Lobbyist Trying To Ban Gays from the NFL Loses Client

At least one client says it’s severing ties over his anti-gay stance

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L.G. Patterson / AP

Missouri's All-American defensive end Michael Sam acknowledges fans during the Cotton Bowl trophy presentation at halftime of an NCAA college basketball game between Missouri and Tennessee, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Columbia, Mo. Sam came out to the entire country Sunday, Feb. 9, and could become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

Jack Burkman, the Washington lobbyist who announced Monday that he’ll push for a bill to ban gays from playing in the National Football League because “we are losing our decency as a nation,” has lost one of his paying clients because of the effort.

DC Solar Solution, a California company that paid him $30,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013, told TIME Tuesday it was severing ties. “DC solar does not condone or support Mr. Burkman’s homophobic views, and since learning about his misguided efforts to write legislation banning gay athletes from the NFL, we have ended our relationship with him,” wrote DC Solar executives Jeffery Carpoff and Paulette Carpoff in a statement. “DC Solar values diversity within our company and within out communities, and we do not tolerate discrimination of any sort. As a company working to address issues about our country’s future, we have no intention of working with those stuck in the past.”

In the face of the business hit, Burkman said he would not backdown from his quest to keep gay men out of professional football. “I have always done what I think is right for the country,” he tells TIME. “This is not about any form of discrimination. It is not about putting a straight man ahead of a gay man or a gay man ahead of a straight man. It is about re-enforcing and protecting American values of decency and civility. Should NFL players shower with NFL cheerleaders? Certainly not. Given this, why should straight NFL players shower with gay NFL players?”

The Hill newspaper noted that Burkman was the top lobbyist last year for bringing in new business, raking up 70 new clients mostly in the renewable energy sector like DC Solar. Of the dozens of clients contacted by TIME, two said they are aware of Burkman’s push to ban gays from the NFL and it does not impact their business negatively or positively. “I’m am aware of that. I have no reaction whatsoever,” says Mien Tran, owner, CEO of Belvina Inc., a private company in Austin, Tex., which paid Burkman $35,000 in lobbying fees in 2013. One, the self-described owner of Tiger Services, a “family owned” building contracting firm in Anaheim, Ca., refused to give his name and declared himself a proud patriot who doesn’t speak to the media and hung up.

Several others expressed concerns and said they were mulling over a change in their lobbying work. “There are likely other contractors that we have used, and legislators for that matter, who agree with Mr. Burkman’s opinions and many others who would find him to be a tasteless, self-promoting, hatemonger,” says Richard C. Duke, Ph.D., founder and acting CEO of ApopLogic, a company working to cure lung cancer, which paid Burkman upwards of $20,000 in 2013. “I ran his name past the senior staff of [Colorado] Senators [Michael] Bennet and [Mark] Udall and they had really not heard of him. Perhaps they have heard of him now. I hope they have better things to focus on.”

Burkman says he decided to push the legislation after Missouri Tigers defensive end Michael Sam came out earlier this month. If he is drafted in April, he will become the league’s first openly gay player. Sam responded to Burkman Tuesday on twitter: “Jack Burkman is going to need a Delorian [sic], not some bogus bill, if he wants to prevent gay athletes from being in the locker room,” a reference to the movie “Back to the Future.”

This isn’t Burkman’s first anti-gay foray. On his website he has links to his radio show where he encourages families to yank their children out of the Boy Scouts after that group decided to allow gay scouts, but not gay scout leaders. He claims to have at least 36 House members and five Senators interested in the NFL legislation. Lobbyists cannot introduce bills, and Burkman has not yet identified a member of Congress that will. Given the fact that Democrats control the Senate, there is little chance that the bill passes even if it is introduced, and it would face an almost certain veto from President Obama.

Meanwhile, Burkman’s biggest critic is his openly gay brother, Seattle anesthesiologist Dr. James Burkman, who tweeted Tuesday at his brother: “Having your head up your ass seems quite gay to me. No?”