These rainbow flag-waving corporations donated millions to anti-gay members of Congress

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The tradition of Pride Month began in 1970 with a series of marches to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, when LGBTQ patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back against harassment and brutality by the police. Before Stonewall, marches by gay and lesbian activists were quiet, with participants dressed in formal attire. After Stonewall, the protests would be loud, with no dress code.

The spread of Pride marches throughout the country galvanized the LGBTQ movement.

As the fight for LGBTQ rights became more mainstream, corporations have latched onto Pride Month as a way of courting the LGBTQ community, an important source of customers and skilled employees.

But do these corporations really support the LGBTQ movement? Popular Information has identified nine rainbow flag-waving corporations that gave $1 million or more to anti-gay politicians in the last election cycle.

Deconstructing corporate pride

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the most prominent organization dedicated to LGBTQ rights, produces a "Corporate Equality Index." In 2019, 572 companies earned a perfect score. HRC says these companies are the "Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality.”

HRC touts these companies not only for strong internal policies for LGBTQ employees but also their public advocacy for LGBTQ rights. “Many of these companies have also become vocal advocates for equality in the public square… leading American businesses have shown that protecting their employees and customers from discrimination isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s also good for business," HRC president Chad Griffin says in the report.

All of the companies that received a perfect score submitted a detailed survey to HRC, meaning they were actively seeking recognition as champions of LGBTQ equality.

HRC also produced a Congressional scorecard. In its latest scorecard, for the 115th Congress, HRC identified 228 members of Congress who received the worst score, a zero. These members voted to confirm anti-gay members of the Trump cabinet (e.g., Betsy Devos), voted to deny health care to trans troops, and did not sponsor or co-sponsor a single piece of legislation in support of LGBTQ rights.

Popular Information identified nine corporations that received a perfect score from HRC but donated $1 million or more in the last election cycle to politicians that received a zero on the HRC Congressional scorecard. The donations were all from corporate PACs to politicians or their leadership PACs.

Why doesn't HRC consider political donations when scoring these companies? HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride sent Popular Information the following statement:

While the CEI [Corporate Equality Index] captures LGBTQ-inclusive policies, practices and benefits, there isn't a one-size fits all way to consistently score companies on the scope and impact of their political donations. We do monitor employers’ contributions to anti-LGBTQ ballot measures and organizations whose primary mission includes anti-LGBTQ advocacy. It is important for reporting like this that asks tough questions of corporations and brings these donations into the public discussion. The Corporate Equality Index is a critical tool for advancing LGBTQ equality in the workplace, but it is not the only tool.

The research in this newsletter was compiled with assistance from Progressive Shopper.

AT&T donated $2,755,000 to 193 anti-gay politicians

AT&T touts its commitment to the LGBTQ community:

As a longtime supporter of the LGBTQ community, AT&T honors National Coming Out Day this Thursday by celebrating love and acceptance with concerts in select cities. We invite everyone to experience the first broadcast of the LOVELOUD Festival on DIRECTV and DIRECTV NOW. AT&T is also powering a volunteer drive with The Trevor Project.

“We stand in support of the LGBTQ community members every day, but National Coming Out Day is cause for celebration,” said Corey Anthony, Chief Diversity Officer, AT&T. “As an ally, our support is long-standing and unwavering.”

Valerie Vargas, Senior Vice President for advertising at AT&T, said the company has an "authentic understanding of the [LGBTQ] community and its organizations" and a "vested interest in their success." As a result, Vargas said, "we believe the LGBTQ community has become more loyal to our brand."

AT&T donated $2,755,000 to 193 anti-gay politicians from 2017 to 2018.

For example, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) received $22,000 from AT&T. Blackburn is a vocal supporter of Trump's effort to roll back trans rights in the military, voted against LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes legislation, opposed the Violence Against Women Act because it included protections for LGBTQ people and opposes marriage equality.

"I have always supported traditional marriage. Despite this decision, no one can overrule the truth about what marriage actually is -- a sacred institution between a man and a woman," Blackburn said.

Blackburn received a zero on HRC's latest scorecard.

