Is that Jim Crow I Hear Cawing?

Credit: Steve Benson/The Republic

Credit: Steve Benson/The Republic

I’ve often pondered if people in our country are actually more stupid than they were years ago.  You would think that with all the advances in technology, education, you name it, we would get a bit smarter over time or if nothing else at least a little less ignorant.  When it comes down to it I expect the percentages of smart vs not-smart haven’t necessarily changed a great deal – despite the opportunities for people to learn and experience more given great strides in education and the advances we all experience in technology.  I think part of it is just that there are a lot more people overall and there just seem to be a lot more stupid people walking around.  I think the other thing that has happened is there are many more opportunities for people to demonstrate the breadth and depth of their stupidity and/or ignorance so many who in the past might have gone unnoticed are now out in the open.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. – Abraham Lincoln

And for those of you of more a religious persuasion –

“Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” – Proverbs 17:28

Arizona Legislators in Session

Arizona Legislators in Session

In the broader sense, the issue of gay rights is one of the opportunities for people to show their stupid and ignorant side.   The latest example is the current legislation that has passed in Arizona that allows business owners asserting their religious beliefs to refuse service to gays.  In fairness to Arizona, they are not alone in their efforts to return their state to “better times” when the various Jim Crow laws legitimized discrimination and prejudice and worked very effectively to limit the rights of people in our country whom were not of the same mindset or belief system.  Similar religious protection legislation has been introduced in Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma – not really a surprise given not one of these states is ever recognized for progressive thinking.   Here again, under the guise of religion, we have a situation where one works to justify a horrid and what will eventually be recognized as illegal legislation.  The fact that the element of discrimination is entirely ignored by the legislators in Arizona is something I just don’t get although I do believe that religion can be mind-numbing when put in the hands of people who probably don’t think for themselves anyhow.   So it all comes down to Gov. Jan Brewer and her next move.

Someone should have mentioned SPF30...

Someone should have mentioned SPF30…

Do we trust Brewer will do the right thing and veto this law?  Remember this is the same woman who felt it appropriate to derisively wag her bony finger at President Obama on the tarmac during a visit to Arizona and who was too busy to attend a Governor’s dinner at the White House.  This is also the same woman who eliminated the Arizona KidsCare progam which provided healthcare to uninsured children and stopped Medicaid payments for transplants.  She loves guns and hates immigrants. This is the woman who in 2012 signed a law that barred state funding from going to any organization that provides abortion services. This meant that Planned Parenthood, which doesn’t use state money for abortions, was be deprived of funds they would have used to provide all manner of sexual health services, including services used by victims of sexual assault.  Bad enough on its own but when one considers that her son, Ronald, has been a patient at the state mental hospital for the last 20+ years after he was found not guilty of kidnap and sexual assault by reason of insanity.  In 1989, Ronald Brewer allegedly broke into a woman’s apartment, slapped her several times, and committed sex acts on her. After his 1990 indictment, his mother claimed that Ronald had “decompensated,” a psychiatric defense which means that although he’d been functioning normally before the attack, his state deteriorated. His lawyers argued that Ronald didn’t know, at the time, that what he was doing was wrong, and a judge agreed, committing Ronald indefinitely to the state’s hospital, where he still lives although he is free to leave with staff or with his parents.  Even more interesting is that in the days before Jan Brewer was sworn in as the state’s governor in 2009, Ronald’s criminal records were sealed – his case being only four out of 40,000 total criminal cases that were sealed in Maricopa County in Arizona in 2009.   She is the Tin Man – the epitome of a 2014 Tea Party Republican – a self-serving, do as I say not as I do, hate-mongering homophobe.

At least they were able to sit and get service....

At least they were able to sit and get service….

To allow this Arizona legislation to go forward brings us back to a time of which we should all be ashamed – but unfortunately only some of us are.  Religious Freedom my ass.

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Wrapping up the Year – Phil Robertson and A&E

I thought I would take a moment and walk back thru the various topics and events I took time to blog about over the last year.  To be honest, in re-reading some of my posts I was, if nothing else, rather wordy but if I keep in mind that my original intent of this blog was to look for some means of catharsis, I’m not surprised at the brain dumps I’ve shared.  In looking back I managed to hit a broad set of subjects from gun control (coming into 2013 on the heels of Newtown, CT) to the Presidential primaries and the election to a good amount of time on the current state of the country as it relates to where we are in the LGBT discussion.  Overall, I’d say the year was more good than bad as we managed to keep the Republicans out of the White House and the country actually moved ahead in a positive manner when it came to rights of members of the LGBT community.  Not only are the majority of Americans supportive of gay rights, we now have I believe 18 states where gays can legally marry – quite an increase from where we started the year.  Top this with the defeat of DOMA and overall not bad although the journey ahead is still long and will be painful.

