2016 has been a terrible year. Every year has its tragedies–natural disasters, civil wars, the continued fertility of Duggars, Kardashians, and Jenners–but 2016 has been among the worst in recent memory.
It’s been especially bad for the LGBT community. Homophobic rhetoric has been ratcheted up in 2016 thanks to the rise of Donald Trump and his de facto alt-right views. (Publicly, he shuns support from that fringe, but his ideology is a perfect match for it.) In fact, there’s been an explosion of right-wing nationalism around the globe, and there’s no sign that it’s abating yet.
And of course, 2016 was the year that many will remember for the murder of 49 innocent revelers at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The tragedy at Pulse was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil since September 11, 2001, and the LGBT community was the shooter’s intended target.
A glimmer of hope
But as we near the end of the calendar year, there is some cause to celebrate: HRC has released its annual Corporate Equality Index, and a whopping nine automakers earned perfect scores. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Nissan, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, and Volkswagen each earned scores of 100. Honda earned a very respectable 85, which could climb to 100 if the company undertakes a few more pro-active programs to engage the LGBT community and launches a competency program.
That means LGBT employees at 10 of the country’s biggest automakers have the same rights and benefits as their straight peers, including multiple layers of protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as well as access to healthcare for their spouses.
That’s huge. Do you know how many car companies earned perfect scores in 2002?
Zero. Zilch. None. That’s massive progress.
And it’s not just happening in the auto industry. In 2002, only 13 Fortune 500 companies earned perfect scores. Today, 517 do.
Even those companies that don’t earn perfect 100s are making progress. More than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies surveyed for the Corporate Equality Index have employment policies that forbid discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.
So, despite the onslaught of bad news these days and the concerns that many of us have about the next four years, it’s comforting to see these positive changes. Acquiring rights is difficult, but once they’re granted, it’s rare to see them taken away.
Don’t stop now
Rare–but not impossible. Don’t let this good news make you complacent. On November 8, we saw what exactly what complacency can do. We encourage all of you–both LGBTs and allies–to remain vigilant, to be outspoken, to be heard. As we learned all too well in the 1980s, silence has dire consequences.
There’s still plenty of room for improvement. Auto dealerships are pretty terrible at protecting LGBT workers: once again, Penske earned a perfect 0 from the HRC, and AutoNation wasn’t much better, with a score of 10. And of course, many automakers aren’t ranked on the CEI, since it’s officially limited to the Fortune 500. (Though it’s possible for others to take part in the survey, as Hyundai, Honda, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, and Volkswagen did.)
You can download the entire 2017 Corporate Equality Index here.