Edward Jones photo by Jon Kraft/Shutterstock; REI photo by Eric Glenn/Shutterstock
The number of major U.S. corporations endorsing the Equality Act has risen above 500.
The Business Coalition for the Equality Act, organized by the Human Rights Campaign, now has 503 members, HRC announced Tuesday morning. The coalition had surpassed 400 members last April.
New names on the list include Edward Jones, REI, McDonald’s, Honeywell, Harley-Davidson, MetLife, Duke Energy, Sony, Boston Beer Co., Del Monte Foods, and Stop & Shop.
“Inclusion and diversity are essential to Honeywell’s success as a global enterprise,” Cheya Dunlap, the company’s chief inclusion and diversity officer, said in an HRC press release. “We support protections for LGBTQ+ individuals under the Equality Act because we believe in the importance of creating a fair work environment built on equality, respect, and achievement.”
“Edward Jones is a place of belonging, and our longtime support for the LGBTQ+ community is inherent in our purpose-driven culture,” added Jennifer Kingston, head of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the financial services company. “We’re very proud of the fact that we’ve earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index six years in a row, and we nurture a workplace where all of our associates can be their authentic selves as they pursue their personal growth and possibilities.”
“Our co-op and broader society are stronger when everyone — in consideration of their race, gender identity and sexual orientation — can prosper and feel welcome to be their full selves,” commented Wilma Wallace, chief diversity and social impact officer at REI. “REI has long been an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, and we remain committed to creating a co-op and contributing to a society that is inclusive of all people. The Equality Act is an important step towards ensuring everyone can reach their full potential, and we are proud to support the communities, advocates, companies and legislators working to advance LGBTQ+ rights.”
The Equality Act, currently pending in Congress, would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on a nationwide basis. It would cover discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and several other aspects of life.
The business coalition is the largest group of corporations ever to come together to support LGBTQ+ equality, according to HRC. It includes more than 160 Fortune 500 companies.
Member companies have business operations in all 50 states, company headquarters spanning 33 states, and a combined $7.2 trillion in annual revenue. The 503 members of the coalition collectively employ more than 15.3 million people in the U.S. The largest previous business effort in support of legal LGBTQ+ equality was a friend-of-the-court brief for marriage equality, which included 379 businesses.
The House of Representatives passed the Equality Act last February, but it has yet to come to a vote in the Senate. President Joe Biden supports the measure and has committed to signing it into law. The House had passed it in 2019 as well, in the previous session of Congress, but it did not receive a Senate vote then either.
The Senate currently has 48 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Dems, and 49 of these senators have signed on as cosponsors of the Equality Act. The lone Democratic holdout, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, is considered likely to vote for it nonetheless. However, not one of the Senate’s 50 Republicans has committed to supporting it.
If there is a 50-50 tie, Vice President Kamala Harris would have the tie-breaking vote, and she would support the act. But unless the Senate changes its filibuster rule, 51 votes would not be enough to pass the measure. Under the filibuster rule, for most legislation, 60 senators have to agree to end debate on a bill before the bill can be voted on. Manchin and another Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have joined Republicans in resisting changes to the filibuster. Sinema, the first and only out bisexual senator, has drawn much criticism for her opposition to filibuster reform.
HRC and other activist groups say they’re working on a variety of strategies to pass the Equality Act, including changes to the filibuster rule, and are raising the possibility that some Republican senators can be persuaded to support the act.
“We are delighted to announce that more than 500 major corporations are now united behind the Equality Act,” HRC Interim President Joni Madison said in the release. “In 2022, no person should ever be subjected to harassment or discrimination because of who they are. The Equality Act will take major strides toward ensuring that LGBTQ+ people are treated with equal dignity in the eyes of the law, and affirm the longstanding American value that everyone deserves to be treated equally and fairly. It’s time for the Senators of both parties to support the Equality Act and send it to President Biden’s desk for his signature.”