Wal-Mart, Focus on the Family Spar Over Homosexuality

Jeff Johnson | Congressional Bureau Chief | Monday, July 07, 2003

Wal-Mart, Focus on the Family Spar Over Homosexuality

Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - One of the country's largest pro-family ministries is taking the nation's largest retailer to task for equating homosexuality with immutable characteristics such as race and gender. Focus on the Family said Wednesday that it is "profoundly disappointed" that Wal-Mart will also force its more than one million employees to undergo so-called "sensitivity training."

Wal-Mart spokesman Tom Williams told CNSNews.com Thursday that the company has, in fact, added "sexual orientation" to the list of protected classes in its equal employment opportunity and non-discrimination policies.

"We felt it was the right thing to do at this time for our employees," he said. "We want everyone who works for Wal-Mart in the states - that's 1.1 million people - to feel that they are valued and that they are treated with respect, no exceptions at all."

Williams said the move also "makes a lot of sense" from a business standpoint.

"Our continued growth requires us to be one of the more desirable employers around," he said. "We think that clearly stating our policy of respect and protection for everyone regardless of 'sexual orientation' will help us compete for talented employees who otherwise might not feel comfortable coming with us."

Focus on the Family says Wal-Mart's action 'is a profound betrayal'

Dr. Bill Maier, vice president and psychologist in residence at Focus on the Family, said the "right thing to do" would have been for Wal-Mart to consider the values of the overwhelming majority of its shoppers and employees.

"Singling people out for their differences is a profound betrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream, and that is exactly what Wal-Mart's policy does," Maier said in a press release.

"Focus on the Family shares Wal-Mart's commitment to treating all people with dignity and respect, but this sensitivity training offends the values of the vast majority of Wal-Mart's associates and customers," he said.

While Wal-Mart said its decision was based on fairness and good business, homosexual activists are claiming credit for pressuring the company to make the change.

"Wal-Mart's decision is in response to nearly two years of discussion between the company and the Equality Project partners," said a press release from the Pride Foundation, one of the partners in the effort.

The "Equality Project" is a coalition of pro-homosexual investment groups that use their claimed $100 billion in capital to influence companies to give special employment status based on a worker's claimed homosexuality, just as federal law requires employers to do for immutable characteristics such as race, gender, age and disability.

"This change helps ensure that Wal-Mart's gay and lesbian employees will be judged on their merits, not on their sexual orientation," claimed Zack Wright, a spokesman for the Pride Foundation.

"The inclusion of sexual orientation in Wal-Mart's nondiscrimination policy is the only example of fair treatment for gays and lesbians that some people will ever see, particularly in rural, more conservative areas," Wright continued, taking a swipe at the largest segment of Wal-Mart's customer base.

Groups already pushing for even greater concessions

But even as the activist groups were praising the company for agreeing to their demands, they were hinting at expectations of further concessions.

"Wal-Mart's recognition of sexual orientation is an important first step toward equality," said Marsha Botzer, a member of the Pride Foundation board. "I look forward to continuing our discussion and eagerly anticipate the day when they will also include gender identity in their non-discrimination policies."

"Gender identity" is the umbrella phrase used by liberal activists to refer to individuals choosing to identify themselves as members of the opposite sex. Individuals who dress or have surgery to change the appearance of their bodies to that of the opposite sex are said to be "expressing their gender identity."

Stephen Crampton of the American Family Association (AFA) warned that Wal-Mart can expect more demands from homosexual activists in the future, now that they have proven unwilling to stand up for traditional morality.

"Just as Neville Chamberlain gave in to Nazi Germany's outrageous demands, so Wal-Mart has capitulated to the radical homosexual agenda," Crampton said.

The AFA believes the next step for homosexual activists will be pressuring Wal-Mart to extend health benefits to same-sex partners of employees, followed by corporate recognition and support of homosexual clubs and public events like "gay pride" parades.

Wal-Mart officials acknowledged that a computer-based non-discrimination training program for all employees would include discussion of "sexual orientation." The change to the policy will have no effect on employee's eligibility for benefits.

The company does not offer insurance or other benefits to sex partners of unmarried employees, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

'Sensitivity' or 'diversity training' used to further homosexual agenda

As CNSNews.com previously reported, groups that monitor anti-discrimination policies believe homosexual activists are using mandatory workshops and diversity training programs to advance their agenda throughout corporate America.

"Diversity training is becoming mandatory catechism class for the church of the politically correct," said Jordan Lorence, an attorney and senior vice president for the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative public policy group based in Arizona.

Lorence said that, until recently, homosexual activists have been willing to tolerate others who disagree with but do not publicly protest their sexual behavior choices.

"But what is happening now is that we're seeing a subtle but radical transformation of that traditional norm, and the vehicle in which this change is coming is diversity training by employers, either public or private," he said.

"I don't want to minimize racial tensions or sexual harassment," he added. "Those can be handled by seminars or training to be respectful of people's differences, but not compelling a uniformity of thought."

See Earlier Story:
Wal-Mart Includes Homosexuals in Anti-Discrimination Policy (July 2, 2003)

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