By Chris Hoenig
AT&T has a record as a company that backs both the LGBT community and American Olympians. When those two worlds collide this month in Sochi, Russia, the host nation’s laws won’t receive the same support.
The Dallas-based company, No. 13 in the 2013 DiversityInc Top 50 and No. 2 in our Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees, has become the first major U.S. corporation to condemn Russia’s anti- LGBT laws. “AT&T has a long and proud history of supportfor the LGBT community in the United States and everywhere around the world where we do business,” the company said in a blog post. “We support LGBT equality globally and we condemn violence, discrimination and harassment targeted against LGBT individuals everywhere. Russia’s law is harmful to LGBT individuals and families, and it’s harmful to a diverse society.”
AT&T was the first telecommunications company to score a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. Its perfect score in the 2014 CEI marked the 10th consecutive year that the company received a 100 rating.
In August, the HRC called on sponsors of the Olympic Games to condemn Russia’s laws and advocate for equality worldwide. “AT&T is not an IOC sponsor, so we did not receive the HRC request,” the company’s announcement said. “However, we are a long-standing sponsor of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), we support HRC’s principles and we stand against Russia’s anti-LGBT law.
“We celebrate the diversity of all Olympic athletes, their fans, Russian residents and all people the world overincluding and, especially, our employees and their loved ones.
“As the games begin, we’re here to support and inspire American athletes who’ve worked hard and sacrificed much to achieve their dreams. We also want to be on record with our support for the LGBT community, and we hope that others involved with the Olympic Games will do the same.”
In addition to sponsoring the USOC, AT&T is also a major sponsor of GLSEN. The company partners with the LGBT advocacy group to present an annual Student Advocate of the Year Award, which last year was presented to Laila Al-Shamma of Carlsbad, Calif.
AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, a Boy Scouts of America board member, issued a public statement that was part of the corporate pressure on the BSA to end its ban on gay Scouts. That ban was ultimately repealed last May, though a policy that excludes gay and lesbian Scout leaders remains in place.