Does Walmart Qualify as a Pro-LGBT Business?
“Inconsistent” is the best word to describe Walmart’s politics. In 2015, the Arkansas-based company refrained from criticizing Arkansas Senate Bill 202, which prevented local governments from including LGBT people in anti-discrimination laws, until after the law passed. They also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans running for state office. Also in 2015, they settled a class action lawsuit claiming that the company denied the same-sex spouses of employees access to the company insurance.
On the other side of the aisle, they did speak out against a “religious conscience” bill that would have protected discrimination against LGBT people, and added their name to the list of Fortune 500 companies protesting a similar bill in Indiana. They also state that they’re inclusive in their hiring practices, and way back in 2004, they launched Walmart PRIDE, an internal resource group for queer employees. They also sponsor more than 30 Pride events nationwide.
Walmart’s indeterminate stance is not unique to them—it’s a common type of corporate sway. They respond almost purely to public outcry, rather than to any internal consistency or conscience.
Walmart reports their global workforce as being over 2.2 million strong. The Williams Institute’s conservative estimate places 4% of the global population as being some flavor of LGBT, so that means that Walmart employs 88,000 LGBT people, statistically. But they have never had a reputation for putting their employees first, so perhaps that is why those numbers haven’t inspired any kind of internal change.
More and more massive companies have been adopting pro-LGBT policies, whether through genuine progressive stances, marketing realism (71% of people under 35 support gay rights, which translates to a great deal of buying power and more in the years to come), or a need to be seen in the future as being on the “right side of history.”
Walmart has a lot of work to do to shake their right-wing, corporate-conservative image. Firming their pro-LGBT stance and making it less of a paper promise would go a long way towards that.