Businesses that practice real Pride Month allyship will be on the right side of history

Kid Rock would like you to believe that companies just started caring about LGBTQ+ people, but for more than 20 years, our nation’s largest employers have worked with the Human Rights Campaign to achieve basic benchmarks of LGBTQ+ inclusion. This work matters more than ever – as does a company’s visible commitment to the community.

This June will be a test on both fronts.

More than 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced across the country since Jan. 1. More than 220 of those target the transgender community – the highest in a single year.

This wave of hate has real consequences – from book and curriculum bans erasing our stories to nearly 100,000 trans youth losing access to lifesaving, medically necessary health care. Hate crimes are skyrocketing, and suicide risks are higher due to the stigma being spread about LGBTQ+ lives.

This wave of extremism is hardly surprising. With each step toward equality, the far right has lashed back – trying to rile up their extremist base and testing the commitment of true allies. The American Family Association has boycotted everything from IKEA to Target to American Girl. There is a long list of failed attacks on corporate inclusion.

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Companies know inclusion is good for business

Through the highs and lows, companies have stood with the community, and more than 1,200 of the nation’s largest companies annually participate in the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index. Since its launch in 2002, the tool has pushed forward LGBTQ+ inclusive practices – providing points for inclusive, nondiscrimination policies and health insurance, as well as engaging in inclusive marketing campaigns, among other criteria.

Through this work, we’ve ensured that despite the political realities, millions of LGBTQ+ people can come to work expecting a fair shake, without having to hide who they are or who they love. And since we started the index, we’ve raised the bar for inclusion. Right now, companies are again in the process of filling out their surveys, with increased requirements for achieving a top score.

People march following a Pride rally Friday, June 2, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) ORG XMIT: UTRB101
People march following a Pride rally Friday, June 2, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) ORG XMIT: UTRB101

Meanwhile, attacks against companies ramped up again starting last spring, when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was desperate to make a name for himself and picked a fight against one of the most beloved brands in America. His attempt to punish Disney for speaking out against the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law is now faltering, with even Republican allies rejecting his retaliation against the company.

In April, Disney doubled down on its commitment to its values by filing its own lawsuit against the governor’s actions.

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Future workers – and customers – increasingly identify as LGBTQ+

While LGBTQ+ inclusion is clearly the right thing for companies to do, it also safeguards a company’s future success. An estimated 7.2% of U.S. adults identify as LGBTQ+, and 20% of Generation Z identifies as LGBTQ+.

Gen Z is identified as being born from 1997 through 2012. By 2030, there will be an estimated 52 million Gen Z adults in the U.S. workforce, collectively making an estimated $2 trillion in post-tax income.

These folks aren’t just future workers – they’re current customers.

Disney understands this. The most successful businesses understand this. But we will continue to see examples of businesses being tested by the opposition.

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Companies need to take a page from Disney’s approach – and let Anheuser-Busch be a case study of what not to do. After a Bud Light partnership with transgender advocate Dylan Mulvaney, the company issued a milquetoast response to controversy sparked by a viral video in which Kid Rock shot cases of beer with an assault rifle. The company said recently that two executives had taken a leave of absence after the backlash, sending a signal that the campaign – and not the rabidly anti-trans rhetoric – was the problem.

Kelley Robinson is the president of the Human Rights Campaign.
Kelley Robinson is the president of the Human Rights Campaign.

The company failed to engage in any meaningful action to undo their missteps, and we subsequently suspended its Corporate Equality Index score.

It is in this atmosphere that companies are entering Pride Month – a timely reminder that inclusion is not selective nor half-hearted. Being an LGBTQ+ ally this Pride means moving beyond the seasonal rainbow logo to taking meaningful action – speaking out against hate-filled legislation, providing relocation benefits for workers who have to flee their states, and standing by the community when the water gets hot.

The businesses that do so – that don’t perform allyship but practice it – will be on the right side of history.

Kelley Robinson is the president of the Human Rights Campaign.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pride Month, LGBTQ inclusion is good business: Human Rights Campaign