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More US companies tolerant of gays, says group
Tue Sep 20, 2005 1:09 AM ET
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More large U.S. companies have fair-minded policies toward gays than ever before, continuing a trend that began in the 1990s, a gay rights group said on Tuesday.
Gay-inclusive policies, once concentrated in financial and high-tech firms on the east and west coasts, are permeating other industries including defense, chemicals, and oil and gas, the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign Foundation said.
The foundation released its fourth-annual Corporate Equality Index, grading 402 U.S. companies with at least 500 employees on their treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender workers.
This year 101 companies got a perfect score, close to doubling last year's group of 56 companies that received 100 percent. The top-rankers ranged from Dow Chemical Co.
Transgender is a broad term that applies to people who express an innate sense of gender other than their birth sex; this includes transsexuals and cross-dressers.
Raytheon's chief diversity officer, Hayward Bell, said that while the defense industry as a whole was considered more conservative and less tolerant than other industries, Raytheon sought to be progressive.
"We have some excellent performers who happen to be transgender," he told Reuters. "Maybe without this policy, we wouldn't have them."
"Who knows who creates the next technology, or the next innovation, that's going to create a new market, solve a customer's problem or save a life," Bell said. The company's message to its employees was, "We don't care who you are, we care what you can do," he said.
Companies are ranked according to seven criteria for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Corporate Equality Index.
These include whether they have the words "sexual orientation" in their primary written nondiscrimination policy; have the words "gender identity" or "gender expression" in that policy; offer benefits to employees' same-sex partners; have gay employee support groups; offer diversity training that includes sexual orientation; market to the gay community; and have no anti-gay activities such as rescinding benefits or policies.
The campaign says that there are still some companies that actively resist equal treatment for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees.
Mobil had offered benefits to domestic partners and included sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy, but Exxon did neither, the report said -- and when Exxon purchased Mobil in 1999, Mobil employees were brought under Exxon's policies.
An ExxonMobil spokesman said the company did not discriminate. "We continue to believe that we have a policy in place that prohibits discrimination," Russ Roberts said.