Sadly though, we have actually taken steps backwards when it comes to gun control and the violence and death that inevitably links itself to owning a gun.  One does have to wonder why is is so easy to quickly forget the people innocently massacred this past year by people who are obviously able to legally obtain weapons when in most cases they probably shouldn’t be walking the streets among the rest of us.  No doubt this will be a topic of future posts as I expect there will be numerous incidents in the coming year where the idiocy of our fascination with guns and the right to kill will result in more death and mayhem.

credit to: StickerGiant.com Inc.

credit to: StickerGiant.com Inc.

But as my last post of 2013, I thought I’d stay with a topic I’ve commented on numerous times this past year.  And in this case I get to wrap up a number of my rants into one situation – that of Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty and the recent attention he has received given his ongoing display of bigotry and ignorance.  I won’t spend too much time on his comments about how happy black citizens were in 50’s and 60’s in his home state of Louisiana but just that professed opinion (which I have no doubt he actually believes) pretty much defines Robertson for what he is.  When we look at his homophobic view of gays and his justification thru religion and the bible, I again froth at the mouth at the obvious schizophrenic nature of many who profess to be followers of Jesus and his ways but yet preach hate and intolerance.  In the case of Robertson, like many “born again” Christians, we have people who were pretty much shits and lowlifes who all of a sudden become good people and all is forgotten because they found God.  Pretty convenient and quite the means for Phil to become a patriarch who can stand up and profess more knowledge and wisdom on how others should lead their lives.  Lest we not forget that Phil had quite the struggle with alcohol, ran into issues with the law based on his inability to control himself and managed to actually abandon his wife and 3 kids early in their marriage.  Even his shallow-thinking wife, Kay, admitted that he was running around on her during that time – but, nice excuse, it wasn’t really Phil, it was the devil.  Where is Flip Wilson when you need him.  For those who feel that Robertson has it figured out I do point them to reasonably recent comments he made on marriage and the benefits of marrying when the girl is still around 16 or 17 because once they hit their twenties, all they want is to pick your pockets.  Wow, pretty enlightened.  But again, I forget we are talking about Louisiana whose primary contribution to society has been muskrat stew and levees.

Phil_Robertson_football_throwing

Pre-Jesus Phil

I’ll admit, I’ve watched Duck Dynasty quite regularly and despite the religious overtones, the right-wing attitudes and the crap coming out of Phil’s mouth,  I did stay tuned given the entertainment value – nothing I haven’t had to tolerate in just normal day-to-day living.  To be honest, most of us know this was mostly schtick made up for the camera.  It wasn’t that long ago that none of the Robertsons had beards.  When the comments Robertson made in GQ came out and A&E initially suspended Robertson, I did take the time to let A&E know I supported their decision.  I guess I was in the minority as A&E has since managed to retreat from their position and reinstate Phil just in time for the filming of the next season.  In hindsight how stupid was I to think that A&E wouldn’t whore themselves out as soon as the dollars became the focus – in actuality that is what almost every decision in today’s world is really about.

DuckDynasty_not

So to follow a theme I’ve set in previous blogs, those of us who are somewhat educated and actually believe in human rights can speak equally loud on the reversal of A&E’s stance on Robertson by making it clear where we are spending our time and money.  If we don’t watch Duck Dynasty, that potentially drops advertising revenue.  I will not watch it again.  This is again an opportunity where we need to speak up and make it clear that there are some beliefs we can’t support.  And it’s not about Free Speech and First Amendment rights – nice try – you can all say anything you want – it’s just that the rest of the world has equal right to say what they won’t accept or support.  To stay on a theme – Most importantly we can speak thru our wallets.

A&E_not

LGBT Equality In the Workplace – 2013

Back in the June 2012 timeframe, I posted several blogs referencing the position companies in America have taken regarding the rights of the LGBT community as reflected in their corporate or company policies.  For anyone following the issues – political, legal, social, whatever – faced by this community over the past year, there has been some real positive change achieved – key events I’ve also tried to capture as they happen in my blogs.  While there has been a good deal of positive movement forward it is unfortunate we still have the haters and bigoted core of people who see their mission to ensure that anyone different – in most ways – from themselves be held to the same rules of life they profess to hold – not necessarily live by but at least say the words.  My view on these people need not be repeated in this particular blog as it is very evident in most of what I have written – basically a pox on these dim-witted and heartless cretins.  Sorry – I digress.

