Gay rights group cheers corporate America for pro-LGBT policies

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More Fortune 500 companies implemented inclusive non-discrimination policies than ever before.

The nation's largest gay civil rights group, in a new report, is calling corporate America "a true leader in the fight for basic fairness and dignity."

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has released its Corporate Equality Index, which rates corporations for policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality. The index shows that 304 major businesses earned a top score of 100 percent and the distinction of “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”

Chad Griffin, president of HRC, said in a news release, “This will go down in history as the year that corporate support for equality left the boardroom and reached each and every corner of this country. Not only do fair-minded companies guarantee fair treatment to millions of LGBT employees in all 50 states, but now those same companies are fighting for full legal equality in state legislatures, in the halls of Congress and before the U.S. Supreme Court."

HRC noted that hundreds of major businesses signed onto friend-of-the-court briefs urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a provision in the Defense of Marriage Act that barred federal recognition of same-sex marriages. The briefs also urged the justices to strike down California’s Proposition 8.

Also, more than 120 businesses joined the coalition calling on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The Senate passed the bill this fall but House Speaker John Boehner said he has no plans to allow a vote on the measure.

Additionally, according to HRC, its index "reveals record numbers of major businesses updating their non-discrimination policies and benefits packages well ahead of federal mandates to support LGBT employees and their families."

More Fortune 500 companies implemented inclusive workplace non-discrimination policies than ever before — 91 percent provide explicit protections on the basis of sexual orientation and 61 percent on the basis of gender identity.  Sixty-seven percent offer same-sex partner benefits, another record.

In the first CEI 12 years ago, 13 businesses earned a 100 percent. After two revisions to the scorecard in the following decade, major businesses kept apace and competed with one another, leading to the 304 top performers. The top rated businesses span across industries, geographies and size.

"Corporate America has long recognized the imperative of LGBT inclusion by implementing their own LGBT-friendly policies ahead of lawmakers,” said HRC's workplace equality program director Deena Fidas. "We are at the front of a new era in which major businesses are not only meeting ever-higher new bars for workplace fairness, they are exceeding them by becoming social and public policy change agents in the process. They recognize equality is not just the right thing to do, it is sound business practice."

Still, according to HRC, too many of America’s top companies, particularly from the oil and gas, mining and manufacturing industries, are absent from the equality movement.

The report at a glance:

• In two years, the number of top-rated businesses has leapt from 189 to 304.

• A record 300 major businesses and law firms publicly supported pro-equality legislation at the state and federal levels, including those that took an active role in the marriage equality campaigns.

• The number Fortune 500 companies with non-discrimination policies that cover gender identity is at an all-time high.

• Transgender-inclusive health care coverage continues to rise and is becoming a bellwether for full inclusion. Now in its third year as a mandatory criterion for a company to earn 100 percent, 340 — 46 percent — participating companies offer comprehensive health care coverage to their transgender employees, up from 287 last year.

Ratings for businesses in the index listed as based in Wisconsin:

• Foley & Lardner LLP, 100.

• Rockwell Automation Inc., 100.

• Quarles & Brady LLP, 90.

• S.C. Johnson & Johnson Inc., 90.

• Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, 90.

• Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, 90.

• ManpowerGroup, 90.

• Alliant Energy Corp., 85.

• Johnson Controls Inc., 50.

• Wisconsin Energy Corp., 45.

• Oshkosh Corp., 15.

• Kohl's Corp., 15.

• Harley-Davidson Inc., 15.

• American Family Insurance Group, 55.

• CUNA Mutual Insurance Group, 30.