UPS donated $2,366,122 to 159 anti-gay politicians

UPS cites not only its support for LGBTQ employees and customers but also its opposition to legislative efforts undermining LGBTQ equality.

UPS has also confirmed its commitment through The Business Statement on Transgender Equality, led by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Out Leadership. Through this commitment, UPS is calling for all people to be treated with respect and dignity, and reaffirming that the company opposes any administrative and legislative efforts to roll back transgender protections through reinterpretation of existing laws and regulations.

UPS Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Eduardo Martinez said UPS "recognizes that it plays an important role in acknowledging basic human rights in accordance with our values and high standards for the ethical, inclusive treatment of people around the world. No person should be denied the right to be treated equally among all people; all should enjoy the personal freedom from persecution and economic, social, and cultural opportunities."

UPS donated $2,366,122 to 159 anti-gay politicians from 2017 to 2018.

For example, UPS donated $20,000 to former Congresswoman Karen Handel (R-GA). During her campaign, Handel reaffirmed her opposition to same-sex adoption. "I think that for a child to be in a household... with a situation where the parents are not married, as in being one man and one woman, is not the best household for a child," Handel said in 2010. She said she would "absolutely" support legislation banning adoption by same-sex parents.

Handel received a zero on HRC's latest scorecard.

Comcast donated $2,116,500 to 154 anti-gay politicians

Touting its recognition by HRC, Comcast said that it is committed to "fostering an open and inclusive culture" by supporting the LGBTQ community.

"It is important to us that every employee at our company – including LGBT employees and their allies – feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work every day," said David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer. "That’s why we are so proud to be recognized as an employer of choice for the LGBT community, which exemplifies Comcast NBCUniversal’s commitment to fostering an open and inclusive culture."

Diversity and inclusion are a top priority at Comcast NBCUniversal, and the company is committed to creating a culture of inclusion for our LGBT employees.

Comcast donated $2,116,500 to 154 anti-gay politicians from 2017 to 2018.

For example, Comcast donated $10,000 to Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), one of the most notoriously anti-gay politicians in Congress. Foxx famously opposed the Matthew Sheppard and James Byrd Jr. Act, which empowered the Department of Justice to prosecute hate crimes against LGBTQ people. Foxx claimed that Sheppard was not murdered because he was gay, calling his death a "hoax."

Foxx received a zero on HRC's latest scorecard.

Home Depot donated $1,825,500 to 111 anti-gay politicians

Home Depot is less demonstrative than the other companies on this list but did put out a press release touting its ranking by HRC.

“We value and respect our associates for who they are, and will continue to ensure our workplace remains diverse, inclusive and reflective of our core values,” Director of Diversity and Inclusion Bea Rodriguez said.

Home Depot donated $1,825,500 to 111 anti-gay politicians from 2017 to 2018.

For example, Home Depot donated $20,000 to Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA). This year, Collins opposed The Equality Act, which would expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, because it included protections for trans people. Collins said that bill would hurt "women, lesbians, and families" by promoting "radical gender ideology." He argues that the bill "prioritizes the rights of biological men over the rights of biological women." It's an absurd claim that was widely adopted by forces that oppose LGBTQ equality.

Passage of The Equality Act is a priority of HRC. Collins received a zero on HRC's latest scorecard.

General Electric donated $1,380,500 to 97 anti-gay politicians

General Electric highlights its perfect score by HRC and its opposition to "laws that discriminate."

General Electric donated $1,380,500 to 97 anti-gay politicians from 2017 to 2018.

For example, the company donated $19,000 to Senator Robert Wicker (R-MS). Wicker was one of the original co-sponsors of the "First Amendment Defense Act" a bill which sought to "permit discrimination by individuals, many businesses, and non-profit organizations against same-sex couples, single parents and unmarried couples." His Senate website touts his opposition to LGBTQ rights.

Wicker received a zero on HRC's latest scorecard.

FedEx donated $1,261,500 to 75 anti-gay politicians

FedEx describes itself as a "strong supporter of the LGBTQ community."

