shine an even brighter spotlight on you.
This story out of Virginia merely reminded me that lawyers don’t always have the right answers. Because any business or organization that uses this argument as legal justification to discriminate against someone because of sexual orientation will suffer in the long run.
You don’t need a lawyer to tell you the difference between right and wrong. Besides, are we really still hung up on this?
Edit: I should point out that when I stated it’s more prudent to be frank with your audience one should NOT construe that as to have complete disregard for the input from legal counsel. Certainly in many cases there are specific details that cannot be discussed for legal reasons. But that is a far cry from listening to a lawyer advise one to say nothing at all, period. From a PR perspective, my point is you need to be open, amenable and honest with your audiences. If you can’t do that, they lose trust in you.