All Rights reserved
Stop Here: Chevron
Not There: ExxonMobil
There's a lot of shopping to do before exchanging gifts, which means a lot of driving, and along the way you'll have to stop for gas. Don't stop at an ExxonMobil. While it might be number 2 in the Fortune 500, ExxonMobil is the worst company on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. For four consecutive years, the company has scored a -25 out of 100 possible points, which is the lowest score ever received by any corporation. And it continues to earn that score not just for its terrible policies. A study this year conducted by the Equal Rights Center and Freedom to Work found that resumes listing LGBT affiliations were 23 percent less likely to get a callback from the oil company than an identical resume that did not out the candidate as LGBT.
The Advocate put ExxonMobil on the cover last year to help draw attention to the company's record. Days later, the company made headlines by extending eligibility for health care plans to the legal spouses of its gay and lesbian employees but only in those states where same-sex marriage is legal and it would essentially be illegal not to comply. Now with President Obama's executive order requiring all federal contractors to implement nondiscrimination policies, he might have finally overruled the 15 times in a row that company shareholders have voted against doing just that. Meanwhile, Chevron had a perfect score from the HRC this year yet again. Shell remains a consistently close second with a 95.
Shop Here: Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Some years ago, furniture makers Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams took an advertising cue from a very unlikely source: antigay evangelical minister Jerry Falwell. Gold has said that his once-ambivalent attitude about including gay couples and families in the company's ads changed "when I realized Jerry Falwell and others are collecting money and advertising their agenda, and I thought, Why shouldn't I promote my own agenda with my business? If people don't like it and aren't fair-minded, then they don't need to buy my furniture."
The past quarter century has been a lesson in following their instincts. Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, based in rural North Carolina, is celebrating a silver anniversary with a new book, Who We Are, that looks at its history through 25 mantras ("We are forward in thinking and design," "We respect our environment") that express the commitment of the more than 600 employees to craftsmanship and causes.
In the company's first ad for this magazine in 1998, two shirtless men hoisted their designs up a staircase. It has run gay-vague ads (a girl and her gay fathers -- or are they?), stealth gay ads (current New York City Council member Corey Johnson, who was then a high school football player known in the media for coming out, though the ad never noted he is gay), and sexy orientation-free ads in LGBT and mainstream media.
Gold believes this kind of advertising in general media is good for business and for gay kids -- it normalizes the LGBT experience for parents. And the company also makes some excellent sofas on which to sit to have a heart-to-heart chat.
Don't Shop: Hobby Lobby
Back in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations like Hobby Lobby could decide whether employees can get certain types of contraceptives through company-provided health insurance. Activists had warned that if Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties -- the businesses that challenged the Affordable Care Act -- could use their "sincerely held religious beliefs" to deny contraception to employees, then they might use the same power to deny health care to transgender people or might withhold coverage for HIV and AIDS treatment. Justice Samuel Alito wrote that corporations could be burdened by the cost of contraception and that the ruling was "very specific" to the Affordable Care Act, not a free pass for companies to discriminate. LGBT groups and dissenting justices, however, say the ruling would allow companies to use religious exemptions for whatever agenda they have.
Starbucks just keeps making enemies among the homophobes and friends among LGBT folks. Two years ago the National Organization for Marriage announced a "Dump Starbucks" campaign because of the company's support for marriage equality, and it's been a colossal flop. This year the coffee chain has attracted the attention of an even more outrageous homophobic force, Pastor James David Manning of New York's ATLAH Worldwide Missionary Church, who claims that "upscale sodomites" who gather at Starbucks spread Ebola there, plus the lattes are flavored with "sodomite semen." He got the latter information by taking a satirical story seriously; as for the former, who knows? Meanwhile, Starbucks courts us even more, this year releasing its first LGBT-focused commercial, starring RuPaul's Drag Race faves Bianca Del Rio and Adore Delano. And the company continues to get a perfect 100 score on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. So it's a great place to get your daily jolt and pick up gift cards and merchandise for presents.
