Every June, countless American corporations start sporting rainbow banners in their advertising and social media in support of Pride Month. But many of those same companies have supported politicians opposing LGBT+ causes.
Walmart, Amazon, and McDonald’s have all donated to members of Congress who voted against the Equality Act, according to Insider. Comcast, UPS, and AT&T have each donated over $2 million to “anti-gay politicians,” according to Forbes. The list goes on – and all of these companies have declared their support for Pride.
“This month, we’ll be celebrating and highlighting the people within our McDonald’s family that embody the spirit of LGBTQ+ Pride,” McDonald’s tweeted on 1 June.
“Happy #Pride Month! Here’s how we’re celebrating the LGBTQ community across our organization,” Comcast tweeted on the same day.
Forbes also listed six other corporations that it says have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to anti-LGBT politicians: Home Depot, General Electric, FedEx, UBS, Verizon, and Pfizer. All six of these have voiced their support for gay rights as well.
Part of the disconnect is due to the fact that many companies donate to politicians of both parties, hoping to influence government policy no matter who wins power.
“FedEx has a long history of participating in the political process, and we support candidates on both sides of the aisle,” a FedEx spokesperson told Forbes. “We strive to provide an inclusive workplace in which all team members feel safe and respected.”
But some experts say this kind of lip service to political causes – without corresponding donations to back it up – is no longer enough.
“What they probably didn’t anticipate was we are at a moment where people ask for more,” Marcia Chatelain, a professor of American studies at Georgetown University, told Insider. “They ask for more than skillful marketing. They actually ask for racial and economic justice.”
One of the clearest examples of this is the Equality Act, a bill that would ban discrimination in the United States based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Congressional Democrats have heavily supported the bill, and Republicans have overwhelmingly opposed it.
But from 2019 to 2020, Walmart, Amazon, and McDonald’s roughly split their donations between Democrats and Republicans. According to Insider’s calculations, that means Walmart has donated about $400,000 to lawmakers blocking the Equality Act. Amazon, which vocally supports the bill, has donated over $460,000 to politicians opposing it. McDonald’s donated $213,000 to the same cohort.
We’re proud of you. And you should be proud of you, too. This month, we’ll be celebrating and highlighting the people within our McDonald’s family that embody the spirit of LGBTQ+ Pride. 🌈 pic.twitter.com/m4SQd9o5WH
— McDonald's Corporation (@McDonaldsCorp) June 1, 2021
A spokesperson for Amazon defended the donations, saying the retailer “engages with policymakers and regulators on a wide range of issues.”
“That does not mean we agree with any individual or political organization 100 percent of the time on every issue,” the company explained, “and this includes legislation that discriminates or encourages discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.”
— Amazon (@amazon) June 3, 2021
Separately, Pfizer defended its donations to Republicans as well.
“The decision to contribute to these elected officials was made based on their support of the biopharmaceutical industry and policies that protect innovation incentives and patients’ access to medicines and vaccines,” the company told Forbes. “In no way does our support translate into an endorsement of their position on any social issue.”
UPS made a similar case for its own donations.
“Few policymakers agree with each other or businesses 100 per cent of the time, nor do we agree with 100 per cent of the [congressional] members’ opinions,” it told Forbes.
Meanwhile, the rainbow logos continue to shine.