Major companies form group to push for LGBT rights globally

AP News
|
Posted: Sep 29, 2015 3:59 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A dozen corporations, including Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Coca-Cola Co., are joining a new coalition to push for LGBT rights in the workplace in places beyond the U.S. and Western Europe.

The organization is partly a response to the recent setbacks for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights in countries like Russia, Uganda and the Middle East. The Human Rights Campaign-led group will push for protections in the workplace globally, including in countries where LGBT individuals face legal discrimination or harassment.

"They deserve a fair chance to earn a living and provide for their families no matter where they live," said HRC President Chad Griffin.

Corporate America has been cited as a force in the push for gay rights in the U.S., with some companies offering LGBT protections and same-sex partner benefits going back decades. Hundreds of companies signed statements advocating for same-sex marriage when the issue to the Supreme Court earlier this year.

The coalition members are: the consulting firm Accenture, AT&T Inc., software company CA Technologies, Coca-Cola, Destination Weddings Travel Group, Google, IBM, Microsoft, home furnishings maker Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, consumer products giant Procter & Gamble Co., china and glassware company Replacements Ltd., and Symantec Corp. HRC officials expect the group's members to grow.

"We have long supported LGBT rights, but it is very difficult to implement protections for our employees and for their families when laws do not exist or it's a hostile environment," said Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel at Microsoft.

The group collectively employs nearly 1.4 million people in 190 countries and has combined annual revenue of nearly $550 billion.

The coalition will provide the members a common platform to talk about LGBT workplace protections globally. It also will be a platform for companies to get advice on how to implement LGBT friendly policies in places where legal protections may not be there, said Deena Fidas, director of HRC's Workplace Equality Program.

HRC since 2002 has issued a report yearly that scored how well large companies dealt with LGBT-specific issues. However the report, known as the Corporate Equality Index, focused mostly on the U.S., not elsewhere.

The new coalition will join an already existing group of advocacy organizations and companies that have been pushing more workplace protections for individuals beyond the U.S. For example, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, two companies who are not in HRC's inaugural group, have been individually vocal about workplace protections in the countries they do business.

"The conversation around the positive business impacts of LGBT equality is increasingly a global one," said Todd Sears with Out Leadership, a business focused LGBT rights organization, which has held global business focused summits on LGBT workplace issues since 2011.