Snack Here: Chipotle
Not There: Chick-fil-A
Maybe you heard about that LGBT fundraiser hosted at a Chick-fil-A franchise just outside West Hollywood? Or there was that time its CEO and president, Dan Cathy, sounded regretful during a newspaper interview for ever having donated millions of dollars to antigay groups through the company's foundation, or for publicly condemning marriage equality and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. "I think that's a political debate that's going to rage on," Cathy toldTheAtlanta Journal-Constitution this year. "And the wiser thing for us to do is to stay focused on customer service." None of that means Chick-fil-A is now LGBT-supportive. It's just trying to be less antigay in public (and the fundraising event was the doing of the local franchise holder, not the corporation as a whole). Now Tony Perkins (whose organization, the Family Research Council, is a "hate group," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center) is mad at Cathy, complaining that "we're seeing those in the business community are becoming cowards." That was analysis from Perkins on Mike Huckabee's Fox News show this year. There are still a lot of places you can stop for lunch while out doing your holiday shopping, and Chick-fil-A isn't the best option. You'll feel less guilty eating fast food from Chipotle, which launched a pro-LGBT ad campaign this year. It scores a 75 on HRC's index, and McDonald's scores a 90, while Burger King surged to an 80 (up from 55) while also running its attention-getting "Proud Whopper" campaign timed with Pride.
Proceed With Caution: Barilla
Is it over? Can you finally start using Barilla pasta in your holiday meals again? Perhaps the first indication that boiling anger against Barilla had started to wane came in a March report when The New York Times casually declared "the boycott has ended." By then, Barilla's chairman, Guido Barilla, had repeatedly apologized for saying LGBT families would never appear in his company's ads because they don't reflect the company's values. ("I would never do [a commercial] with a homosexual couple, not for lack of respect but because we don't agree with them.") And a new commission on diversity, which includes famed LGBT activist David Mixner, had been doing its work a while. But the most important change came with the release of the HRC's latest Corporate Equality Index, in which Barilla suddenly earned a perfect score. It appears the company has completed a rapid turnaround in its employment policies. And TheWashington Postreports Barilla has even donated to the Tyler Clementi Foundation, which stands against bullying. The company still hasn't included a same-sex couple in its advertising, but instead the company touts the inclusion of a lesbian couple on a custom website. Blogger Vikki Reich and her family are included among a list of other families on Barilla's ShareTheTable.com site.
Don't Shop: Cabela's
Instead Shop: REI
When you're on the hunt for the perfect gift for the outdoor enthusiast in your life, steer clear of Cabela's, a national sporting goods chain headquartered in Sidney, Neb. The self-proclaimed "World's Foremost Outfitter" is currently facing a federal lawsuit from a former employee who contends that she was humiliated, harassed, and ultimately fired from the Pennsylvania store where she worked after she came out as transgender and began transitioning. The lawsuit contends that Cabela's management refused to allow that employee, Kate Lynn Blatt, access to the women's restroom, an accurate name tag, and the right to wear the uniform worn by other female employees, and even subjecting her to visual and medical "testing" to determine her gender. In a possible indication of how seriously Cabela's corporate leaders take the idea of LGBT inclusion, the company did not respond to HRC's survey questions about LGBT-affirming policies, leaving the advocacy group to give Cabela's a score of 0 in its latest Buying for Workplace Equality guide.
There's room for everyone inside the expansive structures that contain outdoor outfitter REI, which earned an impressive score of 100 in HRC's latest Buying for Workplace Equality guide. The Washington State-based company has long made its support for LGBT adventurers known, coming out for marriage equality in 2012 as Washington voters considered -- and ultimately approved -- a ballot initiative extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. In a blog post announcing REI's endorsement of marriage equality, CEO and president Sally Jewell stressed that equality was important to the company because "the benefits, legal clarity and societal understanding that [my husband] Warren and I have enjoyed these past 34 years should be available to any two people who want to express their love and make a permanent commitment to each other that is so clearly provided for in the legal definition of marriage."
