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AT&T leads major corporations in pro-LGBTQ push

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The third in a series from inside the International LGBT Leaders conference. See Part One here and Part Two here.

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 19, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — AT&T has intensified its efforts at the state level to lobby to “stop” pro-family, religious liberty bills that have been targeted for defeat by LGBTQ activists, said a spokesman, speaking at a International LGBT Leaders conference.

Scott Sapperstein, assistant vice president, public affairs for AT&T, described how the $234 billion telecommunications corporation supports the homosexual and "transgender" political agenda as “part of our DNA. It’s a core value for the company. … It’s part of who we are.”

“(We're) helping to defeat anti-LGBT bills, but also … to find areas and pockets where we can push pro-[LGBTQ]-equality pieces of legislation,” Sapperstein told an audience of about 100 fellow activists. He said he works closely with GLAAD, HRC and other national LGBTQ organizations.

AT&T’s current embrace of LGBTQ advocacy is in line with the company’s long, historical support for (racial) civil rights. “I think it was a natural progression when LGBT civil rights became an issue … [so] AT&T stepped up,” Sapperstein said.

Sapperstein was part of a panel titled “Making the Case: The Business Community and the Fight for LGBT Non-Discrimination” at the December conference, which was sponsored by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute and financed by other major corporations such as Walmart, Dow, Coca-Cola Comcast, State Farm, Southwest Airlines, and Union-Pacific.

Although AT&T did not sponsor the panel, most panel discussions at the conference were sponsored by a major corporation whose representative, like Sapperstein, opened by touting the company's commitment to LGBTQ issues.

“Starts at the top”

Sapperstein said that “when it comes to [LGBT] equality and nondiscrimination, it starts at the top,” and pointed proudly to AT&T’s chairman and CEO, Randall Stephenson (who is also the national president of the Boy Scouts of America).

The PR executive harkened back to a September AT&T employees meeting where Stephenson gave a rousing speech on racial tensions in which he declared that mere tolerance “is for cowards,” and urged employees to move toward dialogue and understanding. Since then, Sapperstein said, “the conversation has continued and we’ve talked about equality in the LGBT space.”  

“We can’t sit back. We can’t say the results of this election are something that we’re gonna moan and groan about. We’ve gotta do something about it and not be complacent,” he said.

In that vein, Sapperstein championed AT&T’s opposition to pro-family “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) state bills, which are patterned after the federal RFRA law and are being considered this year in Texas and dozens of other states.

Other panelists praised AT&T’s role in stopping pro-family legislation. “AT&T has played a vital role in a lot of these [pro-LGBT, anti-conservative legislative] campaigns around the country,” said Katie Belanger, chief operations officer of Freedom for All Americans. Her group aims to promotes pro-LGBT “nondiscrimination” laws across the country.  

Pro-family and faith-motivated conservatives argue that there is need for pro-religious liberty legislation to reinforce the First Amendment right because increasingly Americans are being forced through “sexual orientation” laws to violate their conscience by participating with their small business in a same-sex “wedding.”

The media usually mimic LGBTQ advocates in labeling religious freedom bills as “anti-gay“ or “anti-LGBT” and rarely label them as “pro-freedom.”

Corporations join the ‘gay’ revolution

AT&T’s support of the LGBTQ agenda represents one of the most dramatic institutional shifts in the culture wars since homosexuality became a major cultural issue in the 1970s: the 180-degree corporate shift to fully embracing the homosexual agenda — one that pro-LGBT historians acknowledge is “revolutionary.”

From the most unlikely, traditionally “conservative,” seemingly all-American corporations — like Walmart, General Mills and Union Pacific — comes a most unlikely, fervent commitment to sexual and gender activism of a sort that few could have been envisioned just decades ago. This testifies to the meteoric rise of “gay” activist power in America in the last 25 years. Transgender activists are now copying the successful “gay” activist tactics.

Major corporations have become a critical factor in defeating or watering down religious liberty legislation in Arizona (2014), Indiana (2015), and other states. Even in Texas, big business played a major role in killing social conservatives’ effort to curb the LGBT activist agenda and affirm freedom of conscience in the last Texas legislative session (2015).

“The business lobby, the Texas Association of Business [TAB], has decided now they’re going to put all their investment in the homosexual agenda, and that’s one of the things they did,” Johnathan Saenz, president of the pro-family group Texas Values, said in a 2015 interview. “It was a big surprise to a lot of lawmakers. … The Texas Association of Business has clearly turned their back on the values of Texas.”