But with all the progress I think we’ve seen this past year, we can’t forget we still need to get the message out where we can actually influence.  While I don’t expect to ever change their views – it takes an active mind and ability for them to think and reason – I still submit the best approach is in what remains the greatest lever we have as a country – hit them in their pocketbooks.  We all have the opportunity to choose where we spend our money – or where we don’t spend it.  The HRC or Human Rights Campaign Foundation provides us an ongoing view of how Corporate America takes account of equality across our people, particularly in terms of how the workplace approaches Lesbian,Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality.  Every year they publish their Corporate Equality Index (CEI) and the publication for 2013 was recently released.  This is the 11th year of the Index and it has provided a good means to track how we are doing in the Workplace no matter the inequities and bias that remains in the various levels of our government.   There is a wealth of information available in the publication to which I can’t really give justice so I would suggest a visit to their site – http://www.hrc.org/ – or  http://www.hrc.org/corporate-equality-index/#.UozWxOLyQYk  to view or download the actual Corporate Equality Index publication.  While I’m happy to say that the company where I am employed is in that group of Fortune 100 corporations scoring a perfect 100 on the CEI scale, the number of major corporations that remain out there in 2013 that don’t is astounding as well as a disgrace.

Some of the good news:  Despite the reality that people can be legally denied a job or fired simply for their sexual orientation in 29 states and their gender identity in 34, Corporations in America have ignored antiquated and biased legislation to provide these protections in their company.  From the report – “For the first time in history, a majority of the Fortune 500 offers both sexual orientation and gender identity protections. Beyond these basic and essential protections, record numbers of Fortune-ranked and other major businesses have comprehensively updated their benefits packages to ensure that newcomers to their workplaces can expect both partner benefits and transgender-inclusive benefits and that retiring LGBT workers will see the financial benefits that they have worked so hard to accrue will go to their surviving family members.”

STATEWIDE EMPLOYMENT LAWS AND POLICIES - From HRC.com

From HRC.com

The bad news is that there are still many corporations and companies who remain staunchly opposed to equality in this space.  The HRC site has a great tool that should help you decide where you might want to open your wallet and more importantly where not.  Their “Buyer’s Guide” is located at http://www.hrc.org/apps/buyersguide/index.php#.UozaNeLyQYk.   Here you can view, by shopping category, those companies which excel in workplace equality as well as those companies where progress has been essentially non-existent.  To help us when we are on the go, they actually have an Iphone application for anyone with mobile Apple devices.  For other mobile platforms (Android, Windows 8) they offer the ability to access the data from any mobile phone by just texting SHOP and the company or product name to 30644.

While I have had some insight into the companies I don’t want to buy from, in reviewing the information across the categories in the Buyer’s Guide I was astounded by some of the companies that remain in the social dark ages.  I’m sad to say that a good number of my purchases have been from companies in the list below – just one example of the information in the Guide – it includes the Company, their brands, their overall CEI rating (Green, Amber, Red) and their actual CEI score.  Guess I won’t be purchasing that Rolex any time soon…..

I wish I could easily provide all the data but it is just too extensive but I would suggest you at least take a quick stop at one of the links I’ve indicated above and become a more informed consumer and shopper.  We’ve all been made aware of the companies that extensively use sweat shops and basically slave labor to provide their products from overseas (hello, Walmart?) – maybe we need to be a bit more discerning of how companies that do business on our own shores treat our sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, friends, whatever – your choice of whose success you want to support.  Is it possible to stop shopping at all the sub-par companies? Probably not unfortunately given the wide expanse of ones we all typically shop at but, to quote Chinese philosopher Laozi – “The longest journey begins with the first step”.

