More Businesses Than Ever Rated 'Gay-Friendly'

What do Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, and AT&T have in common? They all received perfect scores for their homosexual friendly policies from the Human Rights Campaign this year.

The Corporate Equality Index, released every fall from the nation’s largest gay rights organization, rates companies on their policies and practices for LGBT workers. This year, a total of 615 companies were rated. Of those companies, 337 businesses received the top rating of 100 percent. Collectively, those businesses employ over 8.3 million full-time workers.

HRC reports that when the CEI was first released in 2002, only 5 percent of business banned gender identity/expression discrimination. But by 2010, the figure had increased to 72 percent.

Dr. Michael Brown talks about the exponential growth of large corporations signing on to HRC’s policies in his book, A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been. “Every year, the HRC seems to raise the bar of criteria required for a perfect score. Yet the higher the bar is raised, the higher these companies jump (and the more their numbers multiply). And every year, the release of the HRC’s annual report is greeted with great media fanfare,” he writes.

This year, Land O'Lakes, Kellogg and Hershey achieved perfect scores for the first time. Other food, beverage and grocery companies with perfect scores include Food Lion, Sara Lee, Campbell's Soup and Starbucks. (McDonald's scored 85).

Car companies were also well represented by Ford, GM, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen. For technology, high scorers include Apple, Cisco, Dell and Microsoft.

Among airlines with perfect scores were Delta, U.S. Airways, JetBlue and Continental. (Southwest scored 95.) Delta even put out a press release to announce being named one of HRC’s “Best Places to Work” for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employee equality.

"Once again achieving a perfect score on the HRC's Corporate Equality Index acknowledges our consistent effort in making Delta a great place to work for our employees worldwide," said Mike Campbell, executive vice president for Human Resources and Labor Relations.

Joe Solmonese, president of HRC, says in the report that the CEI rating “is not an award” but rather “an effective tool that is designed for a specific purpose: to improve workplace conditions for LGBT people by encouraging corporations to adopt pro-LGBT policies for their workforces.”

Brown doesn’t see it that way though. He says the real implication of the list is to make it “clear to companies if you don’t want to get blacklisted, you are going to have to toe the line and comply with these policies whether you agree or not.”

Plus, many of these large companies are HRC sponsors. Brown says in his book this means “that many of the biggest, brightest, and most influential companies in America are underwriting: GLBT community activism, GLBT-affirming (and conservative-bashing) educational and media ‘outreach,’ the electing of aggressively pro-GLBT candidates (and the opposing of candidates with traditional values).”

Although corporations are a large part of HRC’s target, individual consumers are caught in the crossfire as well. Pro-family groups and individuals who disagree with the homosexual agenda are finding it harder not to support corporations that don’t share their values.

Brown says it is difficult because almost everything we do involves using products from these large companies, but it comes down to small choices. For example, deciding not to go to Starbucks for coffee, or signing a petition against a corporation that has caved to HRC’s demands.

To get a perfect score of 100 on the CEI, companies had to meet six standards, each one yielding different points. Some of those include offering diversity training covering sexual orientation and gender identity, positively engaging the LGBT Community and offering partner health insurance.

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