Opinion

End of the culture wars

I’m writing this on the Pope’s 77th birthday.

That’s relevant because this is the Pope who has declared a truce of sorts in the culture wars between the Vatican and, well, a lot of people. “Who am I to judge?” Pope Francis asked in response to a reporter’s question this summer about the status of gay priests in the church.

That, it appears, is a question that Corporate America is increasingly asking itself – to great effect.

The latest report card from the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, found that 90 percent of all large employers it surveyed are offering health insurance and other spousal benefits to same-sex domestic partners of their employees.

That’s a significantly larger number than just a few years ago, prompting the HRC to describe 2013 as a “historic year of progress for the equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.”

It didn’t stop there in its applause.

“Corporate America (in 2013) stood out as a true leader in the fight for basic fairness and dignity,” it said. “Both inside the boardroom and in the halls of state legislatures and the U.S. Congress, American companies stood by their LGBT employees.”

Wow. Who’d have thunk it?

There’s more, actually. The organization’s 12th annual Corporate Equality Index also found a record number of businesses adopting policies prohibiting discrimination against transgender workers and job applicants.

That includes 86 percent of the 737 companies screened, including Wal-Mart. The Arkansas-based employer announced in August that it would extend health care benefits to its full-time U.S. workers’ domestic partners, including those of the same sex, starting Jan. 1.  

Some of this is, of course, related to the Supreme Court’s decision in June to strike down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act. Under that law, the federal government was prohibited from recognizing any marriages other than those between a man and a woman.

The decision forced even the most conservative companies to make sure they didn’t leave themselves open to discrimination lawsuits.

Regardless, employers across the country are doing what’s right and, in the process, helping settle the question of just how far apart – or not – we all might be.

I, for one, don’t think we’re as far apart as what MSNBC or Fox News would have you believe. That’s based on a lot of beer sessions with friends who all vote very differently from each other.  

Morris P. Fiorina, a political science professor at Stanford University, feels the same way, based on a more thorough investigation of the facts. Fiorina attracted a bit of attention a few years back for his comments (and a book) on the myth behind the culture wars.

The upshot of his thinking? That media outlets have greatly exaggerated the existence of a giant moral divide in the nation.

“Both red and blue states are basically centrists,” Fiorina was quoted saying. “Red states are a little more conservative than blue states. But people by and large see themselves in the center.”

Well, sure, there’s room to disagree. But the center is exactly where Corporate America wants and needs to be seen.

The bottom line? Pope Francis made history this year, and so did Corporate America – for some of the same reasons.

About the Author
Allen Greenberg

Allen Greenberg

Allen Greenberg is the retirement industry news editor at BenefitsPro.com. Follow him via Twitter @AllenGreenberg. Email him at agreenberg@benefitspro.com or call 720-895-3965.

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