Don't Shop: Duck Dynasty Products
Shop: Bear Grylls Survival Gear
LGBT people may want to walk briskly past any merchandise with the branding of the A&E reality show Duck Dynasty, whose star, Phil Robertson, compared homosexuality to bestiality, prostitution, adultery, alcoholism, and terrorism, and claimed LGBT people were illogical "sinners," in an interview with GQ last year, and then continued to preach these beliefs in church. But if you must scratch that itch for outdoor gear, trade the duck whistle for a backpack from the Bear Grylls Survival Store (owned by Gerber). Grylls, whose new NBC show, Running Wild With Bear Grylls, features outdoor (and shirtlessly homoerotic) excursions with celebs like Zac Efron and Channing Tatum, has been a past advocate of sex education in the U.K. Boy Scouts. He's not bad to look at either. Check out the goods at BearGryllsStore.com.
Snack Here: Honey Maid
When you're looking for the ideal cracker to sandwich that perfectly toasted marshmallow and chocolate, look no further than classic graham crackers from Honey Maid. Not only does Honey Maid's parent company, Mondelez, earn a perfect score in HRC's latest Buying for Workplace Equality guide, the crackers themselves showed up to support LGBT equality in a big way this year.
In March, Honey Maid released an ad to debut its new slogan "This Is Wholesome," which featured a same-sex couple with their two sons. Stressing that the brand supports equality in reality and not just in marketing, the family featured weren't actors, but a real family -- about whom Honey Maid also released a short documentary tenderly titled Dad & Papa.
When right-wing groups -- including the inaccurately named One Million Moms -- turned sour on the company's inclusive campaign, Honey Maid responded by doubling down on its support for love and equality.
The response ad featured two artists who created a heartwarming message from paper printouts of the hateful messages the brand received since the inclusive ad aired. But what makes this video even better is the way it highlights the overwhelming number of positive responses to the brand's push for more diverse representations in commercials.
And to commemorate Pride month in June, Honey Maid tweeted out a GIF that featured the classic crackers against a blue background, mimicking HRC's blue-and-yellow equal sign and the text "What makes a family, family, will always be the same."
Watch the initial "This Is Wholesome" ad and the response spot below.
Fuel Up Here: General Mills
If we were picking a Fortune 500 company that is the single most supportive of LGBT equality, General Mills would be a front-runner. The company has had a perfect score on HRC's Corporate Equality Index for six consecutive years, but it takes that commitment further than workplace policies. An extraordinarily inclusive TV commercial for Cheerios airing in Canada this year told the beautiful story of two gay dads adopting. And during Pride in June, it picked Lucky Charms as its official spokes-cereal with the #LuckyToBe campaign featuring a rainbow marshmallow. "We don't all look the same, believe the same things, or love the same people," read text in an accompanying video. "And that's a good thing. It makes our world more interesting. Special. Beautiful. Magical." Company executives have even testified before Congress in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And the Minnesota-based company took a stand when it counted most. As the state's voters considered whether to ban same-sex marriage with a constitutional amendment, General Mills spoke out. "We do not believe the proposed constitutional amendment is in the best interests of our employees or our state economy - and as a Minnesota-based company we oppose it," wrote vice president Ken Charles on the company's website. "We value diversity. We value inclusion. We always have ... and we always will." Anyone else feeling like a delicious bowl of cereal for Christmas morning?
Shop Here: Barneys New York
Barneys New York shook up its spring 2014 catalog by featuring several transgender models, photographed by Bruce Weber. And instead of the standard catalog format, each model was interviewed by Vanity Fair's Patricia Bosworth for a profile piece. Barneys creative director Dennis Freedman said the retailer took a different approach after noticing "that such extraordinary progress has been made in the last few years for the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community, but it's striking how the transgender community has been left behind. It's disturbing and upsetting to see that." In tandem with the catalog, Barneys announced it would donate 10 percent of all sales February 11 to the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center.
Don't Shop: The Antigay Bakers of America
Instead Bake: Betty Crocker
It wouldn't be the holidays without some sweet treats to top off those decadent meals with family and friends, but we'd prefer our baked goods be bigotry-free. That's why you'll want to avoid a number of local bakeries scattered around the country, whose owners have decided to take a stand against the so-called redefinition of marriage at the center of the "gay agenda."
