FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 11:00 EST 5/4/95
A major new initiative for gay and lesbian equality in the workplace was announced today at New York City Hall and San Francisco City Hall. This initiative was developed by a leading corporate activist organization and sponsored by prominent public officials.
The Wall Street Project is offering to major corporations in the United States and Canada *The Equality Principles on Sexual Orientation*, a voluntary code of conduct that aims to achieve equality in the workplace and marketplace. Similar initiatives, such as the Sullivan Principles on South Africa, the MacBride Principles on Fair Employment in Northern Ireland, and the CERES Principles on the Environment, have established shareholder activism as a viable tool in creating social change.
"Companies become successful in business by creating environments in which every employee is treated with respect," emphasizes Carole Migden, supervisor for the city of San Francisco and co-sponsor of the Equality Principles. "This environment of respect fosters creativity, productivity, and commitment."
US Representative Gerry E. Studds (D-Mass) envisions the Equality Principles as something with which every American can identify. "Millions have come to these shores in search of opportunity -- the opportunity to build a decent life through one's own hard work and ingenuity. I believe that when our fellow citizens learn how frequently lesbians and gay men are denied that basic promise of the American dream, they will agree that something must be done."
Many recognize this as an opportunity for corporate America to take a lead in an emerging trend. An outspoken advocate of gay rights, Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass), concurs, "The Project's Equality Principles on Sexual Orientation offer an important challenge and opportunity for corporations in this country and in Canada to eliminate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in all facets of their business."
Sponsoring the initiative, in addition to The Wall Street Project and Carole Migden, are Deborah Glick, New York State Assembly member from New York City and Co-Chair of the International Network of Lesbian and Gay Officials; and Thomas K. Duane, New York City Council member and long-time proponent of mobilizing economic power to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The goal of The Wall Street Project, a program of the New York based Community Lesbian and Gay Rights Institute, Inc., is to eliminate discrimination in every workplace across this country. Their comprehensive Census of the Fortune 500 Service and Industrial Corporations led to a database on equal employment policies regarding sexual orientation in corporate America. "We found that 134 of America's largest companies have written policies barring discrimination based on sexual orientation," commented Nick Curto, co-chair of The Wall Street Project. "While these numbers are encouraging, the fact remains that millions of gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans are not afforded their basic human rights."
Diane Bratcher, co-chair of The Wall Street Project, added, "Given the present political climate in Washington, we cannot count on the 104th Congress to secure those rights. The Census indicated that corporate America needed encouragement and support in setting up non-discrimination policies. This led to the development of the Equality Principles as a road map for corporate America."
Aimed at setting goals for the workplace, The Equity Principles prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, discrimination against HIV positive employees or those with AIDS, and stereotyping in advertising. Diversity training is encouraged, as well as equality in spousal benefits and equal standing for employee groups, regardless of sexual orientation.
Dispelling any notion of preferences, Deborah Glick explains, "This voluntary code of corporate conduct does not call for quotas or special preferences. As embodied in its name, *The Equality Principles on Sexual Orientation* seek to establish equality in the workplace, a goal of immeasurable benefit to all people and businesses."
The Principles have generated enthusiastic support from a number of major national lesbian and gay community organizations; international, national, state and local gay and lesbian political leaders; as well as numerous community-based, professional, political and AIDS organizations. In addition, the Principles are also being endorsed by many public officials, pension funds trustees and socially responsible investment firms.
Beginning with the Fortune 500 Industrial and Service Corporations, companies will be asked to support and implement the Equality Principles. Additionally, institutional investors, including pension funds, religious institutions, foundations, colleges and universities -- which control $4 trillion in investments -- will be urged to ask companies in their portfolios to adopt and implement the initiative.
"Mobilizing institutional investors is a key strategy of the campaign," according to Tom Duane. "But another strategy will play an instrumental role. We have tremendous economic clout as a community. Companies should know that lesbians and gay men are both consumers and shareholders. We can affect change through communication with companies and economic boycotts."
The success of the Sullivan Principles on South Africa supports Mr. Duane's assertion. Those Principles were successful because of the combined resources of socially responsible investors and other concerned citizens. Much like the proposal by Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-WI) to the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference on March 5, Duane believes that a unified economic campaign by the gay and lesbian community and their friends can achieve the same type of results in the workplace.
The Wall Street Project has served in a leading role in shareholder activism. In 1993 the Project took on Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, a company with a deplorable record of firing employees perceived to be gay or lesbian. The Project supported a proxy solicitation for a shareholder resolution, sponsored by the New York City Employees Retirement System (NYCERS), which called on Cracker Barrel to amend its corporate policies to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.
To become successful in the ever-competitive world of business, a company must strive to create an environment in which all employees are treated with respect. Through the cultivating of diversity in the workplace, a company can draw fully upon the potential for creativity and commitment represented by all its employees. Implementation of these Equality Principles on Sexual Orientation are an important step in that direction.
1. Explicit prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation will be included in the company's written employment policy statement.
2. Discrimination against HIV positive employees or those with AIDS will be strictly prohibited.
3. Employee groups, regardless of sexual orientation, will be given equal standing with other employee associations.
4. Diversity training will include sexual orientation issues.
5. Spousal benefits will be offered to domestic partners of employees, regardless of sexual orientation, on an equal basis with those granted to married employees.
6. Company advertising policy will bar negative sexual orientation stereotypes and will not discriminate in media advertising on the basis of sexual orientation.
7. Companies will not discriminate in the sale and purchase of goods and services on the basis of sexual orientation.
8. Written non-discrimination policies on sexual orientation must be disseminated throughout the company. A senior company official will monitor compliance corporate wide.
The Wall Street Project
Contact: Nick Curto, Co-Chair
185 East 85th Street Suite 25A
New York NY 10028-2147
A program of The Community Lesbian & Gay Rights Institute, Inc.