6 APRIL 4, 2003
www.houston voice.com HOUSTON VOICE
| national news
Coke urged to drop gay-friendly employee policies
Atlanta soft drink giant asks
shareholders to reject
proposal from S.C. man
By JENNIFER J. SMITH
A South Carolina man wants Atlanta-
based Coca-Cola to change its gay-friendly
policies for its 55,000-person workforce
and end its support for the "homosexual
Hou-Yin Chang, a resident of
Orangeburg, S.C, who owns 49 shares of
Coca-Cola stock, proposed a shareholder resolution to be voted on at the company's April
16 annual meeting in Houston. The measure
is one of eight put before shareholders.
Chang's resolution "recommend[s] the
shareholders request the Board of
Directors to amend the company's corporate, diversity and equal employment policies to exclude reference to sexual orientation, and cease support of homosexual
lifestyle and other deviant lifestyle behaviors opposed by the majority of people."
Chang said the company's performance
has been hurt by its gay-friendly policies.
"What we have seen for the past couple
of years of Coca-Cola performance is the
way they have insulted shareholders, most
of whom belong to middle America — people who fear and understand God and
believe in the traditional family," he said.
"We are concerned that companies are
putting the lifestyle of Sodom and
Gomorrah on their agendas."
Coke recommends that shareholders
reject Chang's proposal, according to
Ben Deutsch, director of marketing
"The Coca-Cola Company is committed
to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to benefit and grow our business,
and to ensure that our company is the best
place possible to work," Deutsch said. "We
do not discriminate on the basis of sexual
Chang, like any shareholder owning
more than $2,000 worth of stock for more
than a year, may submit a resolution to be
voted on during the company's annual meeting. If a majority of shareholders agree,
Coke's board of directors will take it under
advisement, according to the company
If Chang's proposal fails to garner a
majority vote, but does gain three percent of
the total votes, it can be resubmitted for the
company's 2004 annual meeting, according to
Racquell White, a Coca-Cola media manager.
Chang said he also wants Coke, which
employees 5,000 people in Atlanta, to discontinue its corporate sponsorship of the
Atlanta Pride Festival. Instead, the company
should sponsor AflantaFest, a gospel festival,
and more NASCAR events, "because people
at those events share our values," he said.
Coke should also discontinue offering
Gay Men's Chorus of Houston
for new members:
April 7, 14
Featuring the greatest hits of ABBA for
our June Concert! No auditions required.
Hou-Yin Chang, a South Carolina resident who
owns 49 shares of Coca-Cola stock, proposed a
shareholder resolution asking the company to
rescind policies that 'support [the] homosexual
lifestyle.' (Photo courtesy Chang's Web site.)
domestic partner benefits, which the company initiated in 2001, Chang said.
Since submitting the resolution in
February, Chang has received 10 letters,
evenly split between supporting the proposal and criticizing him, he said.
Chang's approach is similar to that
used by gays shareholders, who use their
stock in companies to advocate for gay-
friendly policies, according to Shelley
Alpern, vice chair for the Equality Project,
a non-profit organization lobbying for gay
equality in the workplace.
"There has been a tiny handful of reso
lutions like this over the past three years,^^
and they never do well," Alpern said.
"They have never lead any company to
rescind their non-discrimination policy"
Kim Mills, education director for the
Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights
Campaign, called the resolution "wrong-
"We don't think it will pass and it's not
binding," she said.
Coke rates a 71 out of a possible 100 from
HRC on its approach to gay issues, Mills said.
The company' offers domestic partner bene
fits, a non-discrimination policy and a gay
employee group, but still has "a ways to go
because they don't have a non-discrimination
policy that covers gender identity and they
don't offer diversity training that covers sexual orientation or gender identity," she said, a
Coke offers general diversity trainin^^
that "does not specifically mention any
single group," White said.
In 2001, the company fought off a shareholder proposal to dilute the company's
domestic partner benefits by excluding an
anti-gay resolution from proxy materials
sent to shareholders.
A MORE INFO
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Atlanta, GA 30301 -404-676-2121
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