The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nationally-known advocacy organization that has historically fought for LGBTQ rights, has updated its Corporate Equality Index to reflect the organization’s disapproval of two major sponsors’ actions. Bank of America (BofA) and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) have been demoted on the HRC index due to the companies’ central roles in crafting HB142.
HB142, the “repeal” legislation that removed the “bathroom bill” HB2 from North Carolina’s law books, also offends LGBTQ advocates. HB142 prohibits new nondiscrimination protections until Dec. 2020, and mandates that regulation of multiple-occupancy bathrooms and changing rooms is left up to state legislators.
The Charlotte Observer reported on April 10 that a group of business leaders mediated the March meetings between Republican legislators and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper that led to HB142’s passage. These business leaders included BCBSNC CEO Brad Wilson and BofA executives Andrea Smith and Charles Bowman, among others.
The two corporations had previously boasted of a 100 percent score on HRC’s equality index. Now, both have been demoted to a score of 75 — still a passing grade, but not up to par with banking rival Wells Fargo.
In addition to slashing the companies’ scores, the HRC has decided to reject donations from Bank of America, one of the organization’s national corporate sponsors. HRC has already returned a $25,000 donation, and plans to deny a promise of $300,000 from BofA. There is also talk of reviewing the agreement between HRC and BofA allowing the bank to distribute HRC-brand credit cards, according to the Observer.
“We did not take this action lightly,” read a statement by Deena Fidas, HRC’s director of the Workplace Equality Program. “Bank of America and BCBS NC actively participated in brokering a law that will extend discrimination against countless LGBTQ people across the state of North Carolina – with particularly significant and permanent harm to transgender people.”
“We support LGBT equality and will continue doing so despite HRC’s decision, which does not reflect our long record of leadership,” read a statement by Bank of America spokesman Lawrence DeRita. “We never wavered in our consistent and public position calling for repeal of HB2.”
Bank of America does have a history of support for the LGBTQ community, including winning HRC’s Corporate Equality Award every year from 2006-2013 (a fact the bank proudly declares on its diversity site). Bank of America also sponsors Charlotte Pride and its parade yearly.
Despite the backlash to the corporations’ support of HB142, LGBTQ advocates remain hopeful for the future of the companies’ involvement in community causes. Updates on HB142 come with every new issue of qnotes.
“While this is unfortunate, we know that there are many employees within Bank of America and BCBS NC who are working each day to advance equality,” said Fidas. “We are grateful to them and hope that in the future we can find opportunities to continue working together toward full equality.”