TAB is preparing to do the LGBT lobby’s bidding again this session, which began January 10.

... And the gender revolution, too

Many of the same corporations that courted activists at the LGBT Leaders conference are fighting state by state, and at the federal level, for pro-“transgender” laws based on “gender identity.” And they have become a bulwark for leftist sexual activists against conservative, pro-family bills designed to keep severely gender-confused people from using restrooms that do not match their biological sex.

Last year, corporations ranging from PayPal to the NBA waged an unprecedented boycott campaign against the state of North Carolina because of its HB2 “bathroom” law, which overrode a liberal Charlotte “gender identity” (transgender) ordinance. HB2, formally the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, stipulates that biological males use men’s public restrooms, and biological women use only women’s public restrooms.

Egged on by LGBTQ lobby groups, President Obama’s DOJ sued then-Gov. Pat McCrory and North Carolina, saying HB2 violates the federal Civil Rights Act. McCrory and legislative leaders countersued DOJ, as a host of liberal cities and states joined the massive, media-hyped “progressive” boycott against North Carolina.

The North Carolina HB2 law is still on the books, but the corporate-media-progressive campaign against the state contributed to the defeat of McCrory. LGBT activists claim McCrory lost specifically because of HB2, but that idea is challenged by the easy re-election of McCrory’s Republican lieutenant governor, Dan Forest, the most vocal statewide elected official defending the restroom law. Forest coasted to a 300,000-vote victory over his Democratic, anti-HB2 challenger on Nov. 8.

Nevertheless, LGBT activists needed a high-profile win after Trump’s and the Republicans’ victory on November 8, and North Carolina was it. Speakers at the LGBT Leaders conference gloated over McCrory’s narrow defeat.

“Finally, there is a price to be paid for being on the wrong side,” Belanger said.

“ — wrong side of history,” cut in John Roberts, founder of the Denver-based Workplace Equality Index. His organization is one of two LGBT “indexes” that push companies to adhere to an evermore stringent array of pro-homosexual and pro-transgender policies.

“In the end, money talks,” Roberts said, regarding major corporation being afraid to be identified with socially conservative policies. In state after state, socially liberal business groups claim that passage of a religious liberty bill could cost the state billions in lost corporate investment. But pro-family advocates question the validity of such studies and the idea that pro-LGBTQ policies drive economic growth.

Hostility toward social conservatives

The leading homosexual activist group, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which mobilized its activists to defeat McCrory, ranks major corporations on how pro-homosexual and pro-“transgender” they are. This year, HRC Foundation awarded a new high of 517 Fortune 500 companies with a “100 percent” ranking in its heavily pro-LGBT-biased scorecard, the 2017 Corporate Equality Index (CEI).

Among the major corporations that received a 100 percent score for the first time was Walmart, which in recent years has cultivated LGBT activists, even as it simultaneously seeks the support of Christian conservative groups like the American Family Association.

Its “perfect” rating means that Walmart is now committed to incentivizing transgenderism through its employee healthcare policies, because the CEI increasingly puts a high value on pro-transgender policies. This will likely include insurance coverage for “gender transitions” to the supposed opposite sex though its healthcare plans in the name of “equality.”

“This year saw the CEI’s largest jump ever in businesses offering transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage — from 511 last year to 647 this year,” HRC Foundation president Chad Griffin writes.

Whether Walmart will be able to continue to appease both sides in the “culture wars” is questionable, as HRC has built into its Index a strong anti-conservative scoring bias that punishes pro-natural-marriage and pro-moral actions taken by corporations. Under the CEI, a company earns 15 points by sponsoring and funding pro-LGBTQ events (e.g., homosexual “pride” parades). However, the same company is punished by losing 25 points if it is judged to have taken an action deemed to be “a large-scale official or public anti-LGBT blemish.”

The fact that major corporations are working hand-in-hand with HRC troubles pro-family advocates, especially because the homosexual-transgender lobby organization misclassifies public opposition to homosexuality as “hate.”

Ratcheting up pro-LGBT requirements

To make matters worse for pro-family advocates, every two years, Human Rights Campaign comes out with new, more stringent pro-LGBTQ requirements to score a “perfect” 100 percent on its Corporate Equality Index. The 2016-2017 version of CEI adds the following requirements for corporations to receive a 100 percent score:

  • “Have sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination protections explicitly included in all of its operations, both within the US and global operations.

  • “Require U.S. contractors to abide by companies’ existing inclusive non-discrimination policy.

  • “Implement internal requirements prohibiting company/law firm philanthropic giving to non-religious organizations that have a written policy of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/ or gender identity.”

Note that the international aspect of these new criteria, which effectively forces pro-LGBTQ social change on less developed nations that are less accepting of homosexuality than the West. Note as well the further tightening of the scoring system’s ban on corporate donations to pro-family, conservative groups and causes.

Knowing that “many companies are celebrating their 100 percent ratings,” as Belanger said, and that they will want to keep their “perfect” score, HRC keeps ratcheting up its demands. So if corporations like Walmart and AT&T want to stay at 100 percent, they must continue to escalate their pro-LGBTQ policies and philanthropy.

Of course, the army of LGBT-activist insiders like Sapperstein who advocate from within corporate HR departments and agencies, and through officially-recognized LGBT employee groups, offer the homosexual and "transgender" movements a huge advantage over their pro-family opponents when it comes to influencing corporate conduct.

Affirmative action for “gay-owned” businesses?

The speakers at the “Business Community and the Fight for LGBT Nondiscrimination Laws” panel applauded HRC’s next round of CEI requirements (for 2019). These include phasing out exemptions for “transgender” procedures in company health plans, e.g., covering “sex reassignment surgeries,” and opposite-sex hormone therapy.

Then there is the following requirement on “supplier diversity:”

“Outside the benefits realm, employers with supplier diversity programs must include LGBT suppliers as part of their procurement outreach efforts.”

What this policy change will do is make billions of additional corporate funds available to self-declared homosexuals by creating explicit, “affirmative action”-type policies that favor “LGBT-owned” small businesses. (Previously, similar programs were aimed solely at genuine minorities like African-Americans and women-owned businesses.) Kodak, PepsiCo and some other corporations already have adopted pro-LGBT “supplier diversity” programs, but next year any major corporation that wants to reach or keep a “100 percent” CEI rating “must” start one.

The organization that “certifies” a company as “LGBT-owned is the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). Its co-founder and president, Justin Nelson, said his group worked closely with HRC to make the new criterion a stand-alone requirement. He praised Sapperstein and AT&T for “pushing that policy change across the finish line at our friends from HRC.”

“I’m talking billions of dollars that are spent every year with diverse suppliers,” Nelson said. He noted that 350 corporations on the CEI “100 percent” list that do not yet have pro-LGBT supplier diversity programs “are going to have to start working with us to put opportunities in front of LGBT-owned companies.”

Old morality defenders “die off”

Corporations justify their rapid embrace of pro-LGBTQ policies as a way to appeal to millennials, who, they said, strongly support “equality.”

Pro-LGBTQ advocates frequently cite polls showing the younger people are, the more strongly they support “equality.” Citing some 90 million millennials, roughly defined as people born after 1980, one speaker at the LGBT Leaders conference put it more bluntly:

“One nice thing about demographic trends is, pardon the pun, they die off,” said Roberts, founder of the Denver-based Workplace Equality Index. “And we think if you look at how this next massive generation that is now the largest percentage of the U.S. workforce [millennials], if you look at their views, they align with [pro-homosexual] equality beautifully.”

Like HRC, the Equality Index ranks major corporations on their support for homosexuality and transgenderism but with a different approach and ratings system than the much more widely known CEI scorecard.

Roberts’ group purports to make the “business case” for pro-homosexual and pro-transgender corporate policies, saying companies that adopt them outperform companies that do not. He called the Indiana religious liberty law targeted by Salesforce and other major corporations in 2015 “really, really heinous” and said, “What we see is that CEO spearheading [opposition to socially conservative laws] … and when a CEO of a company that is your city, your state, says, ‘We’re going to start pulling jobs … that gets attention.”

Meanwhile, AT&T’s Sapperstein says the company has already held strategy sessions and is finalizing plans on how to confront socially conservative bills slated for consideration in state legislatures this year.

Sapperstein said, “One of the things we do is use, to be honest, we use our clout” with state and local chambers of commerce to push them to join the pro-LGBTQ political fight and stop RFRA (religious freedom restoration) laws championed by social conservatives like Texas Values.

He heralded the latest pro-LGBT legislative campaign coming out of the Texas Association of Business, “Keep Texas Open For Business,” designed to stop a slew of pro-family and religious liberty bills from becoming law in the Lone State State. The slick TAB campaign states, “Discriminatory Legislation is Bad for Business” and predicts an $8.5 billion decline in the state’s GDP and the loss of 185,000 jobs “if proposed discriminatory bills are passed by the Texas Legislature.” 

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