For starters, there's Oregon's Sweet Cakes by Melissa -- where the owners gladly accepted orders for cakes celebrating divorce, pagan rituals, and cloning, but refused to make a wedding cake for a two women, citing their religious beliefs and allegedly calling the couple "abominations to the Lord." Although the Gresham, Ore.-based bakery has since shuttered its brick-and-mortar location, owners Aaron and Melissa Klein (pictured above) are still serving customers who share their religious ideals through online orders -- as evidenced by the cakes for an "ex-gay ministry" proudly featured on the shop's Facebook page in July. After the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries determined in January that Sweet Cakes' policy constituted illegal discrimination, the Kleins pledged to take their case to court, and in November, a gay evangelical activist pledged to raise $150,000 for their legal defense as "an olive branch" to the antigay bakers. According to Sweet Cakes' Facebook page, the Kleins were in court October 7 and have since posted several links, quotes, and videos from conservative Christian sites and events, including to the I Stand Sunday rally in Houston to support anti-LGBT pastors who were subpoenaed by the city in a lawsuit concerning their effort to block a nondiscrimination ordinance.
Unfortunately, Sweet Cakes is far from the only bakery whose owners claim a God-given right to discriminate. The owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., is still fighting a ruling from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that found he violated the state's nondiscrimination law when he refused to make a wedding cake for two men, claiming he could not serve same-sex couples because he is "a follower of Jesus Christ." The owner, Jack Phillips, has repeatedly said that he would go to jail or close up shop before he bakes cakes for same-sex couples, even though violations of Colorado's nondiscrimination act are not punished with jail time.
In August, Schuylkill Haven, Pa., bakery the Cake Pros refused an order from two women who wanted a cake to celebrate the renewal of their wedding vows. Standing by her refusal -- which is legal in Pennsylvania because the state's nondiscrimination laws do not cover sexual orientation or gender identity -- owner Lorraine Fleming allegedly told the family hers was a "Christian bakery" and that she "had talked to Jesus for two weeks" before deciding she could not make the cake for the two women.
So instead of spending your dough on some right-wing batter with hate baked into its DNA, channel your own Suzy Homemaker and pick up a box or five of Betty Crocker baking mixes. The Minneapolis-based company's parent, General Mills, not only has a perfect score of 100 on HRC's latest Corporate Equality Index, but the bakers at Betty Crocker provided newlyweds with free rainbow-colored wedding cakes after Minnesota embraced marriage equality last year. And lest anyone think Betty Crocker's pro-LGBT attitude is just icing on the same old antigay animus, take a look at the company's Families Project, which features LGBT employees discussing the importance of families in their lives, revealed in a touching video released on National Coming Out Day last year.
The final proof that Betty has our backs comes from our opponents on the right: Notorious antigay activist and certified hate-group leader Tony Perkins has been calling on his colleagues at the American Family Association and other anti-LGBT groups to boycott Betty's goods for more than a year.
Shop Here: Procter & Gamble
P&G, which manufactures thousands of products with brands including Bounty, Duracell, Febreze, Gillette, Swiffer, and Pampers, has been a longtime advocate for its LGBT employees -- the Fortune 500 company revised its antidiscrimination policy to include LGBT protections as early as 1991. In 2014 P&G made its support of same-sex marriage public in what its chief global diversity officer described as "not a political statement, but a statement of support for our employees."
"We have always supported our employees and fostered a culture of inclusion and respect -- this includes the right to marry whomever they choose and to have that union legally recognized," added Deborah Majoras, the company's chief legal officer.
P&G also received a perfect score in the 2015 Corporate Equality Index released by the Human Rights Campaign, which also includes the Cincinnati-based company in its list of Best Places to Work 2015.
Shop (with caution) for a Date:OKCupid
Online dating site OKCupid made headlines multiple times this year for expressing support for LGBT people, lending some weight to the affectionate nickname some queer users have given the site, "OGayCupid."
