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Record number of businesses rated gay friendly
Posted on Nov 18, 2011 | by Michael Foust

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WASHINGTON (BP) -- Led by such American staples as AT&T, Kellogg and Coca-Cola, a record number of businesses -- 337 in all -- achieved a perfect score in 2011 for their policies affirming homosexuality.

That's according to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay organization, which launched its Corporate Equality Index in 2002, when only 13 businesses received a perfect score. By 2006 it had grown to 138, and last year it was at 305.

Released each fall, the list shows the challenge that pro-family groups and citizens face when attempting to spend their money only at businesses that affirm their values. For instance, soft drink fans can't simply avoid Coca-Cola, because Pepsi also made the perfect score list.

To get a perfect score of 100, companies had to meet six standards, including: 1) offering diversity training covering sexual orientation and gender identity, 2) having a non-discrimination policy covering sexual orientation and gender identity, 3) providing domestic partner health insurance benefits, and 4) offering at least one insurance benefit for employees wanting to change their sex. Gender identity is a category that includes cross dressers and, when fully implemented, allows for men to use women's restrooms, and vice versa.

"In nine years, the CEI [Corporate Equality Index] has helped lead a sea-change in workplaces across the country," Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, wrote in the report.

Significantly, the large majority of companies with a perfect score voluntarily complete the survey on an annual basis and consider it a goal to make the list, HRC says. Some companies tout the score with their own press releases.

Next year, the qualifications will become more comprehensive, making it harder to make the list. But that also could lead to businesses falling in line -- which could further normalize homosexuality. In order to achieve a perfect score in 2012, businesses either will have to advertise in gay media, financially support at least one gay organization or event, or publicly support laws affirming homosexuality.

Even Cracker Barrel -- the southern-styled restaurant with the porch and rocking chairs -- was highlighted in the report for improving its score from 15 to 55. It did so, in part, by offering sexual orientation diversity training for employees. It also donated money to the Tennessee Equality Project, a gay group.

Land O'Lakes, Kellogg and Hershey achieved perfect scores this year for the first time, joining a who's who of large companies in that category. Among airlines with perfect scores were Delta, U.S. Airways, JetBlue and Continental. (Southwest scored 95.) Car manufacturers were represented by Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen. Among electronic and computer companies were Apple, Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark and Microsoft.

Home Depot, which has been targeted by some conservative groups for its policies affirming homosexuality, scored an 85. Its competitor, Lowe's, made a 30.

Food, beverage and grocery companies with perfect scores included Food Lion, Sara Lee, Campbell's Soup and Starbucks. (McDonald's scored 85, Kroger 75.) Among freight services, UPS scored a 100, with FedEx making an 80.

The list of businesses with perfect scores even included greeting card companies (Hallmark) and toy manufacturers (Mattel).

The nation's largest company, Wal-Mart, scored a 40.

The complete list is available at HRC.org/CEI. HRC uses it each year to put together a holiday "buyers guide" for its constituents.
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Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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