The controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A's public homophobic stance is neither shocking nor new. What's surprising is the tremendous amount of play the story is seeing in the media and in public discussion. We are turning a corner in terms of visibility for LGBTQ rights. With the majority of the U.S. now in support of same-sex marriage and social media leaving no stone unturned, it's harder and harder for individuals and companies to remain silently homophobic.
Despite the continued trending conversations about Chick-fil-A, plenty of other well-known brands (and ones that have larger market shares) continue to identify LGBTQ people as second-class citizens. While we can't prevent the expression of beliefs or even homophobic actions, we can choose where to spend our dollars. The time is ripe to shine an interrogative light on those who marginalize in their ideologies, policies, and practices.
1. Exxon Mobil
The biggest oil company in America, with marked revenues that are higher than entire countries, Exxon Mobil is one of the worst places for LGBTQ employees. Scoring less than zero (-25) on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, the oil giant has voted each year since its 2010 merger to reject the inclusion of its LGBTQ employees in its nondiscrimination clause. In fact, only 22 percent of those voting were in support of protections of LGBTQ employees in the most recent election. In contrast, Chevron, the third-ranked oil company in the U.S., received a perfect 100 score from the HRC.
2. The Salvation Army
Just a few days ago, the story broke of the firing of an employee at the Salvation Army in Burlington, Vt., because she questioned the organization's homophobic nomenclature in its handbook and came out as bisexual. The Salvation Army has yet to comment on the incident.
'Twas also not so long ago (just a month ago, in fact) that the media relations director for the Salvation Army defended the organization's stance that "gay people deserve death." Major Andrew Craibe's official response to the statement was, "Well, that's part of our belief system." The Salvation Army's homophobic anecdotes run the gamut, from homeless LGBTQ people who were treated poorly at its shelters to the organization lobbying Washington to deny funds to cities that have nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people.
The largest private employer in America leaves much to be desired when it comes to fair employment practices, including treatment of its LGBTQ workforce. Though the mega-corporation claims otherwise, it's long been cited by LGBTQ organizations as lacking in its sexual-diversity-friendliness. Back in 2010 an employee in Nevada filed a complaint with the equal rights commission when he claimed he was forced to wear a yellow vest at work and relegated to inane tasks after his boss cornered him to ask if he was gay.
More fun that year included Walmart's sale of an anti-gay children's book Chased by an Elephant: The Gospel Truth About Today's Stampeding Sexuality, written by Janice Barrett Graham, wife of the notoriously anti-gay Stephen Graham (you know, the folks who believe you can "pray the gay away").
When the company tried to make inroads into New York City last year, local LGBTQ rights organizations and even representatives of the government, like City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, spoke up and succeeded in keeping Walmart out on the basis of its anti-gay and non-inclusive ideologies.
4. Urban Outfitters
The seemingly liberal apparel company has encountered a few road bumps with LGBTQ issues over the years, most notably in 2008, when it came under fire for selling a transphobic card. The company didn't apologize, and the card was soon listed as "sold out" on its site; it was unclear whether it was actively removed. Current CEO Richard Hayne is also a supporter of right-wing ideology and has contributed handsomely to the campaigns of Rick Santorum, then a senator notorious for his anti-gay rhetoric. Former Urban Outfitter CEO Glen Senk, who's gay and out, abruptly stepped down in January, the reason not made public, though the company's balance sheet was suffering following a controversy of a different diversity flavor (they were being sued by Navajo Nation for labeling a product line "Navajo").
Perhaps the largest disconnect with Urban Outfitters is the demographic they market to, one that is young, urban, and overwhelmingly liberal. Mismatched ideologies between company and customer base means trouble in paradise for sales (and for equality)!
5. Domino's Pizza
If you're a native New Yorker, you wouldn't touch a slice of Domino's with a 10-foot pole, due to the sheer quality of the dough alone, but millions of people across the country enjoy the pizza chain's fast and affordable cheesy, saucy, doughy dinner options. What they may not know is that the founder and owner of Domino's is one of the most active Christian conservatives around. Tom Monaghan, in fact, created an entire city in Florida devoted to conservative Christian learning. He funnels money for various conservative ventures via his Ave Maria Foundation, and he founded a peer leadership organization Legatus for religious executives, in addition to a Christian dating site, radio station, and university. Of LGBTQ people living in his ultra-religious town, Monaghan told The New Yorker, "[I]f there's an openly gay couple living next door to some family, and those kids would have to be subjected to that, I don't know. In the first place, I don't know how many gay couples are going to want to live in the town."