The old saying
goes that every cloud has a silver lining. And on November
5, the day after California voters stripped same-sex
couples of the right to marry, so many around the
country were searching for one.
It is easy to get
bogged down with all the negative news about
California's Proposition 8 -- the continuing bias
against loving, committed gay and lesbian couples
among communities of faith, who with breathtaking
efficiency raised millions of dollars to enshrine
discrimination into the Golden State's constitution; the
now-discredited claims that people of color were the
reason for the ban's passage; and the lasting
ramifications of those premature, divisive, and ultimately
But when we brush
aside that downbeat data, a strong ally to LGBT
equality is there, and indeed, was there all through this
fight and many others: corporate America. Although
thousands of individuals, organizations, and
businesses donated to the Yes on 8 campaign, not
one Fortune 500 company is among those names. But on the
opposite side, the side of fairness and basic rights,
you'll find some of the nation's most
successful and powerful corporate players. The popular vote
was lost, but the steadfast backing of one important
segment -- the nation's largest employers --
As the author of
the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Corporate
Equality Index and director of the Workplace Project, I have
seen firsthand the business world's expanding
awareness of the unique issues facing LGBT people. I
have witnessed the embrace of policies that
accommodate our community's needs. And now, I have
seen corporate giants like PG&E, Apple, and Levi
Strauss & Co. step into the fray around same-sex
marriage in California to stand up for equal rights.
in on this issue to an unprecedented degree. Why would
these companies jump into what at first glance is an
electrified cultural debate? After all, it's rare to
see corporations with bottom lines at stake take an
active role in such volatile political hotbeds.
The answer is one
that businesses have known for decades: that LGBT
equality is good for the bottom line. This is evident in
edition after edition of the Corporate Equality Index.
Every year, more and more businesses achieve a 100%
rating based on their treatment of LGBT employees,
consumers, and investors. This year, 260 businesses scored
100%. Just seven years ago, when the report was first
issued, only 13 received the top rating.
Why would these
companies stick their necks out for LGBT equality?
Because diversity and inclusion are important aspects of the
nation's most profitable businesses'
core values. These values are critical to unleashing
the power of people in order to create value for customers,
employees, and shareholders. Inclusive workplace policies
allow companies to attract and retain the most
talented workforce possible, and the outreach
they've done on behalf of equality throughout the
years has shown that they support not only the lives
of LGBT employees but also the LGBT community as a
valuable and respected segment of our country.
With tools like
the HRC Foundation's Buying for Equality guide, LGBT
consumers have flexed their purchasing power to reward
companies that support our values and penalize
companies that have failed to recognize our value and
contribution to America. The development and use of
these tools is even more vital in the aftermath of a
devastating setback like Prop. 8. Instruments like the
Buying for Equality guide help LGBT people and allies
spread the message about companies that have earned
our business and empower us to take a stand against
those that have not.
The debate over
Prop. 8 once again cemented the business world as a true
ally for LGBT equality. American corporations have gone
beyond the four walls of their headquarters,
factories, and retail stores and made a firm
commitment to equal treatment of LGBT people. The
nation's largest and most successful businesses
are not just fostering inclusive and safe work
environments-- they're taking the fight for full
equality to the streets and the halls of government.
Though it may still be a struggle to capture 51%
of the popular vote, same-sex marriage and other
manifestations of equal rights have already won the vote of
corporate board members and CEOs.
That is a
significant accomplishment for LGBT people in the wake of a
heartbreaking defeat. Moving forward, it is crucial that we
build on these positive developments and further
strengthen our relationships so that when the next
Prop. 8 rears its ugly head, we can continue to
leverage our alliance in the fight against discrimination.