In April, OKCupid briefly blocked members from accessing the site using the Mozilla Firefox Web browser, amid outrage aimed at newly named Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich's donation to the campaign to pass California's Proposition 8, which temporarily repealed marriage equality in the state. Eich stepped down shortly afterward, having faced pressure from numerous progressive groups to disavow his support of marriage discrimination or resign.
During the controversy, OKCupid's CEO Sam Yagan also came under fire for donating to an antigay political candidate in 2004, though Yagan promptly apologized, said he would not support that candidate today, and affirmed his support for marriage equality.
Just last month, OKCupid announced it was expanding the options available for some users to list their sexual orientation and gender identity, following in the footsteps of social media giant Facebook's similar move months earlier. Although OKCupid is still rolling out the new options to all users, those with access to the new feature can now list their gender identity as male, female, agender, androgynous, bigender, cis man, cis woman, gender fluid, genderqueer, gender nonconforming, hijra, intersex, nonbinary, pangender, transfeminine, transgender, transmasculine, transsexual, trans man, trans woman, and two-spirit. Users testing out the new options for sexual orientation can now list themselves as asexual, demisexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, pansexual, queer, questioning, and sapiosexual (an orientation toward intelligence as the most attractive sexual trait).
However, OKCupid was another company that didn't respond to HRC's survey questions when compiling its Corporate Equality Index, prompting the advocacy group to estimate a score of just 15 (out of a possible 100). Some trans and gender-nonconfirming users have expressed concerns about what they say is unmitigated transphobia on the site, noting that OKCupid's privacy controls actually include a warning not to attempt to get the profiles of trans users deleted by reporting those profiles to administrators.
Chew Here: Kellogg's
We think Kellogg products are grrreater than ever, given that this year the company ran an ad in the Pride Guide for Atlanta's LGBT pride celebration, featuring Frosted Flakes mascot Tony the Tiger and proclaiming the company's support for diversity and equality in the workplace. The ad was too much for antigay activists to swallow, particularly the American Family Association, which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Company officials responded to the AFA's objections by affirming Kellogg's commitment to LGBT workers and consumers, and pointing with pride to its perfect score on HRC's Corporate Equality Index.
Don't Stay: Beverly Hills Hotel
Stay Instead: Kimpton Hotels
Earlier this year, the Beverly Hills Hotel's owner, the Sultan of Brunei, recently instituted Sharia lawin his nation, allowing for the stoning of those who engage in gay sex and women who commit adultery. Others could also have their limbs severed if they're convicted of property crimes and jailed for missing religious services. The Beverly Hills Hotel is not the only property he owns (there are 10 other high-end hotels in his portfolio), but this hotel, frequented by celebrities all year, became the site of protests following the introduction of the law.
On the flip side, if you haven't stayed at one of Kimpton's fabulous boutique hotels, you're missing out. The company was founded in San Francisco in 1981, and it's been a huge part of the LGBT community ever since. Kimpton has supported diversity in its workforce, earned the company a 100 on HRC's Corporate Equality Index. In addition to hip accommodations, friendly service, and nifty amenities, the company supports many LGBT-welcoming policies including diversity training and transgender benefits for their employees.Shop Here: Apple
With new products such as the iPhone 6 Plus to the Apple Watch, it's safe to say Apple had a pretty fantastic year. Although their product launches were exciting and inspired millions of people to spend hours (or days) in line waiting for a gadget, the biggest news from the world's most innovative company focused on its CEO. Tim Cook came out as gay this fall and effectively fixed the world's attention on LGBT rights. While this year was huge for Apple and Tim Cook, the company has supported the LGBT community for decades. In 1993, Apple was one of the first Silicon Valley companies to offer benefits to same-sex partners of its employees. Since then, it has continuously supported marriage equality and applauded progress loudly. As the holiday season approaches, we're proud to recommend Apple as a great place for everyone to shop.
