Two recent HRC press releases show why it is better to trust the private sector than to rely on government to promote policies which benefit gay people. In releases on Wednesday, HRC noted (yet again) the growing number of companies adopting non-discrimination policies and celebrated the end of American Family Association’s boycott of Disney while noting that over 8,000 American employers offer benefits to same-sex partners of their employees.
ExxonMobil shareholders gave what HRC called “record support” to “a shareholder resolution to amend the company’s written equal employment opportunity policy to include the category of sexual orientation.” While HRC indicates that 29.4 percent of shares “were voted in favor of the policy,” HRC doesn’t indicate how many voted against.
It appears however, that this resolution is not binding on the corporation. ExxonMobil is the only Fortune 50 company not to include sexual orientation in its primary non-discrimination policy.” And therein lies the real good news about the private sector. 49 of the 50 largest companies in America have adopted policies protecting gay and lesbian employees from discrimination. HRC notes further that “414 companies in the Fortune 500 â€” or 83 percent â€” include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies.”
When Exxon merged with Mobil in 1999, the company did not adopt Mobil’s non-discrimination policy and closed Mobil’s domestic partnership benefit to new employees. This may be the only example of a large company limiting its domestic partnership program. (But, it did not cancel the policy altogether.)
The Walt Disney Company (a few shares of whose stock your humble blogger proudly owns), however, has maintained its domestic partnership program despite the American Family Association’s nine-year boycott. I wish that HRC had been stronger in its praise of this good company for standing firm for so long — even as it risked losing business from social conservatives, many of whom have large families, a key demographic targeted by the company. Disney did the right thing — and not merely in maintaining gay-friendly corporate policies. It continued to host “Gay Days” as its theme parks.
I commend Disney for its steadfastness for not giving in to the demands of those social conservatives who sought to dictate the policies of this truly family-friendly corporation. Please join me in commending Disney and in supporting this great company by watching its movies, visiting its theme parks and buying its products, many of which make great gifts for movie-lovers and nieces and nephews.
HRC did note that Disney is “one of more than 8,277 employers nationwide to offer domestic partner benefits for the same-sex partners of employees.” Once again, we see the private sector far ahead of governments, at all levels, in recognizing same-sex unions.
Simply put, private companies understand that they might compromise their competitive edge if they did not offer benefits packages designed to attract qualified employees. That is why more and more companies offer such benefits.
Exxon Mobil is the only Fortune 50 company without a non-discrimination policy. Fewer than one in five companies in the Fortune 500 lack such policies. My guess is that within the next two years, that number will drop, and 90% of the companies in the Fortune 500 will have adopted such clauses. The free market has proven to be of great benefit to gay men and lesbians. Let us hope that, on domestic issues (as it has on foreign policy), the Republican Party returns to the vision of Ronald Reagan so we may see a continual shrinking of the size of the federal government and an increase in freedom for all Americans, including gay men and lesbians.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com