Friday, September 27, 2013
ExxonMobil, long one of the largest corporate holdouts on LGBT equality, today announced that it will extend spousal benefits to gay employees.
The company says it will recognize "all legal marriages" when it determines eligibility for health care plans for the company's 77,000 employees and retirees in the U.S. That means if a gay employee has been married in a state or country where gay marriage is legal, his or her spouse will be eligible for benefits with Exxon in the U.S. as of Oct. 1. Exxon, which is facing a same-sex discrimination complaint in Illinois, said it was following the lead of the U.S. government. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which had allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states. In recent months, federal agencies have begun to offer benefits to legally-married same sex couples. "We haven't changed our eligibility criteria. It has always been to follow the federal definition and it will continue to follow the federal definition," said Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers in an interview.Freedom To Work reacts via press release:
"Today is a victory for the freedom to work. After years of stubbornly refusing, we commend Exxon for joining the majority of the Fortune 500 business leaders that already treat gay and lesbian married couples equally under employee benefit plans," said Tico Almeida, founder and president of the LGBT organization Freedom to Work. "It's a shame Exxon waited until after the Labor Department issued official guidance explaining that their old policy does not comply with American law, and now it's time to move forward."The Human Rights Campaign notes that the company still does not include LGBT employees in its official non-discrimination policies.
"We'd like to begin settlement talks next week in our Illinois lawsuit stemming from evidence that Exxon gave hiring preference to a less qualified straight applicant over a more qualified lesbian applicant," added Almeida. "It's time for Exxon to stop wasting its shareholders' money by running up legal bills on discrimination proceedings that can be settled right away if the corporation would simply add LGBT protections to Exxon's official equal employment opportunity document."
Granting health benefits to all married couples is a step toward equality but it is certainly not the kind of leadership exhibited by ExxonMobil’s competitors,” said Deena Fidas, director of the HRC Workplace Equality Program. “There is no federal law protecting employees from discrimination against sexual orientation or gender identity and ExxonMobil refuses to join the majority of their Fortune 500 colleagues in adopting their own such policies. One has to wonder, what good are benefits for your same-sex spouse if you risk being fired for disclosing your sexual orientation in order to access them?”
Every letter I wrote in Dear Universe has a story behind it. Some of those stories are funny. Some of those stories are heartbreaking. And some of those stories enrage me. So much that every time I open the book to read them, I remember the pain and hurt that lead to their creation...
"Dear Universe, Today I ask that you help me to remember: God does not favor people..."
This is the beginning of a letter that angers me every time I read it. A young black gay man inspired it. No, wait, that's not true -- a lot of young black gay men inspired it. It was written in response to the things I have heard loving and supporting black gay men throughout my life.
One of the events that inspired this letter happened on a Sunday afternoon at Piedmont Park in Atlanta. In case you don't know, Sundays at Piedmont are a time when many black gay men gather, cruise and flirt. It is also a place where I have had many life-changing conversations on spirituality and love. It was in one of those conversations that a young black gay man, who I only knew in passing, once shared this:
"I have had a lot of stuff happen to me in my life. And I know other folks have too. But I watch folks around me get things. Get better. Have people, family... and even when I try it never works for me. Never. My pastor says that you know when you are in God's favor... and I just... I've just come to understand that God does not favor me. That's the only explanation I can find for why things always seem to be so hard, why my family isn't here for me, why things are always taken away."
When I tell this story, people assume my first response to his story was sadness. But it was not. And thankfully, my mind did not move toward pity either.
No, in that moment, I was furious. I wanted to storm into every church that had dared to teach a person "God had special people" or "favored certain folks" and rip the fans from the ceilings and throw them through the slimy stained glass windows.
Why the rage, you ask? I mean, surely as a black gay person, who at that time lived in the South, I must have been accustomed to this kind of doctrine, right? Well, not exactly. First off, I didn't grow up going to church. And while I did grow up in the South, where Christianity was omnipresent, the experience of being invested in church culture -- or having church culture invested in you -- is not one that I know. So there are many things that black gay men who grew up in the church believe, or have experienced, that seem foreign to me... and in many ways, unfathomable.
Make the jump here to red the full article at HuffingtonPost