NOTE: The following copied directly from the HRC Buyer’s Guide

Apparel & Accessories

Business Rating Rank
Abercrombie & Fitch  abercrombie kids; Gilly Hicks; Hollister; 100
Gap  Athleta; babyGap; Banana Republic; GapBody; GapKids; Old Navy; Piperlime; 100
Levi Strauss  Denizen; Dockers; Levi’s; Signature by Levi Strauss & Co.; 100
Limited Brands  Henri Bendel; La Senza; Pink; Victoria’s Secret; 100
Nike  Cole Haan; Converse; Hurley; NIKE Golf; Umbro; 100
Nordstrom  1901; Calibrate; Classiques Entier; Halogen; HauteLook; Jeffrey; Last Chance; Nordstrom Direct; Nordstrom Rack; Public Opinion; Trouvé; Zella; 100
Sears  Apostrophe; Canyon River Blues; Covington; Jaclyn Smith; Joe Boxer; Lands’ End; Structure; 100
Target  C9 by Champion; Cherokee; Circo; Gilligan & O’Malley; Honors; In Due Time; Liz Lange; Merona; Mossimo; Nick & Nora; Utility; Xhilaration; 100
TJX  HomeGoods; Marshalls; T.J.Maxx; 100
A|X Armani Exchange  95
American Eagle  77kids; aerie; 95
J.C. Penney  a.n.a; Ambrielle; American Living; Arizona; Arizona Jean Co.; cooks; Decree; east5th; Every Day Matters; J. Ferrar; Linden Street; Okie Dokie; St. John’s Bay; Stafford; Studio; Worthington; 95
Bon-Ton Stores  Bergner’s; Boston Store; Carson Pirie Scott; Elder-Beerman; Herberger’s; Younkers; 90
Kenneth Cole  Gentle Souls; Kenneth Cole New York; Kenneth Cole Reaction; Le Tigre; Unlisted; 90
Macy’s  Alfani; American Rag; Bar III; Bloomingdale’s; Charter Club; Club Room; Epic Threads; First Impressions; Giani Bernini; Greendog; I.N.C.; Jenni by Jennifer Moore; JM Collection; Martha Stewart Collection; Style & Co.; Tasso Elba; 90
Ralph Lauren  Chaps; Club Monaco; Denim & Supply; Lauren; Lauren Jeans Co.; Ralph Lauren Black Label; Ralph Lauren Childrenswear; Ralph Lauren Collection; Ralph Lauren Golf; Ralph Lauren Purple Label; RLX; RRL; Rugby; 90
REI  Novara; REI Private Brands; 90
Tiffany & Co.  90
Fifth & Pacific  Juicy Couture; kate spade; Lucky Brand Jeans; Mac & Jac; 85
A�ropostale  P.S. from Aéropostale; 75
Coach  Reed Krakoff; 75
Hanover Direct  International Male; Silhouettes; UnderGear; 70
The Jones Group  Anne Klein; Bandolino; Easy Spirit; Enzo Angiolini; Evan-Picone; Gloria Vanderbilt; Joan & David; Jones New York; Judith Jack; Kasper; l.e.i; Le Suit; Mootsies Tootsies; Napier; Nine West; Rachel Roy; Sam & Libby; 70
L.L. Bean  65
Burlington Coat Factory  Cohoes; MJM Designer Shoes; 60
Hanesbrands  Bali; Barely There; Champion; Duofold; Gear for Sports; Hanes; Just My Size; L’eggs; Outer Banks; Playtex; Wonderbra; 60
PVH  Arrow; Bass; Calvin Klein; IZOD; Tommy Hilfiger; Van Heusen; 60
H&M  55
Brown Shoe  Avia; Buster Brown; Dr. Scholl’s Shoes; Famous Footwear; Franco Sarto; Lifestride; Naturalizer; rykä; Sam Edelman; Vera Wang Lavender; Via Spiga; 35
Ann Taylor  LOFT; 30
J. Crew  crewcuts; Madewell; 30
The Men’s Wearhouse  K&G; Twinhill; 30
Adidas  Reebok; Rockport; TaylorMade; 15
Burberry  15
Collective Brands  Airwalk; Keds; Payless ShoeSource; Saucony; Sperry Top-Sider; Stride Rite; 15
Donna Karan  DKNY; 15
Foot Locker  CCS; Champs Sports; Eastbay; Footaction; Kids Foot Locker; Lady Foot Locker; 15
Guess?  G by GUESS; GUESS by Marciano; GUESS kids; 15
Neiman Marcus  Bergdorf Goodman; CUSP; Last Call; 15
Urban Outfitters  Anthropologie; BHLDN; Free People; 15
VF  7 For All Mankind; Bulwark; Eagle Creek; Eastpak; Ella Moss; JanSport; John Varvatos; Kipling; Lee; lucy Activewear; Majestic; Napapijri; Nautica; Red Kap; Reef; Rock & Republic; Seven for all Mankind; SmartWool; Splendid; The North Face; Timberland; Vans; Wrangler Jeans; 15
Warnaco Group  Olga; Warner’s; 15
Berkshire Hathaway  Acme Boot; Fruit of the Loom; Garan; H.H. Brown Shoe Company; JERZEES; Justin Brands; Russell Athletics; Spalding; 0
Cabela’s  0
Chico’s  Boston Proper; Soma; White House/Black Market; 0
Dolce & Gabbana  D&G; 0
Fossil  0
Giorgio Armani  Armani Collezioni; Armani Jeans; Emporio Armani; 0
Gucci  Alexander McQueen; 0
Quiksilver  DC Shoes; Gnu; Hawk; Lib Tech; Radio Fiji; Roxy; 0
Rolex  0
Ross Stores  dd’s DISCOUNTS; 0
Under Armour  0
Versace  0

