25 corporations marking Pride donated over $10m to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians – study

·5 min read
<span>Photograph: Richard Drew/AP</span>
Photograph: Richard Drew/AP

June is Pride month, and many US corporations are advertising their support for the LGBTQ+ community. A new study, however, has found that 25 companies otherwise eager to wave the rainbow flag have donated more than $10m to anti-LGBTQ+ federal and state politicians over the past two years.

Related: ‘A war on 100 fronts’: mapping the anti-trans laws sweeping America

The study, released on Monday by the Popular Information newsletter, found that alongside pronouncements of LGBTQ+ support, corporations including CVS, AT&T, Walmart and Comcast have supported candidates who seek to block or otherwise restrict equal rights based on gender or sexual orientation.

Many of the corporations have 100% ratings on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) 2020 Corporate Equality Index, which measures workplace policies and “public commitment to the LGBTQ community”. The index does not take political donations into account.

The study found that CVS, while receiving a perfect HRC score and announcing on Twitter it was “proud to join more than 100 companies that have signed HRC’s Business Statement Opposing Anti-LGBTQ State Legislation”, also supported sponsors of anti-trans legislation in Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee, through its corporate political action committee.

In Texas, CVS backed Republican state senators Dawn Buckingham and Bryan Hughes, co-sponsors of SB1646, a bill that would “change the state’s child abuse law” to make it a crime for parents to allow children to receive gender-affirming medical care.

The company also backed North Carolina state senator Ralph Hise, primary sponsor of S514, which would ban anyone under 21 receiving gender-affirming treatment and which the Advocate, an LGBTQ+ outlet, called “the most repressive anti-transgender healthcare bill in the nation”.

CVS’s $1,000 donation to Hise in August 2020 came four years after huge controversy over an anti-trans “bathroom bill” the senator argued was necessary “to protect the citizens of the state of North Carolina”.

CVS has donated $259,000 to 54 members of Congress who received a HRC rating of zero, largely through voting against the Equality Act, over the last two years.

Others named in the study include cable giant Comcast, which has donated more than $1m to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians since 2019.

A Comcast subsidiary, Xfinity, recently tweeted: “Pride is the love we share. And with Xfinity, it’s Pride all year.” Comcast itself has created “a virtual ‘Pride World’, where we will feature events, Pride floats, Pride flags, and even a Pronoun Guide for employees”.

But according to the study by Popular Information, Comcast has also donated more than $1.1m to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians since 2019, including $30,000 to the sponsors of anti-trans legislation in Florida and Texas and $1,095,500 to 149 members of Congress marked zero by HRC.

AT&T, which recently said “We can #TURNUPTHELOVE for LGBTQ youth together”, also signed a HRC letter opposing anti-LGBTQ state legislation. But it has also supported sponsors of anti-trans legislation in Arkansas ($12,950), Tennessee ($4,000), North Carolina ($5,000), Texas ($22,500), and Florida ($17,500).

Walmart – whose website features a “Pride & Joy” section – has donated at least $442,000 to 121 politicians who received a zero from HRC, according to campaign finance reports.

Others mentioned in the study for promoting a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index and publicising support for LGBTQ+ rights while donating to anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers include United Health, Deloitte and Wells Fargo, which made a $1,000 donation to the North Carolina state senator Joyce Krawiec, who has shared anti-trans articles on social media.

Wells Fargo is a corporate supporter of Heritage of Pride, the non-profit that plans and produces New York City’s Pride events. The group has also been supported by Comcast.

Michael Bullock of Weekly Senator, a crowdfunding group that channels donations to Senate candidates supporting progressive causes, said LGBTQ+ organisations supported by corporations that donate to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians should be boycotted.

Bullock claimed Heritage of Pride “has over time created a parade in which the main goal is to pimp out queer people and queer culture to corporations to make as much money as possible. It’s crazy that this even needs to be said, but all LGBTQ people should boycott the Heritage of Pride until they make sure none of the sponsors fund anti-gay legislation.”

Dan Dimant, a spokesperson for Heritage of Pride, told the Guardian the group makes efforts to prevent “pink-washing”, including guidelines on its website, and “takes great pains to ensure that partnerships meet strict criteria and that all partners are working to further the mission of the organization”.

“There is a vetting process, so we make our best effort to avoid some of these conflicts of interest but that said it’s a moving target because companies change over time,” Dimant said.

While many companies named in the Popular Information study did not comment, many reaffirmed their commitment to LGBTQ+ rights.

General Motors said its political contributions “do not represent an endorsement of the candidate or support for all the issues the candidate supports [and] we will continue to clearly communicate with policymakers GM’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion”.

Ford said “contributions by our employee Pac are bipartisan and take into consideration many issues that are important to meeting the needs of our customers, our team and our company”.

Google defended its record on supporting “the rights of all LGBTQ people” and said a contribution to a candidate “doesn’t mean that Google agrees with that candidate on every issue. In fact, we may disagree strongly on some issues.” Amazon took a similar position.

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