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Corporate America: the unlikely gay ally

by Malcolm Lazin



The Fortune 500 has reached consensus: homophobia is not good business. The American Family Association (AFA) failed with a threatened boycott to convince Ford Motor Company to pull its ads in gay publications. Threats by AFA and similar organizations also fizzled with Disney, Microsoft, Wells Fargo and Kraft, among others.

Wal-Mart, the largest of the Fortune 500 companies, includes sexual orientation protection in its workplace policies and has retained Witeck-Combs, a marketing consulting firm specializing in the gay community, to conduct staff seminars on the LGBT market.

Five years ago, a minority of Fortune 500 companies provided sexual orientation workplace protection. Currently, 461 (92.2 percent) of the Fortune 500 Companies protect gay employees. Vanguard recently decided to vote its proxy for sexual orientation workplace protection. Vanguard and other institutional stewards understand that diversity is in the best corporate and shareholder interest.
The LGBT market is far larger than realized. Voters News Service and Zogby International data reflect that between four percent to five percent of the American voting population self-identifies as gay or lesbian. According to studies, there are 15 million adult LGBT Americans. 


.............................The American Family Association’s boycotts of
..........................Ford Motor Company, Disney, Microsoft, Wells Fargo
................................and Kraft have repeatedly resulted in failure.

The 15 million adult LGBT Americans with a $610 billion annual buying power compares with 9.3 million adult Asian Americans with a $344 billion annual buying power, 23.8 million adult African Americans with a $688 billion annual buying power and 26.5 million adult Hispanic Americans with a $653 billion annual buying power.
Recently, more gay and lesbian couples are parenting. Even with this growing trend, there is far less than one child per LGBT household. With fewer children per household, the average adult LGBT American has more disposable income. This is reflected in the hospitality industry recognizing LGBT Americans as a highly desirable travel market.

These 15 million adult LGBT Americans with fewer children and higher disposable income become an attractive consumer market for Ford. It is a compelling business reason not to pull Land Rover, Jaguar and other Ford ads from gay publications.
Corporate America has become an instrument of social change. Social conservatives not only find themselves up against core American values such as fairness, but also core principles of free enterprise. Efficient capitalism requires bottom line decisions.
Corporate America has become an ally of LGBT rights not only because so many agree with equality, but because the result is consistent with profit maximization. Capitalists have concluded that for the LGBT market, sagacious business follows the money.

To view Equality Forum’s Fortune 500 Nondiscrimination Project, visit www.equalityforum.com/fortune500.

— Malcolm Lazin is the executive director of Equality Forum, a national nonprofit LGBT organization that undertakes high impact initiatives, produces documentary films, highlights LGBT history and presents the largest national and international annual LGBT civil rights forum.

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