ENDA – Another National Disgrace for Nation – Boehner and the House

Today, the US Senate passed a bill banning workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals.  What you say?  It has not been illegal to fire people based on the fact they are gay or they are trans-gender?  No, in the United States while no one can can lose their job simply because of their race, gender, religion or a disability, they can because of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Of course, most all of the Fortune 500 companies (88%) have policies that cover this but there is no federal law that does.  The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is legislation that was proposed for the first time in 1994 in the United States Congress.  It prohibits discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers with at least 15 employees.  When I first read about this law I, like many, was surprised that we don’t have this law on the books already.  In fact, there are 29 states where it is perfectly legal to terminate the employment of an individual who may be gay or transgender. The reality is that it is legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on his or her sexual orientation in 29 states. For those who are transgender they can be fired or denied employment solely based on their gender identity in 33 states.  Take a look at the map – won’t be real surprising which states but that is a whole other topic.   Pretty astounding when you think about it that in 2013, more than five decades after passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act and then subsequent passage of the American Disabilities Act, we still have a country where this can happen.  To be honest, this is one of those “duh” moments where you wouldn’t think there should be even a question – not like I’m forcing you to take healthcare.  But we have a couple of key problems we need to cover as we look at why this has been taking so long and why, given the stance taken by those broad and deep thinkers in the US House – John Boehner in particular.

capenda

Credit: HRC.org

The arguments justifying this continued discrimination are several:

First, of course is the idea that it is okay to discriminate if something goes against the tenets of your so-called religion.  One of the core objections against ENDA bases itself in the religious right and flails around with the oft-cited “religious freedom” banner.  That too has been the rallying call behind the forces that have tried to stop many other causes that have come about to right the wrongs many of our citizens have endured over the years.  I read it as “I should be able to discriminate against anyone and anything that doesn’t fit into my set of beliefs” – which of course makes sense because they are right and there are no other belief systems with any merit.  But try to challenge their rights in any manner and listen to the cries of discrimination.  They feel that this legislation affords special protection to a group that is not disadvantaged so it isn’t really an issue of discrimination.  I don’t know but when I look around and see the second class citizen status these people have been pushed into, seems a bit disadvantaged to me.  For anyone reading my blogs with any consistency, you will know I have little regard or time for those who profess religious base and demand special rights but don’t see the same rights for others and have no issue refusing to acknowledge that their view of the world, which might work for them, might not work for anyone else.   See how far I would get if I, as an atheist, decided not to hire anyone who believed in a God because it somehow appalls me.  Not sure that would fly.  Of course, the immediate response would be that I couldn’t do that because you can’t discriminate against an individual based on their belief in a God.  But believing in a God doesn’t fit into my belief framework around religion.  Where’s my religious freedom?  Again. ridiculous argument on one level but not sure where it is that different – mostly because reality and what is “real” as far as beliefs and what fits and doesn’t fit is in the eye of the beholder.  And in the case of these religious zealots, the eyes seem pretty well closed.  And, oh by the way, while I strongly disagree it since we are still allowing discrimination, religious organizations are provided an exception from this protection, similar to that found in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  So you already have your cake – you don’t need to eat it too.  We don’t have to live as you do (well, not that most of you really live what you speak – again, a whole other topic).

credit: http://www.believeoutloud.com

The Hypocrisy of it all
credit: http://www.believeoutloud.com

Now, onto John Boehner, the majority leader of the US House who has consistently demonstrated he doesn’t get that he is there at the will of the people in this country.  He, single-handedly, will keep ENDA from hitting the House floor and therefore will try to ensure we continue to allow states to discriminate.  Now, I happen to think that Johnny B. is somewhat of an asshole.  Okay maybe not somewhat but entirely.  Anyone who can effectively allow our government to shut down and bring us to the brink of default seems to have some flaws in leadership capability and really doesn’t get any points for style.  But I digress.  In the case of ENDA we see his opposition is really about jobs and the economy.  His spokesman, Michael Steel said the bill “will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”   Anyone seeing a pattern here.  I think he has one page of talking points and it is “one size fits all”.  Aside from helping continue the Republican death march they started with the shutdown last month, this stance continues to play politics with our citizens and their rights.  Not sure I understand the frivolous litigation other than the reality that we won’t allow businesses to discriminate in this area and we are protecting the rights of real people – doesn’t sound frivolous.  Also easy to fix – don’t discriminate.  I don’t know what you can do about Johnny boy here other than hope that the cigarettes and tanning booths actually take an early toll.  In the meantime, I do have to wonder what skeletons he has in his closet – he doth protest too much.

