Commentary: Equalling Some More Than Others

2011 Chevrolet Volt 31
"Mom, Dad…I think I helped GM earn a perfect score in the new HRC Corporate Equality Index!" Photo by Randy Stern

Why does some political action committee's publication on the corporate temperature of cultural equality matter to this site?

Ehem…

As you know, I write for two other LGBT outlets – Lavender Magazine and GayWheels.com. You also know I am a gay man in a large body – they are known as Bears, for those keeping score. Now that I got this out of the way, I can explain why the Human Rights Campaign's annual Corporate Equality Index report is worth commenting on.

Years ago, I was concerned about how the OEMs would perceive a gay person writing about the automotive world. We already had out LGBT folks on both sides of the industry – the company and the media corps. There had been historic gaps in terms of LGBT folks navigating within both circles and coming up with negative feedback between the two. In other words, the industry was perceived to be homophobic for quite a while.

Then again, LGBT folks are considered a demographic, though not fully measured by registration information. Yet, the visible "pink dollar" had been a phenomenon even in the wake of the AIDS crisis. In the course of eleven years working in LGBT media, I see a complete embracing of our demographic on all levels from inside the corporate structure to outreach to consumers to the enthusiast community.

Yes, it is good to be gay these days. Though, I have to temper my enthusiasm for the moment. Perhaps we should start with the facts…

In the 2013 Corporate Equality Index report, the following automotive-related companies earned a perfect score of 100 points: Chevron Corporation, Chrysler Group LLC, Cummins, Inc., Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company, Toyota Financial Services, Toyota Motor Sales USA, and the Volkswagen Group of America.

Other automotive-related companies reporting scores are: Avis Budget Group (50), BP America (90), Bridgestone Americas (70), CarMax (85), ConocoPhillips (55), Cooper Tire & Rubber (25), Dana (45), Dollar Thrifty (70), ExxonMobil (-25), Hertz (65), Lear Corp. (15), Navistar (40), Nissan North America (75), O'Reilly Automotive (0), Paccar (15), Penske (0), Ryder Systems (70), Shell Oil (95), SiriusXM (75), Sonic Automotive (15), Subaru of America (85), Visteon (75) – to name a few.

The point of listing as many companies as reported on here is to understand the wide variety of scores the HRC compiled throughout the industry. As stated, the CEI serves as a temperature as to the reality of the company's performance behind the product and service being utilized for the purpose of publication.

Is it an absolute guideline for publication? The answer comes down to which editorial policy my outlets have. The HRC's CEI report carries plenty of weight at GayWheels.com. These findings are also important at Lavender as well, but it does not dictate editorial policy in terms of automotive articles. Victory & Reseda's own editorial policy is one that does not draw the line with any company's policies unless they wish not to work with this site. So far, I received nothing but a warm welcome by all companies I have dealt with in this work.

There are a couple of flaws to bring up. First of all, not all companies turned in their reporting to the HRC. Therefore, the CEI could be seen as inconclusive and not as comprehensive to guide an absolute editorial policy. There are several entities absent on this year's CEI that reported in the past.

Another flaw was brought up by General Motors regarding last year's CEI, as to how the change in scoring affected their score. They had a perfect score in the CEI until 2012's report, which saw GM lose 10 points. This year, you will notice the folks at the Renaissance Center earned their perfect score back. They should – that is, if you recall the great effort they made during Motor City Pride with the print ad involving the Chevrolet Volt's "coming out." That alone is worth 10 points.

Compared to my dealings with the companies listed in the CEI, I believe they fall in line with the LGBT part of the connection between these firms, my outlets and I. Though the HRC's report does make my job easier, it is not a crutch for my work. A guideline, perhaps, but any automotive entity these days should be able to open the doors to the LGBT members of the automotive media corps. After all, there are plenty of us in that pool. I am just the Bear on the intertube in the midst of it.

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