(AP) - Victory wasn't supposed to come this easy.
Pride Foundation, a Seattle-based philanthropic group for gay and
lesbian issues, spent more than two years talking with Wal-Mart
Stores Inc. about making it company policy not to discriminate on
the basis of sexual orientation.
The foundation was preparing to draft a shareholders resolution
to further pressure the Bentonville, Ark.-based company.
Then word came that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer and
private employer, was making the change voluntarily. The company
announced Wednesday that it is including gays and lesbians among
groups protected by its anti-discrimination policy.
"We assumed we would be working on Wal-Mart for quite a while,"
said Zan McColloch-Lussier, campaign director for Pride Foundation.
The group owns a small amount of Wal-Mart stock and had expected to
write a proposal for shareholders.
"We are quite proud that we did not need to do that," he said.
The change resulted in part from external pressure but also from
Wal-Mart workers, who have long urged the company to make the
change, company spokesman Tom Williams said.
"It's the right thing to do," he said. "The issue was that
everyone feel valued and treated with respect. ... No exceptions at
The success bolsters Pride Foundation and those who assisted in
the Wal-Mart campaign, including Trillium Asset Management and
Walden Asset Management, both of Boston. All three groups are
members of the Equality Project, a New York-based coalition of
funds, investors and others that seek to change corporate policy
with the voice that comes from being a shareholder - even a small
The groups now are considering where to focus their energies
With Wal-Mart's conversion, nine of the top 10 Fortune 500
companies expressly include sexual orientation in their
anti-discrimination policies, said Shelley Alpern, an assistant vice
president at Trillium.
The exception is Exxon Mobil Corp., she said.
Exxon Mobil, which is based in Irving, Texas, issued a statement
Wednesday saying it did not plan to add the language and believes
its "intentionally broad" policy clearly bars discrimination on any
basis, including sexual orientation. In May, shareholders of the oil
giant defeated a resolution to ban discrimination against
Pride Foundation, founded in December 1985 to provide grants and
assistance to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organizations,
has given more than $4.2 million to Northwest groups and projects.
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