More U.S. Companies Have Gay Policy
Monday August 25, 12:16 AM EDT
By Lisa Richwine

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More big U.S. companies prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and adopted other gay- and lesbian-friendly policies during the past year, according to a gay rights' group survey released on Monday.

The Human Rights Campaign said 21 companies -- nearly double the number from last year -- received a perfect score on its "Corporate Equality Index" of how firms treat gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees and consumers.

"The bottom line is that successful businesses are increasingly recognizing that equality works," said Kim Mills, the group's education director.

The group's survey covers 250 companies from either the Fortune 500 or the Forbes 200 list of the nation's biggest businesses.

Ninety-five percent had written policies banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, a rise from 93 percent a year ago. Seventy percent provided domestic partner health insurance, up from 67 percent last year.

Each company was rated on a scale of zero to 100 on seven factors. They included whether the companies had written anti-discrimination policies covering sexual orientation, provided health insurance for employees' same-sex domestic partners and held diversity training.

Corporations scoring 100 included Aetna Inc.(AET), Bank One Corp.(ONE), Intel Corp.(INTC), Lehman Brothers Holding Inc.(LEH) and Nike Inc. (NKE)

Among the five lowest-ranked companies, with a score of 14, were Exxon Mobil Corp.(XOM), whose shareholders repeatedly have voted down proposals calling for the company to explicitly oppose discrimination against gays and lesbians, and Domino's Inc.

Exxon Mobil spokesman Tom Cirigliano said the oil company prohibits discrimination or harassment of any form. The company's written policies do not specifically mention sexual orientation because it wants to make clear all discrimination is unacceptable, he said.

"You don't discriminate, period, is our policy," he said.

Domino's spokeswoman Lynn Liddle said the pizza delivery company has instituted nationwide diversity training and education and "strives to be the employer of choice for every high-quality individual who wants to excel" at its business.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.(WMT), known for its conservative values, improved its rating to 43 after broadening its non-discrimination policy to cover sexual orientation and instituting diversity training.

The Cracker Barrel restaurant chain, part of CBRL Group (CBRL), jumped from zero last year to 29 after it dropped opposition to a shareholder proposal asking the company to include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy and later adopted the policy.

2003 Reuters Limited.

Sodom and Ghormorah all over again

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