“At FedEx, we believe every team member should have an equal opportunity to succeed and that diversity of gender, race, sexual orientation, nationality and religion makes us stronger. We are proud to have been recognized for our commitment to the LGBTQ community by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation,” said Judy Edge, corporate vice president of Human Resources at FedEx Corp.  “FedEx is as diverse as the world we serve, and we are dedicated to supporting the power of diversity and inclusion among our team members across the globe.”

FedEx is a strong supporter of the LGBTQ community.

FedEx donated $1,261,500 to 75 anti-gay politicians from 2017 to 2018.

For example, the company donated $41,000 to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK). When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in 2015, Inhofe claimed that he knew a lot of people in "the gay community" and they opposed the decision. "I know a lot of people, actually a lot of people who are friends of mine in the gay community, who also think it was a bad decision," Inhofe said. In 2015, Inhofe introduced "anti-LGBT amendment would endorse the idea that businesses and organizations should be allowed to use taxpayer funds to discriminate against married same-sex couples."

Inhofe received a zero on HRC's latest scorecard.

UBS donated $1,094,750 to 72 anti-gay politicians

UBS not only participates in Pride Month, but it also says that LGBT equality is critical to economic success.

The economics of LGBT equality is the economics of prejudice. Prejudice takes place when a person, a firm, or society makes a choice using irrational ideas. Treating someone who is LGBT as different because they are LGBT is not rational. The fact that someone is LGBT does not affect how well a person can do their job. A firm or a society that treats people who are LGBT as being different from other people will not do as well in economic and financial terms. In short, prejudice is bad.

UBS donated $1,094,750 to 72 anti-gay politicians from 2017 to 2018.

For example, the company donated $5,000 to Congressman Alex Mooney (R-WV). As a state legislator in Maryland, where he served before moving to West Virginia, Mooney led the fight against "a proposal to prevent discrimination against gay men, lesbians and bisexuals based on their sexual orientation." During the floor debate, Mooney attacked the brother of then-Governor Parris Glendening, who died of an AIDS-related illness. "If you're not practicing a certain homosexual lifestyle, you're not going to contract that disease. We're promoting an activity that can result in death," Mooney said.

Mooney received a zero on HRC's latest scorecard.

Verizon donated $1,022,803 to 74 anti-gay politicians

Verizon says it "demonstrate[s] leadership by reinforcing its commitment to policies important to the LGBTQ community."

This year, we endorsed the Equality Act, an important bill that prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system...

Craig Silliman, Verizon General Counsel and GLOBE Executive Champion stated, “Having employees with diverse backgrounds and experiences enriches our culture and helps us meet the needs of our increasingly diverse customers. We want laws throughout the U.S. to ensure that such diversity can thrive.”

Verizon donated $1,022,803 to 74 anti-gay politicians from 2017 to 2018.

For example, the company donated $6,000 to Congressman David Rouzer (R-NC). Rouzer was an outspoken supporter of HB2, an anti-gay North Carolina law that excluded "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from state anti-discrimination protection" and banned "local governments from adopting their own anti-bias measures."

Rouzer received a zero on HRC's latest scorecard.

Verizon also donated $11,500 to Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH). Latta signed onto a brief by the American Center for Law & Justice, an anti-gay group founded by Pat Robertson, that sought to overturn DC's marriage equality law. This year Latta voted against a bill to ban discrimination against LGBTQ people, saying it "goes against our country’s foundational values."

Pfizer donated $959,263 to 52 anti-gay politicians

Pfizer says it is "very proud to demonstrate our commitment and leadership on issues of importance to the LGBT community." More than some other companies, Pfizer is open about the fact that it believes being perceived as pro-LGBTQ helps its bottom line.

[A] study by market research firm Harris Interactive found that approximately two-thirds of LGBT adults, or roughly 66 percent, would be very or somewhat likely to remain loyal to a company or brand they believed to be supportive of the LGBT community, even when less-supportive competitors offered lower prices or greater convenience.

Pfizer donated $959,263 to 52 anti-gay politicians from 2017 to 2018.

CORRECTION (6/19): This article originally reported that Pfizer donated $11,500 to to Congressman Bob Latta. This was an error. It was Verizon that donated $11,500 to Latta.

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