Corporate America protects family values

A new report shows that more than half of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partnership benefits.

Published June 30, 2006 4:18PM (EDT)

Friday's San Francisco Chronicle reports that domestic partnership benefits are becoming more and more mainstream in corporate America, despite Congress' continued foot-dragging on gay rights. The story cites a report released Thursday by the Human Rights Campaign that shows that "235 of the country's 500 largest public companies now offer health coverage to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees." As the Chronicle points out, this is a "dramatic change from 1992, when San Francisco's Levi Strauss & Co. made headlines by becoming the first Fortune 500 firm to offer domestic partner benefits." And "among the Fortune 500, 430 firms now have policies banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, up from 294 in 2001," the Chronicle reports.

Contrary to what you might think, it's not just bastions of liberalism like New York and the Bay Area that are offering these progressive policies. According to the HRC report, companies that added domestic partner benefits in 2006 include Clear Channel Communications in Texas, Duke Energy Corp. in North Carolina and Harrah's Entertainment in Las Vegas. These three companies, which aren't otherwise particularly known for their forward-minded values, indicate that domestic partnership benefits aren't just a matter of equal rights -- they're also good for business.

What's significant about the findings in this report is that they demonstrate how the government's provincial codes for marriage don't square with real life. Corporate America is beginning to realize that in hiring the most qualified workers, it must look beyond just a heterosexual pool of applicants.

By Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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