Corporate rebrandings for Pride month—rainbow Twitter avatars, cringe-inducing ads, you name it—are cynical enough on their own, contributing to the commercialization and depoliticization of the movement for gay liberation. But to add insult to injury, many of these same corporations also happen to donate millions of dollars to anti-LGBTQ politicians, actively funding efforts to restrict the rights of those they claim to support.
A new investigation from Popular Information found this to be true of more than two dozen companies this year, which together donated upwards of $10 million to anti-gay state and federal politicians over the last two years. Among them are Walmart, CVS, and Exxon Mobile.
Many of these companies misleadingly boast a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which releases annual reports on how workplaces treat LGBTQ people and advocate on behalf of them. But as Popular Information notes, these ratings don’t take into account corporations’ political donations, which means they leave out one of the most revealing pieces of information about their dedication to advancing LGBTQ rights. The exclusion allows “corporations to craft a pro-LGBTQ image while bankrolling politicians that are undermining LGBTQ rights,” wrote the investigation’s authors, Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria.
Consider one example: Walmart’s website currently features a Pride page advertising party supplies, topical books and movies, and products whose proceeds will go toward LGBTQ organizations like GLAAD. But as recently as April, Walmart reportedly donated $30,000 to Arkansas lawmakers who voted for a bill banning gender-affirming treatment for trans kids. The donation was just a fraction of the roughly $442,000 the corporation donated to more than 100 politicians who themselves received a 0 rating from HRC.
Some of the corporations mentioned in Legum and Zekeria’s investigation are repeat offenders, like AT&T, Verizon, and Johnson & Johnson, all of which Jezebel reported on in 2019 for the very same hypocrisy.
These companies haven’t changed their ways—and why would they?—but every year more of us are able to see right through their ploy.