Today, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Workplace Project released our 2006 "State of the Workplace" report and I am pleased to say that it's a new day for the American worker as we mark a milestone in our march towards equality for all Americans in the workplace.
• Domestic partner health insurance
• Non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity
Just twenty-five years ago, these workplace policies didn't exist, weren't really talked about or were so rare that even the most progressive employer would not offer them.
Today - these policies have increasingly become standard in businesses and most impressively - our nation's largest corporations.
Benefits for domestic partners achieved an historic first in 2006. For the first time a majority of the nation's largest corporations provided health insurance for domestic partners of employees. Today, 253 of the Fortune 500 provide equal benefits to same-sex couples.
In fact, every trend is headed in the right direction. A whopping 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policy. And 10 times the number of Fortune 500 companies cover gender identity today compared to 2001.
At the Human Rights Campaign, we don't only track this progress - we are actively involved in making it.
For the past several years, the Human Rights Campaign's Workplace Project has worked with hundreds of executives of small, medium and large businesses as well as with GLBT employees to provide on-site training on fair policies and provide pertinent cutting-edge research that helps businesses learn best practices, successful models and the positive results created by implementing these policies in their workplace.
All of this progress came in spite of threats and assaults by extremists that attempted to prevent businesses from offering fair and inclusive workplace policies to all their employees. In 2005, one group launched an ill-conceived boycott of Ford Motor Co. and attacked Kraft Foods for their support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workplace fairness. Both companies held fast in their support and did not cave in to the pressure by these prejudice groups.
And America, the American worker and the American economy is stronger because of it.
Why are businesses doing this? Why have they decided to be inclusive, fair and equal in their policies? It's because it makes good business sense.
The 2000 Census found that same-sex couples live in more than 99 percent of counties in the United States, meaning just about every workplace has an employee - or prospective employee - who could benefit from domestic partner coverage.
Furthermore, the cost of such benefits is minimal to the employer but priceless to the employees.
And when it comes to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender consumers - a $641 billion market - businesses are paying attention. Studies show that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans take into consideration a company's internal policies and positions when making purchasing decisions or accepting employment offers.
No doubt, as we continue this work, we'll keep raising the bar when it comes to ensuring fairness for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. From a look back at the last several years, it's clear that corporate America will be listening, watching and responding with fairness.