ExxonMobil shareholders vote down LGBT protections

Posted on 29 May 2013 at 11:20am
LGBT advocates, from left, Daniel Cates, Cd Kirven and Rafael McDonnell protest outside ExxonMobil's shareholders meeting on May 29, 2013. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

LGBT advocates, from left, Daniel Cates, Cd Kirven and Rafael McDonnell, protest outside ExxonMobil’s shareholders meeting on Wednesday. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

As expected, ExxonMobil shareholders again voted down nondiscrimination protections for LGBT employees this morning at their annual meeting in downtown Dallas.

Shareholders voted to reject a resolution, 81 percent to 19 percent, from the New York state comptroller calling for the company’s Board of Directors to add sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the oil giant’s EEO policy. The 19 percent support for the resolution reportedly was the lowest ever.

George Wong addressed the shareholders on behalf of the New York State Common Retirement Fund. He presented the business argument that the company should recruit from and retain the widest possible talent pool. Failure to do that leads to less efficient business operations. Most Fortune 500 companies do have inclusive nondiscrimination policies including most other major oil companies, he said.

He said ExxonMobil does not accept the validity of New York state marriage licenses if the employee is gay.

“That is not acceptable to us,” Wong said.

During general comments, no one else supported the nondiscrimination proposal.

ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson said each of the board resolutions was given careful consideration. Most of the resolutions concerned corporate governance and one was environmental.

ExxonMobil is the only company to ever receive a negative score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which rates businesses according to policies and practices affecting the LGBT community. ExxonMobil rescinded nondiscrimination protections for gay employees, as well as domestic partner health benefits, following a merger with Mobil in 1999.

It marks the 14th consecutive year in which ExxonMobil shareholders have voted down an LGBT nondiscrimination resolution. Last week, the national group Freedom to Work sued the Irving-based oil giant for alleged anti-gay discrimination in Illinois.

“The result of today’s vote by the shareholders of Exxon Mobil is sadly unsurprising,” Resource Center Dallas CEO Cece Cox said in a statement. “The company continues to incorrectly assert that it provides employment protections and an equitable workplace for its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees, and Exxon’s shareholders appear to believe that the company’s statement on a web page provides sufficient protections. Even after I led a team last summer to meet with two Exxon vice presidents at their global headquarters in Irving and explained in person how the web statements fall short of true employment protections, the company refuses to budge. Exxon says it would comply with an executive order mandating LGBT employment protections for federal contractors if and/or when one is issued, and it is looking more and more likely that will be the only way to get the company to treat all of its employees equitably. The Center remains committed to working with Exxon on this issue, but the ball remains in their court.”

“ExxonMobil should not need to be prodded by shareholders into doing the right thing for the company and its employees,” New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said. “It’s time for ExxonMobil to take off its blinders and join the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies in the United States by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its equal-opportunity employment policy.”

Outside the Meyerson Wednesday morning, a few protesters gathered compared to the couple dozen who have gathered on previous years.

Norman Ochelski, who identifies as queer, thought he would be the first and only protester in attendance until a few more showed up. This was his first ExxonMobil demonstration to attend and he said he hoped the company would listen to the public and add LGBT protections eventually.

“There’s strength in numbers, strength in prayer, strength in believing,” he said. “I feel like even if just in feeling and caring if one is present in some way then that a number that’s significant. Even if I’m one person only that showed up today, there’s many more and not just in Texas that care about this issue with ExxonMobil opening its doorways to its nondiscrimination policy.”

GetEQUAL TX activists Cd Kirven and Daniel Cates also showed up, as well as Rafael McDonnell from Resource Center Dallas.

Kirven said she doesn’t think ExxonMobil will change unless they have to.

“I think if the Obama administration decides to get a backbone and stand up for all families and pass an all- inclusive ENDA then I think they’ll be forced to,” she said. “This kind of stuff is about survival. Health benefits is about survival and not being fired is about survival.”

Cates agreed, saying he and others would continue to push ExxonMobil to make the right decision.

“I have the same expectation that I have had every year and what I do expect from anybody is respect. And right now they’re choosing not to do that, so they deserve every bit of anger that’s thrown at them over the next few days,” Cates said. “I think that we have to continue to show up we have to continue to keep demanding it.”

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