Maybe John has a small secret?

Maybe John has a small secret?

So why did this particular item lead me to a blog?  Despite the rant and the throwing of my usual rocks, I hope this one is a little educational.  I pride myself on being up on most things but was taken entirely by surprise on the issue behind ENDA.  This is a national embarrassment that needs to be rectified as soon as we can.  If it be by election (hopefully it won’t take that long) then we need to inform.

Okay, last surprise – Fox News didn’t see ENDA as a news-worthy item as it advanced toward the Senate vote today – and of the 4 minutes of coverage it got, two minutes was spent discussing how ENDA was a planned distraction to take attention away from coverage of Obamacare.

credit: mediamatters.org

credit: mediamatters.org

Speak a bit louder with our Wallets

As anyone whom has followed my postings has read, I have considerable issue with those people who feel it is their right and their collective duty to make sure that everyone in our country follow their rules and beliefs.  While we have made progress as a country in some areas, there remain those individuals and groups who yearn for days of old – when actually the lives of most anyone other than white, protestant men pretty much sucked a good deal of the time.  Given the collective stupor that many of the people in this country walk thru life with on a daily basis, I get increasingly scared of what might happen with this next election.  The Republicans speak to this being probably the most important election of our lifetime – and I am inclined to agree but for obviously different reasons.  We have made progress and as a society I would submit we are more open and less condemning in many ways – most credit to our young people but also a bit of credit to those of us who came of age in the 60’s, didn’t forget everything that decade was about, and brought up children who can think and feel and can accept that which doesn’t necessarily mirror their own image.

But it is time to help push back on those who don’t see a path forward for the minorities in our country.  In specific, I want to make it known to those so clearly supportive of withholding the rights of individuals who are part of the LGBT community.  While society is definitely moving (albeit slowly) in the direction of universal recognition of the individual’s rights in this situation, it is time to turn up the pressure where possible.  Not a new notion at all but we now need to employ every tool and option available to make our collective voices and wants known.  That one tool that rarely fails is the economic one – and in this case it means we need to make clearer decisions about where we shop and what companies get our dollars.

MSN recently took this to task on their website and it gave me the opportunity to learn a bit more about where I shouldn’t be shopping.  Some of the anti-gay companies are obvious and well known.  There are some that surprised me and I know there are many more I have not even found at this point.

I would hope that anyone who has actually taken the time to read this far is someone who is open-minded enough to consider this action.  I’ll assume that anyone who supports this discrimination stopped reading awhile ago – maybe a big assumption given what I believe the average education level of many of those so visciously against this idea.  Not sure many of them have ever used a computer or the internet – and more amazing that they are proud of that fact.

In any case, here is the data from that posting (and all credit to MSN) –

First, the bad –

Cinemark

The 2008 landmark Proposition 8 same-sex-marriage battle in California can be viewed as a line-in-the-sand, either-you-are-with-us-or-against-us moment. With record amounts of money raised, Prop 8 was the election-year’s cause célèbre on both sides of the fence, with every business intensely scrutinized for where it stood.

One business that felt a backlash in the wake of Prop 8 was Cinemark (CNK), the nation’s third-largest theater chain, after CEO Alan Stock donated $9,999 to the “Yes on 8” campaign. The donation prompted opponents of the referendum to initiate a boycott on Cinemark.

Exasperated officials of the theater chain pointed out that Stock’s contribution was a personal decision and that the company had not taken a position on the referendum.

Chick-fil-A

S. Truett Cathy, founder of the popular chicken sandwich maker, is a devout Christian and his beliefs are reflected in how the private company operates. All Chick-fil-A restaurants close on Sundays and the company donates to community service organizations.

Not every community group can expect a donation from Cathy, of course. Late last year, the advocacy group Equality Matters examined the company’s charitable contributions and said it discovered that a large proportion of the aid went to organizations noted for their anti-gay beliefs.

In 2009, for example, through its charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation, Chick-fil-A donated $1.7 million to groups including the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Eagle Forum and others opposed to gay rights.

After news broke of where Chick-fil-A’s charitable donations were going, students at schools like Northeastern University and New York University protested the chain’s presence on their campuses. The administration at Northeastern eventually scrapped plans to bring a Chick-fil-A to its campus.

In response, Chick-fil-A vice-president Donald Perry published a letter in the Boston Globe in which he asserted that the contributions were made to assist faith-based organizations, and critics were wrong to assume that the giver was exercising an anti-gay agenda

Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) has yet to add gender identity to its employment nondiscrimination policy. Employees of the company also do not get domestic partner benefits, except in states where it is legally required. Because of that, Wal-Mart received a low score of 40 in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

Additionally, CEO Mike Duke stepped into controversy in 2008 when he signed a petition seeking a ban on gay adoption in the company’s home state of Arkansas.

