companies collaborate and partner with major LGBT organizations, explains Burton, 45, who for more than a decade served as a global business development executive for IBM and also served as an expert witness before the U.S. Senate in support of the federal adoption of domestic partnership benefits for federal employees.
Boston maintains that companies must improve policy development efforts regarding fertility coverage for lesbian couples, surrogacy benefits for gay male couples, and unfair taxation of domestic partner benefits. “On average, domestic-partner couples incur an additional $1,500 annually in taxes whereas if they were a married heterosexual couple they would not pay,” he explains. Only five states legally recognize same-sex marriage and another six states (plus the District of Columbia) validate some form of civil unions. Nationwide, which is on BE’s 40 Best Companies list and the Human Rights Campaign’s list, has restructured its benefits package to be more LGBT inclusive. “We have had a very forward-looking approach to our benefits,” says Candice Barnhardt, the company’s chief diversity officer. “We have been active around the tax equity act so that the taxation of domestic partner health plan benefits is treated more fairly.”
Smart, aggressive companies are also targeting their marketing and advertising campaigns to reach the LGBT consumer market, which has estimated buying power of $835 billion. Aaron Walton is co-founder and co-CEO of Los Angeles-based Walton Isaacson (No. 8 on the BE Advertising Agencies list with $12 million in revenues), which has helped develop campaigns for Dove, Courvoisier, Harrah’s, and Maytag to reach this growing segment. “Black gay consumers and employees have a different perspective on LGBT marketing because they have lived with being a minority within a minority,” says Walton, who is openly gay and has been with his partner for 24 years. “We make sure brands understand that being inclusive is not going to hurt their general market efforts. It will actually bring in new consumers and help build their business.” He further states that roughly 85% of general market consumers don’t care if a brand they prefer has also been targeted to the LGBT community.