We should be living in an era where everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to enjoy the full range of human rights, without exception. Unfortunately, every day, across the globe, sexual orientation or gender identity leads to abuse in the form of discrimination, violence, imprisonment, torture, or even execution.
In America, thankfully, one socially responsible company is setting a different, good example: Darden Restaurants, which has scored 100 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign(HRC), ‘2013 Corporate Equality Index‘ (CEI) for its business practices and policies toward its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees. A total of 889 businesses were rated in the 2013 CEI, including the entire Fortune 500 and a record 252 businesses achieved the top rating of 100 per cent, with Darden the only restaurant company among them. HRC is America’s largest civil rights organisation working to achieve LGBT equality. In this annual survey, companies are rated on 40 specific policies and practices, including having fully-inclusive equal employment opportunity policies, providing equal employment benefits, demonstrating organisational LGBT competency and exercising responsible citizenship.
The CEI report is the premiere national benchmark for LGBT workplace inclusion. Samir Gupte, senior vice president of culture for Darden says, “We embrace diversity and inclusion as business imperatives that are critical to our success and future growth. We believe that understanding and embracing our unique differences enriches our corporate culture and enables us to be a high-performing organization.” This company’s long history of diversity and inclusion goes back to 1938, when its founder Bill Darden welcomed anyone as a guest in his first restaurant during an era of racial segregation and discrimination.
Today, even in advanced democracies like the U.K., we are still addressing gay rights issues. The British government’s plans to allow same-sex marriages, including those religious organisations which want to offer it has become a heated debate this year. The right of adults to enter into consensual marriage is actually enshrined in international human rights standards. A recent survey by a national Sunday newspaper shows Britons strongly support gay rights across a wide range of issues and six out of ten back same-sex marriage. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has promised a change in the law in England and Wales by the next election in May 2015 to allow same sex marriages and has said he does not want gay couples to be excluded from being able to marry in church. This will be a subject that will continue to be hotly discussed in this country.
In the world we still have a long way to go, as no LGBT person should experience discrimination in employment, housing, or in businesses and public places, or the suppression of their free expression or privacy rights.
Photo Credit: Corporate Equality Index
Sangeeta Haindl is a staff writer for Justmeans on Social Enterprise. When not writing for Justmeans, Sangeeta wears her other hat as a PR professional. Over the years, she has worked with high-profile organizations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from her industry. She now runs her own UK consultancy: Serendipity PR & Media.