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Homosexuals continue gains in public, private workplace

WASHINGTON (BP)–Homosexuals continue to gain employment rights in both the public and private sectors, according to a new report.

More than 700 American employers added health insurance benefits for the partners of their homosexual employees during the last year, the country’s largest homosexual political organization, the Human Rights Campaign, reported. In some cases, the policies also cover unmarried, heterosexual partners.

The total reflects an increase of 20 percent from the year before. The 4,284 companies, colleges, and state and local governments that now offer or have announced they will soon offer health benefits to domestic partners amounts to a 50 percent increase from 1999, the Washington-based HRC reported.

In addition, more than 290 employers extended their nondiscrimination policies in the last year to cover “sexual orientation.” The increase was 17 percent over last year. “Sexual orientation” is a category that can encompass homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality.

The report, which was released Oct. 3, covered the period from August 2000 to August 2001.

The survey found Fortune 500 companies are more likely to have domestic partner or “sexual orientation” policies the higher they rank on that prestigious list.

While 145 members, or 29 percent, of the Fortune 500 have domestic partner benefits, 27, or 54 percent, of the top 50 companies have such policies. The number of Fortune 500 members with domestic partner benefits amounts to an increase of more than 200 percent during the last three years.

Another top 50 company recently added its name to the list when No. 31 Proctor & Gamble announced it would extend its benefit plan to domestic partners.

The number of Fortune 500 companies that have “sexual orientation” in their nondiscrimination policies is 294, or 59 percent. That total grew by 15 percent in the last year. Among the top 100 companies, however, 79 percent have such protections, while 88 percent of the top 50 do so.

Pro-family and conservative Christian organizations bemoaned the developments.

“The biggest cost is to young people who are being told by corporate America that marriage no longer matters. … Marriage is cheapened [by domestic partnership benefits] … and we cheapen it at our own peril,” said Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America’s Culture and Family Institute, according to CNSNews.com.

“Corporate America is acting recklessly in trying to appease a pampered vocal pressure group,” Knight said. “A tiny number of people take advantage of this policy. It is a corporation’s way of being politically correct and appearing to be progressive.”

American Family Association President Donald Wildmon called Proctor & Gamble’s decision a “slap in the face of true families.” Proctor & Gamble “has thumbed its nose at God,” who is “the one who invented marriage and the family,” Wildmon said.

Those who disagree with the trend of employers equating homosexual and unmarried heterosexual relationships with marriage should not give up, said Ken Ervin, projects coordinator for CWA’s Culture and Family Institute.

“I think there’s hope for people getting it, starting to understand the issue,” Ervin told Baptist Press. He admitted, however, “It’s kind of tough right now.”

Policies can be rescinded, Ervin said, pointing to ExxonMobil, the No. 1 Fortune 500 company, as an example. When Exxon merged with Mobil in 1999, it repealed Mobil’s sexual orientation policy and shut down its domestic partners program to new workers.

Opponents of such policies should use shareholder resolutions to their advantage, Ervin said. Supporters of sexual orientation policies have done so and have succeeded, he said. Some companies “are looking for excuses” to add such policies, Ervin said.

Home Depot added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy in May before a shareholder resolution even came to a vote. McDonald’s and General Electric concerted their policies to include sexual orientation though shareholder resolutions were defeated or withdrawn, HRC reported.

These companies “need to hear from Christians,” Ervin said. “We need to shut down their phone lines and their fax lines” and fill their e-mail boxes, he said.

Other results of the HRC research were:

— Eleven states, the District of Columbia and 122 cities and counties prohibit discrimination against homosexuals in the public and private workplace. Another 10 states and 106 local governments and agencies protect only public employees on the basis of sexual orientation.

— Eight states and 105 local governments or “quasi-government agencies” provide health benefits to their employees’ domestic partners.

— Two states, D.C. and 32 cities or counties provide protection by law or executive order to transgender employees in the public and private sectors. By HRC’s description, the term transgender covers “cross-dressers, intersexed people, transsexuals and people who live substantial portions of their lives as other than their birth sex.”

— Twenty companies protect transgender employees from discrimination. These include five Fortune 500 firms: AMR, parent company of American Airlines; Apple Computer; Lexmark International; Lucent Technologies; and Xerox Corp.

In April, San Francisco became the first city to include coverage for sex-change procedures among its employee benefits. Lucent is among the companies that provide similar benefits.