Friday, June 22, 2007

Walmart Caves to Fundamentalists

I don't have much time to provide detailed analysis of this, but this Forbes article is pretty clear:
NEW YORK (FORTUNE) -- Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has decided to curb its support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) organizations after conservative Christian groups threatened a boycott, and after some of its own employees expressed disapproval.

The move comes a year after Wal-Mart (Charts, Fortune 500) had put on a gay-friendly smile. The company joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. It sponsored the annual convention of Out & Equal, a group that promotes gay rights in the workplace, and sold gay-themed jewelry in stores.

"We are not currently planning corporate-level contributions to GLBT groups," said Mona Williams, the company's senior vice president of corporate communications. Individual stores can still donate to gay groups.

Of course the HRC rolls over submissively:

Interestingly, gay-rights groups were more understanding. Selisse Berry, the executive director of Out & Equal, said: "Wal-Mart continues to engage on the issue of worker equality, and we will support them in that...This is a marathon, not a sprint, and so long as Wal-Mart keeps its doors open, we hope to give them encouragement." Wal-Mart had donated $60,000 to Out & Equal.

The Human Rights Campaign, America's largest gay-rights group, also says it will continue to work closely with Wal-Mart. "With a company as large as Wal-Mart, it's not going to happen as fast as many of us would like," says Daryl Herrschaft, who oversees the HRC's workplace project.

The last part of the article calls Walmart's move what it is, non-support:

Still, some members of the group had hoped that Wal-Mart would by now have taken a major step towards workplace equality by offering health care benefits to the domestic partners of its GLBT employees. More than half of FORTUNE 500 companies do so.

The lesson here may be that it's hard to find a middle ground when it comes to gay rights in the workplace. A company either believes in workplace equality for all, and is willing to stand up and say so, or it doesn't.

It's pretty clear where Wal-Mart stands.