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Leon Kaye headshot

Double-Check Your Company’s Lobbying Spend Before Going Full-On for Pride Month

More companies are seeing Pride Month as a prime branding opportunity, but they ought to check their lobbying efforts before going full-on rainbow flag.
By Leon Kaye
Pride Month

Pride Month is a time for LGBTQ people to celebrate how far the community has come, while it’s also a sobering reminder of how much lies ahead until everyone is treated equally. This year’s Pride comes at an inflection point, as old tropes such as “grooming” are once again coming into public discourse and politicians deflect responsibility and accountability by striving to legislate away transgender people’s rights.

Once slow to embrace the human rights of their LGBTQ employees, more companies are seeing Pride Month as a branding opportunity, evident in the rainbow-clad corporate logos we see every June. But there’s a problem with the showcasing of LGBTQ-themed events and proclamations of “allyship,” and it’s not only due to crossing the line into “rainbow-washing,” as independent journalist Judd Legum recently pointed out. 

Legum and his small team dug into a rabbit hole of corporate donations to politicians and political candidates who promote legislation that erodes LGBTQ rights. The 25 companies Legum's team at Popular Information analyzed together have donated more than $13 million to anti-LGBTQ political leaders since early 2021. The roster reads like a who’s-who of America’s top brands, with the three such largest donors being Charter Communications, AT&T and GM.

All of these companies have received high, even perfect scores, from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the most powerful and active LGBTQ human rights activist group in the U.S. So, what’s going on? The HRC has long done good work, “but HRC's methodology excludes political donations, enabling corporations to craft a pro-LGBTQ image while bankrolling politicians that are undermining LGBTQ rights,” Legum noted in his Popular Information newsletter on Thursday.

Editor's note: Be sure to subscribe to our Brands Taking Stands newsletter, which comes out every Wednesday.

Ever since Bill Clinton’s presidential administration, the U.S. business community — which had long leaned overly Republican — has donated to “both sides” of the political divide for a simple reason: Corporations need to cultivate allies no matter who is in power. 

But there’s a problem: The “both sides” argument is hard to defend when elected officials are aggressively doing what they can to not only chip away but hack away at some people's fundamental rights.

In the wake of Florida’s new “Don’t Say Gay” law and similar moves by state legislatures across the U.S. — not to mention the radicalization of the Supreme Court — we’re facing a time when the only force with the resources to stand up for LGBTQ rights is the business community. People shouldn’t count on companies to follow through, though, as the fallout after when Disney put itself through in Florida doesn’t bode well. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that more companies could retreat from sticking up for their LGBTQ employees, as noted in this recent LinkedIn blog.

Fortunately, Pride Month is also a reminder that LGBTQ workers can make their feelings and opinions known with their feet. As this writer concludes:

“…just remember that you have two choices: stay where you are and fight like hell to change things from within your company, or update your resume and begin looking for a new work community. Considering the number of openings that exist right now in most fields, you will have a new and much more accepting “home” deserving of your talent, your passion and your loyalty in no time whatsoever. Never forget that you matter and you have a great deal to offer to any company fortunate enough to hire you.”

And one way to “fight like hell” before, during and after Pride Month is to challenge a company’s lobbying spend.

Image credit: Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye