Originally published on Advocate.com June 02 2006 12:00 AM ET
For the seventh year in a row ExxonMobil shareholders have rejected a proposal to cover sexual orientation in the company's equal employment opportunity policy. The vote on Wednesday was about 35% in favor of adding the protections, up from around 27% last year.
Gay and lesbian employees had been protected by a pro-gay policy at Mobil, until it merged in 1999 with Exxon, which did not have sexual orientation protections. The new ExxonMobil corporation not only killed that policy, it also closed Mobil's domestic-partner benefits program to any new employees.
A boycott by the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign ensued, and the immense New York City Employees' Retirement System, whose shares in ExxonMobil are worth nearly half a billion dollars, began pushing for sexual orientation protections at the new corporation. HRC tried to put the best face on Wednesday's loss. In a statement, HRC noted that more shares voted in favor of the change than ever before.
In the proxy statement sent to shareholders, ExxonMobil said, "Discrimination and harassment of any form, including sexual orientation, are not tolerated at ExxonMobil.” But HRC criticized that position, noting that ExxonMobil "stands alone as the only Fortune 50 company that refuses to write [its policy] down." Said HRC president Joe Solmonese, "The long-term energy needs of ExxonMobil customers are in no way served by policies that ignore hard-working gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees." (Sirius OutQ News)