More recently, the big box retailer stirred up controversy when it gave shelf space to a book about “overcoming homosexuality.”

Given that the book was by no means a best-seller, that Wal-Mart, which usually stocks popular mainstream titles, chose to carry it could be an indicator that it is throwing its weight behind one side of the issue.

Urban Outfitters

Behind Urban Outfitters’ trendy, liberal image lies a conservative core. Richard Hayne, the company’s founder and chief executive, made headlines last year when it was revealed that he had donated money to former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. The kicker? Haynes initially denied he ever made the donation. When presented with evidence, he said: “I’ll have to look into this. I don’t think this is right.”

Former tween queen Miley Cyrus, who has voiced support of equal rights for gays, has said she would boycott the store.

Because of the clientele it serves, Urban Outfitters is seemingly caught in an awkward standoff between appealing to its core demographic and its founder’s personal beliefs. Case in point: the company sold T-shirts saying “I Support Same-Sex Marriage” during the battle over California’s Proposition 8, but the merchandise was quickly pulled from the stores’ shelves. The move generated consumer complaints, which were not assuaged by the company’s assertion that the T-shirt was pulled because of low sales.

ExxonMobil

And which companies are least accommodating? The list starts with a company whose policies changed after a merger.

Before merging with Exxon, Mobil was one of the most progressive Fortune 500 companies, with a nondiscrimination policy that covered sexual orientation and a benefits policy that extended health coverage to employees’ gay and lesbian partners. Those benefits were rescinded when the merger went through, in 1999. In every years since, ExxonMobil (XOM) shareholders have attempted to get sexual orientation added back to the company’s nondiscrimination policy, to no avail.

Typically, the company lets the resolution be introduced at its annual meeting, recommends a no vote and lets shareholders shoot it down. This year, however, the Houston company asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to prevent a resolution from getting to the table, a request the regulatory agency denied. So another shareholder vote was conducted at the energy company’s annual meeting, in late May, and once again a motion to include sexual orientation in the company’s nondiscrimination policy was roundly defeated.

ExxonMobil has consistently received a score of zero in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index, which measures the level of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in American workplaces. This year, for the first time, the company received a negative score.

And now the good  –

Goldman Sachs

The Human Rights Campaign, a national organization that promotes equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, recently made Goldman Sachs (GS) chief Lloyd Blankfein its first national corporate spokesman for same-sex marriage.

His agreement to promote marriage equality has already cost Blankfein’s company at least one client, Blankfein told Out on the Street, a gay-rights advocacy group in New York’s financial district.

“They didn’t want to continue a relationship that they had with us in money management,” Blankfein was quoted as saying. Blankfein opted to protect the client’s anonymity, but his remarks suggest the account was a high profile one: “(I)f you heard the name, it wouldn’t surprise you,” he said.

Boeing

More than a decade ago, the last place one may have expected to find forward thinking on the issue would be inside an aerospace and defense corporation. That’s why Boeing (BA) made headlines in 1999 for being an early adopter of same-sex domestic partner benefits for employees.

A decade later, Boeing took up the fight to extend domestic partnership rights in Washington state, where the company was founded and retains a significant manufacturing base.

Boeing supported a 2009 referendum on a domestic-partnership law approved by the state Legislature. Other Pacific Northwest companies, including Microsoft (MSFT), Starbucks (SBUX), Nike (NKE) and RealNetworks (RNWK), were quick to join Boeing in a corporate coalition to advance the cause. (Microsoft owns and publishes MSN Money.)

The state passed same-sex legislation earlier this year, but at the time of this slide show’s publication, a referendum overturning the law appears headed for a November vote.

A joint statement from the coalition read: “Overturning this law would undo years of equal rights progress made in Washington state. We do not believe that this step backward would be in the best interest for the future of our state.”

J.C. Penney

It’s unlikely that J.C. Penney (JCP) anticipated the level of controversy that ensued when it hired Ellen DeGeneres as a spokeswoman for a campaign aimed at revitalizing the brand.

Far from polarizing, DeGeneres is a mainstream figure, with a daily television talk show.  She has hosted the Oscars broadcast and served as a judge on such shows as “American Idol”.

But hiring a lesbian spokeswoman was the wrong move, cried the One Million Moms organization, a project of the American Family Association, which threatened to boycott J.C. Penney unless the retailer dropped DeGeneres.

J.C. Penney not only refused to cave to the group’s demands, the Plano, Texas, company sought to more closely align itself with gay rights, saying it “shares the same values” as DeGeneres. More recently, it featured gay men in a Father’s Day ad.

