It seems like the debate over same-sex marriage that’s been heating up in the political sphere is spilling over into the corporate sector more than ever before. Amidst the debate over Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s outspoken opposition to same-sex marriage, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made a $2.5 million donation to a group devoted to legalizing same-sex marriage. Bezos is the most recent in a long string of CEOs and companies who have come out in favor of same-sex marriage.
To give recognition where recognition is due, here are 11 of the most LGBT-friendly U.S. companies.
1. Amazon: CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife announced on July 27 that they would be making a $2.5 million donation to the organization Washington United for Marriage. Their donation will go a long way towards ensuring that that gay marriage remains legal in Washington state.Washington became the 7th state to legalize gay marriage in February, but a referendum has been proposed to ban gay marriage that will be on the ballot in November 2012.
2. Microsoft: The same referendum that prompted Bezos' donation inspired $100,000 in contributions each from Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer. Support for gay rights is nothing new to Microsoft: Ric Weiland, one of Microsoft’s first five employees, was gay and left $65 million to pro-gay organizations after his 2006 suicide. The company’s history of equality goes back even farther—in 1993, Microsoft became the first Fortune 500 Company to grant equal benefits to gay employees.
3. Starbucks: Another Washington state giant in support of equality. Executive Vice President Kalen Holmes came out in favor of legalizing marriage equality in Washington in January 2012, prior to the law’s passage. The company faced backlash from anti-gay organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage, which put out a “Dump Starbucks” campaign.
4. General Mills: In June, CEO Ken Powell hosted a function attended by over 400 LGBT professionals where he, Vice President for Global Diversity and Inclusion Ken Charles, and Vice President of Corporate Communications Tom Forsythe spoke out against a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in the state of Minnesota. Although Minnesota already bans same-sex marriage, writing that ban into the state constitution would be a step even further away from equality. The amendment goes to a vote this November.
5. JC Penney: Despite no actual statements or donations in favor of legalizing gay marriage, JC Penney’s advertising in the past year has made it perfectly clear that they stand firmly with the LGBT community. In January, the company hired Ellen DeGeneres, one of the most well-known and loved LGBT celebrities, as its spokeswoman. Then, they courted the ire of organization One Million Moms by sending out a Mother’s Day catalogue featuring a family with two moms. They did it again a month later with a Father’s Day ad featuring two dads.
6. Macy’s: Another retail chain that's used advertising to send a message, the company supported the gay marriage bill in Washington with an ad that showed a wedding cake topped with two grooms. Pervious Macy’s ads have also supported marriage equality including ads in California protesting Proposition 8.
7. Levi’s: In 2009, the company bedecked mannequins in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco with white knots, a symbol of support for gay marriage. The company had previously sponsored an amicus brief in California explaining the economic benefits of gay marriage as well as signing on to sponsor a program on Logo, a gay channel owned by MTV, and signing a marketing partnership with Milk, Focus Features’ biopic on the slain gay politician from San Francisco, Harvey Milk.
8. Apple: This company was one of the first to contribute financially to the quest for marriage equality. In October 2008, Apple donated $100,000 to the "No on 8" Campaign, which opposed the passage of Proposition 8 in California.
9. Google: Like Apple, Google came out against Prop 8 in a statement that urged Californians to vote against the ban on gay marriage. Their support of the cause has continued: their February Google Doodle incorporated a pro-gay-marriage message, and this summer, they announced the launch of the Legalize Love Campaign. They first unveiled the campaign in Poland and Singapore, with the stated goal of motivating the world to offer their LGBT employees the same respect and equality that they do in their business practices.
10. Home Depot: The Home Depot is one of the companies that offer the most equal treatment and benefits for LGBT employees, the Human Rights Council reported, and has done such actions as sponsoring the Southern Maine Pride event. These policies earned the company criticism from the American Family Association, who at its 2011 shareholders meeting delivered a petition with nearly 500,000 signatures to Chairman Frank Blake asking them to stop their support of the LGBT community. Blake told shareholders that despite the backlash from the AFA, Home Depot would continue its policies of equality.
11. Viacom: The most recent addition to the pro-gay club, Viacom just this week signed off on an amicus brief that opposes the Defense of Marriage Act Although the brief discusses the negative financial implications of DOMA, Viacom made a statement explaining that their opposition to DOMA was primarily motivated by their desire for equality.