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Corporate America - The Unlikely Gay Ally By Malcolm Lazin The Fortune 500 has reached consensus: homophobia is not good business. The American Family Association (AFA) failed with a threatened boycott to convince Ford Motor Company to pull its ads in gay publications. Threats by AFA and similar organizations also fizzled with Disney, Microsoft, Wells Fargo and Kraft, among others. Wal-Mart, the largest of the Fortune 500 companies, includes sexual orientation protection in its workplace policies and has retained Witeck-Combs, a marketing consulting firm specializing in the gay community to conduct staff seminars on the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) market. Five years ago, a minority of Fortune 500 companies provided sexual orientation workplace protection. Currently, 461 (92.2%) of the 2005 Fortune 500 Companies protect gay employees. Vanguard recently decided to vote its proxy for sexual orientation workplace protection. Vanguard and other institutional stewards understand that diversity is in the best corporate and shareholder interest. The GLBT market is far larger than realized. Voters News Service and Zogby International data reflect that between 4% to 5% of the American voting population self-identifies as gay or lesbian. According to studies, there are 15 million adult GLBT Americans. The 15 million adult GLBT Americans with a $610 billion annual buying power compares with 9.3 million adult Asian Americans with a $344 billion annual buying power, 23.8 million adult African Americans with a $688 billion annual buying power and 26.5 million adult Hispanic Americans with a $653 billion annual buying power. (section cut) These 15 million adult GLBT Americans with fewer children and higher disposable income become an attractive consumer market for Ford. It is a compelling business reason not to pull Land Rover, Jaguar and other Ford ads from gay publications. Corporate America has become an instrument of social change. Social conservatives not only find themselves up against core American values such as fairness, but also core principles of free enterprise. Efficient capitalism requires bottom line decisions. Corporate America has become an ally of GLBT rights not only because so many agree with equality, but because the result is consistent with profit maximization. Capitalists have concluded that for the GLBT market, sagacious business follows the money.Don't you just love it when the radical, anti-gay, religious Right thinks they are hurting the gays but then you find out they have actually helped us? Irony at its best. Visit the Equality Forum’s FORTUNE 500 Nondiscrimination Project for more information: www.equalityforum.com/fortune500 Technorati Tags: gay, lgbt, gay rights, corporate america, american family association, afa, equality forum, malcolm lazin