Shop Here: Nike
In the ongoing conversation around the visibility of LGBT athletes, major sporting corporation Nike has been giving athletes the tools to play and get paid. Nike was among the first companies to ensure that out athletes are not overlooked for lucrative endorsement deals, as went the excuse for many athletes who would rather stay closeted than lose endorsements or get cut from their respective teams. The Oregon-based company has a perfect score on HRC's Corporate Equality Index, and its involvement in the push across Oregon, for LGBT rights laws and marriage equality, is fueled in large part by its active group of LGBT employees. Among them is Anthony Watson, Nike's chief information officer, who was named to Fortune magazine's annual 40 Under 40 list.
Write Your Holiday Essays Here: Medium
Not Here: Thought Catalog
Thought Catalog is responsible for publishing one of the single most transphobic articles ever written in the last year, or decade. The article -- "Transphobia is Perfectly Natural" by Gavin McInnes -- was so terrible it sparked outraged contributors to demand the site yank all of their articles from its archive. And the story is still up raking in page views and ad dollars, having never been retracted, though it now comes with a warning from the site about the offensive content. "The article you are trying to read has been reported by the community as hateful or abusive content," it warns before letting readers click onward to see what all the commotion is about. A Washington Postprofile of the company in October called it "one of the Internet's most reviled sites." But if you're a writer hoping to share an actually thoughtful essay about the holiday season, try a competing website like Medium.com instead. It offers the same sort of business model in which young writers are given a chance to share their work with large audiences but so far seems to do its work without reaching levels of hate that require warnings to readers.
Don't Shop: Urban Outfitters
Shop Instead: Target
Cheeky T-shirts and kitschy record players might make you think Urban Outfitters is a hip place run by LGBT-affirming people, but not so much. The retailer, which counts many young hipsters among its clientele, is owned by conservative donor Richard Hayne, a funder of conservative causes and candidates (it's the same company that owns folksy shops Free People and Anthropologie). Hayne is known for having donated cash to Rick Santorum's U.S. Senate campaign. Urban Outfitters has gotten into plenty of trouble for selling offensive apparel -- this year, UO sold a bloodstained Kent State sweatshirt. Ugh. It's hard to be supportive of that kind of record when there are so many other places to spend your holiday budget.
By comparison, Target has come a long way since it was revealed that it donated money to an antigay Republican politician. This year Target released an ad that includes a representation of same-sex parents. The campaign, Made to Matter, shows two fathers finger-painting with their child, as part of a diverse lineup of families using household products. Target has received a 100 percent rating on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, which measures LGBT inclusivity in workplaces. Last month the major retailer signed a court brief in support of marriage equality in two cases that are before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The move led antigay groups like the National Organization for Marriage to launch a boycott against Target, but it did not garner broad public support.
Shop Here: Home Depot
Hardware chain Home Depot has been a proponent of gay-specific protections for its workers for at least a decade. Back in 2004, the company began extending benefits to employees' same-sex partners, setting off a firestorm of opposition from antigay activists. The result has been multiple unsuccessful boycotts, protests, and petitions. Even when Home Depot received a petition with 500,000 signatures asking the company to stop supporting LGBT employees and customers, chairman Frank Blake did not back down. What else would you expect from the place that provided the lumber-filled backdrop to a gay couple's incredible marriage proposal?
Shop Here: CVS
It has been a big year for CVS, which discontinued tobacco sales and rebranded itself as CVS Health. But the drugstore chain grabbed particular attention with the commercial announcing its rebranding. In the ad, a gay couple was included among the many families and individuals wishing for better health and life -- a clear message to the LGBT community of its support. Moreover, CVS Health earned a 100 rating in the 2015 Corporate Equality Index released by the Human Rights Campaign, which also ranked the company as among the Best Places to Work.
Still Looking for Supportive Brands?
You may be wondering which of the companies on our list advertise with us? Or, if you're looking for companies that are proud to reach LGBT customers, then you might be wondering which we know from our own experience are buying ads in LGBT media -- at least with our network of LGBT brands such as The Advocate, Out magazine, and SheWired.
In the interest of full disclosure, and in helping you find the most supportive companies, here's a complete list of Here Media advertisers from 2014: