5 leading LGBT-friendly companies

Oreo posted this ad on their Facebook page on June 25 and sparked a heated controversy over gay rights.

A Facebook post depicting an Oreo with layers of rainbow filling with the words "June 25: Pride. Proudly support love!" has Christian groups and LGBT advocates alike in a frenzy. While the notorious group One Million Moms, the impetus of a million memes, condemned the ad, others are rejoicing and celebrating "The World's Favorite Cookie." 

But Oreo isn't the only American company that's jumped on the LGBT bandwagon. Despite conservative backlash, many of these corporations have reported positive sales in a down economy, and it may have a lot to do with tapping a market estimated at $790 billion, according to a recent article in the Denver Post. 

The majority of Americans support marriage equality, according to an NBC/WSJ poll conducted in May, which found that 54 percent of people would be in favor of a law in their state making same-sex marriage legal, and the corporations know their audience. 

"This is what best-in-class brands do," Marriott executive Joanna Todd said to the Denver Post after the company rolled out a series of ads geared toward LGBT travelers. "We've seen nothing but positive responses."

These are five big companies (of many more) that have openly supported LGBT causes: 

JC Penney

Besides being Pride Month, Father's Day also falls in June. After announcing openly gay personality Ellen DeGeneres as spokesperson earlier in the year, a Father's Day ad in the JC Penney mailer showing two gay dads drummed up both condemnation and support from either side of the spectrum, and followed a similar ad in May that featured two moms for Mother's Day. 

"That [JC Penney] has made the calculation that there’s more to gain than lose by projecting an acceptance of gay and lesbian couples underscores how much this country has evolved and continues to evolve," wrote columnist Frank Bruni in the New York Times. 

Wells Fargo

The original gay-friendly corporation and mega-bank Wells Fargo started sponsoring gay pride parades in San Francisco in 1992. This year, the much-maligned corporation will sponsor at least 20 Pride parades, according to the company blog. Wells Fargo has a long history of equitable practices, extending the same rights to homosexual partners as everyone else, when it comes to banking, and donating millions a year to organizations like GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). 

"The gay and lesbian population is extremely brand-loyal," said Justin Nelson, who leads the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, in a SFGate blog post after right-wing groups closed their Wells Fargo accounts. "If companies stay with the community, not only will the community be with you before the uproar, but during and after."

In a time when banks are some of the most hated kinds of corporations on the planet, being LGBT friendly seems like a smart business idea.

"Sponsoring Pride 'most certainly' has drawn customers to Wells Fargo," says Mark Ng, LGBT segment manager at Wells Fargo to US News earlier this month. "Consumers are just as interested in a company's values as they are with our company's products and services."

In June 2011, the bank unveiled an ad with two black gay men, and predictably, conservative groups hated it while everyone else rejoiced.

American Airlines

The airline recently released bus shelter ads in New York City showing two beach chairs and matching green towels with copy that reads, "Here's to his and his towels," reportedly the first Fortune 500 company to do so, according to the Denver Post. 

In addition to sponsoring Pride events all over the world (this week's are in Chicago and Barcelona), AA also has specific Twitter and Facebook accounts for it's "Rainbow Team" that regularly post updates on Pride parades and sponsorship events. There is also a "Gay and Lesbian Travel" section of the AA website. 

JFK airport's Terminal 8 was host to a sponsored Pride event on June 21 that took over that section of the airport with a showing of Bette Midler's new musical "Priscilla," about drag queens in the Australian outback.

"We are pleased to host the cast of Priscilla as we treat customers to this special performance and celebrate Pride Month," American Airlines vice president Tim Ahern said in a release, reported the Advocate. "We are very proud of our history of support for both LGBT customers and employees and are excited to bring this show to JFK as a fun way to celebrate this rich history." 

General Mills

On June 14 the cereal giant (which owns the likes of Pillsbury, Cheerios and Lucky Charms) announced its opposition to a proposed gay marriage ban in Minnesota. 

After CEO Ken Powell voiced his concern for the measure, vice president for diversity Ken Charles wrote in a blog post, "I am proud to see our company join the ranks of local and national employers speaking out for inclusion. We do not believe the proposed constitutional amendment is in the best interests of our employees or our state economy – and as a Minnesota-based company we oppose it."

Powell hosted a function attended by 400 LGBT professionals from the state and spoke about his company's commitment to diversity. 


After over 200,000 likes and 68,000 shares on Facebook, as well as now-countless articles and blog posts, the iconic American cookie has dunked itself into the limelight after its Facebook ad. 

“We are excited to illustrate what is making history today in a fun and playful way,” Basil Maglaris, a spokeswoman for Oreo’s parent company Kraft Foods said in an email to ABC News. “As a company, Kraft Foods has a proud history of celebrating diversity and inclusiveness. We feel the OREO ad is a fun reflection of our values.”

While the positive response has been overwhelming, others have taken to hate speech and calling for boycotts on the Facebook page. 

Commenter Jonathan Barbee took to the page to promote a boycott and petition against the company's stance. "We will no longer tolerate companies that offend Christianity," he wrote in a comment. "When was the last time you made and OREO with a cross engraved on it? Yes, that's what I thought. I have no problems with GAY people, just companies that will support their movement and not be fair and support a Christian movement. Make a Christian OREO and I will shut up."

Despite negative backlash, positive reinforcement for the cookie company has been enormous, even jumping social media platforms to Twitter, where the conversation is still moving two days later. 

Some other major companies that have come out in support of LGBT causes are: Allstate, Amazon, Apple, Applebee's, Best Buy, Clorox, Coca-Cola, Costco, Delta Airlines, Ford, Gap, General Motors, Gerber Baby Products, Hilton Hotels, Home Depot, IMB, Levi's, Marriott International, McDonald's, Microsoft, Nationwide, Nike, Olive Garden, Pepsico, Proctor and Gamble, Red Lobster, Rite Aid, Sears, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, State Farm, Target, United Airlines, UPS, Walgreens, Walt Disney Company. 

For more of GlobalPost's coverage of gay rights, check out our Special Report "The Rainbow Struggle." 

Correction: An earlier version of this post insinuated that all the companies on this list, including American Airlines, had openly endorsed marriage equality. This is not the case according to LGBT researcher, corporate consultant and author Bob Witeck. 

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