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Exxon Mobil Corp. bucks trend, rescinds domestic-partner policy

WASHINGTON (BP)–The recently merged Exxon Mobil Corp. has bucked a trend in American business by rolling back benefits for the live-in partners of its employees.

The corporation rescinded Mobil’s domestic-partner policy, becoming apparently only the second major American company to do so, according to a leading homosexual rights organization. It also rejected Mobil’s employment policy prohibiting discrimination based on “sexual orientation,” which includes homosexuality, according to Associated Press and the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest homosexual political organization. In both cases, the corporation maintained Exxon policies.

The corporation will continue to provide benefits to domestic partners accepted previously under Mobil’s policy, but it will not extend such benefits to anyone else, according to AP and HRC.

A Baptist Press call to ExxonMobil’s public relations office was not returned in time for this article.

By its action, ExxonMobil refused to join in the increasing trend among American businesses for granting the same health insurance benefits to the partners of homosexual employees, and sometimes unmarried heterosexual employees, as they do to married workers. Nearly 3,000 employers, including more than 80 Fortune 500 companies, provide domestic-partner benefits, according to the HRC.

Among the industries where such benefits have become common in recent years are computer-related companies, motion-picture studios, airlines and oil companies. Major oil companies that offer domestic-partner benefits are BP-Amoco, Chevron and Shell.

The only company previously to roll back domestic-partner benefits was Perot Systems Inc., according to HRC. That corporation, headed by Texas billionaire Ross Perot, rescinded the policy in 1998, HRC reported.

Homosexual rights advocates were upset with the actions. “This move is bad for business; it’s bad for employee morale, and it demonstrates that ExxonMobil’s human resources policies are mired in the past,” said HRC education director Kim Mills in a written release.

Pro-family organizations cheered the news. “We applaud ExxonMobil for a decision that honors the integrity of marriage,” said Family Research Council chief spokeswoman Janet Parshall in a written statement. “Think of the energy ExxonMobil can now channel towards delivering gas instead of pumping the homosexual agenda.”

In early 1998, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, joined other pro-family leaders in a joint letter to Mobil protesting its domestic-partner policy. Among others signing the letter were Focus on the Family President James Dobson and then-FRC President Gary Bauer, now a Republican presidential candidate.

The Southern Baptist Convention has repeatedly spoken in opposition to homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle through resolutions adopted at its annual meetings. In 1997, messengers adopted a resolution opposing domestic-partner benefits and affirming businesses that “resist pressures to recognize the moral equivalence of domestic partnerships.”

Corporations that provide domestic-partner benefits, according to HRC, include American Airlines, Avon, Clorox, Eastman Kodak, General Mills, Levi Strauss, Mattel, Nike, Pillsbury, Proctor and Gamble, Reebok, Starbucks Coffee, United Airlines and U.S. Airways.

More than two-thirds of employers with domestic-partner benefits provide them not only to homosexuals but to unmarried heterosexual couples as well, according to HRC. Companies that provide them to same-sex couples only include American Express, AT&T, Gap, Time Warner and Viacom, which recently purchased CBS.

In November, the city councils of Los Angeles and Seattle both adopted domestic-partner ordinances modeled after a San Francisco measure. In 1996, San Francisco became the first American city to require companies conducting business with the local government to provide domestic partner benefits.

“Sexual orientation” is a category that can encompass homosexual, bisexual and transgendered workers. Transgendered status includes people who have undergone a sex-change operation as well as those who have not but live at least part of their lives as if they were of the opposite sex.

The ERLC, FRC and other religious and conservative organizations oppose the inclusion of “sexual orientation” in employment policies because such a practice equates homosexuality with legally protected traits such as race, ethnicity, gender and religion.

A proposed congressional measure, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, would add “sexual orientation” to the classifications now receiving protection in the workplace. President Clinton has endorsed ENDA.

In 1998, Clinton issued a barrier-breaking executive order adding “sexual orientation” to the list of categories already protected against discrimination in the federal civilian workforce. Messengers to that year’s SBC meeting passed a resolution opposing his order and all other attempts to grant homosexuality civil rights status.