Google

Californians voted in 2008 to keep same-sex couples from marrying. The ballot initiative (known as Proposition 8) was fought by several Silicon Valley stalwarts, including Google (GOOG), Apple (AAPL), Intuit (INTU), Adobe Systems (ADBE) and eBay (EBAY).

Apple donated $100,000 to the effort to defeat the proposition. Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, meanwhile, contributed a combined $140,000 to help defeat the Prop 8 campaign.

“While we respect the strongly held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality,” Brin and Page said at the time in a prepared statement.

Ben & Jerry’s

The self-described “activist brand,” owned by foods giant Unilever (UL), has often used its products to reflect its politics. When the Green Mountain State’s passed legislation sanctioning same-sex marriage in 2009, the South Burlington, Vt., ice cream maker celebrated with a makeover of its Chubby Hubby flavor, serving up Hubby Hubby sundaes at its Vermont retail locations.

In March, in response to the United Kingdom’s plans to grant gay men and lesbians the option of entering into civil marriages, Ben & Jerry’s began dubbing its Oh My Apple Pie flavor (not available in the United States) the matrimonially-minded Apple-y Ever After.

Ben & Jerry’s people “believe love is love”.

Just out of curiosity – why do they always look like this?

As I did some looking beyond MSN, I found some additional information that adds a few names to list of where not to shop.  I came across an organization that will of course be condemned by many whose beliefs run contrary but the data is the data.  The Human Rights Campaign (taking liberally from thier web page) is the “largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, the Human Rights Campaign represents a force of more than one million members and supporters nationwide — all committed to making HRC’s vision a reality.  Founded in 1980, HRC advocates on behalf of LGBT Americans, mobilizes grassroots actions in diverse communities, invests strategically to elect fair-minded individuals to office and educates the public about LGBT issues.”   The organization publishes their CEI report, released each fall, which provides an in-depth analysis and rating of large U.S. employers and their policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.  Companies are rated on a scale from 0% to 100% reflecting the level of their support – 0% being pretty much no support.

The actual report can be downloaded from here – http://sites.hrc.org/documents/CorporateEqualityIndex_2012.pdf

or you can access the virtual publication – http://issuu.com/humanrightscampaign/docs/corporateequalityindex_2012

Here is the link to a report from 2011 where HRC lists those companies that scored 100% – the ones we should all be supporting with our purchases/

http://www.procon.org/sourcefiles/hrc-fortune-500-141-companies-cei-rating-100.pdf

At the other end, here are some companies on the Fortune 500 who managed to score a 0%  – run, and run away fast from these – remind them equality is important.

II.   35 “Gay Un-Friendly” Fortune 500 Companies (0% on the HRC Index),   2011
Company Name Fortune 500 Rank City State
Exxon Mobil Corp. 2 Irving TX
International Assets Holding Corp. 49 Altamonte Springs FL
CHS Inc. 91 Inver Grove Heights MN
Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. 128 Houston TX
United Services Automobile Association 132 San Antonio TX
Community Health Systems Inc. 191 Franklin TN
KBR Inc. 193 Houston TX
Dollar General Corp. 195 Goodlettsville TN
Liberty Global Inc. 210 Englewood CO
Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea   Co. Inc. 247 Montvale NJ
Anadarko Petroleum 260 The Woodlands TX
Icahn Enterprises LP 290 New York NY
Huntsman Corp. 293 Salt Lake City UT
SYNNEX Corp. 294 Fremont CA
Family Dollar Stores 305 Matthews NC
Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation 317 Pittsburg TX
Commercial Metals 327 Irving TX
WellCare Health Plans, Inc. 328 Tampa FL
Western Refining Inc. 330 El Paso TX
Global Partners Waltham 368 Waltham MA
Pantry Inc., The 382 Cary NC
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 388 Dallas TX
Cameron International Corp. 399 Houston TX
Tutor Perini Corp. 407 Sylmar CA
Auto-Owners Insurance Group 418 Lansing MI
Western & Southern Financial   Group 420 Cincinnati OH
Universal American Corp. 425 Rye Brooke NY
SPX Corp. 427 Charlotte NC
Holly Corp. 431 Dallas TX
BlackRock 441 New York NY
W.R. Berkley 463 Greenwich CT
Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc. 466 Coraopolis PA
AbitibiBowater Inc. 472 Greenville SC
Frontier Oil Corp. 488 Houston TX
MDU Resources Group, Inc. 498 Bismarck ND

And here is a list of the top 20 companies on the Fortune 500 and how they scored –

 

You choose – whose initiatives and what causes do you want you hard earned cash to support?