Ho! Ho! No.

On Thursday, November 7, Monroeville Mall opened a 12 screen Cinemark theater with state-of-the-art XD (Extreme Digital Cinema), joining its other theaters in Center Township, Beaver County, Frazer near Tarentum and Robinson (plus the former Rave along McKnight Road in McCandless).

Before you plunk down your money there, keep in mind that Alan Stock, Cinemark’s CEO, gave $9,999 to the “Yes on 8” campaign. “Yes on 8” was the campaign of ProtectMarriage.com, a collection of conservative political activists determined to oppose same-sex marriage. The coalition stated its goal is to “Defend and restore the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.”

There are other companies who have had tarnished reputations with LGBT consumers. But there are many who have taken strides to improve their relationship with the community.

Despite the fact that people can be legally denied a job or fired simply for their sexual orientation in 29 states and their gender identity in 34, corporations have surged well ahead of lagging legislation to afford these protections.

According to the Human Rights Campaign 2013 Corporate Equality Index, for the first time in history, a majority of the Fortune 500 offers both sexual orientation and gender identity protections. Beyond these basic and essential protections, record numbers of Fortune-ranked and other major businesses have comprehensively updated their benefits packages to ensure that newcomers to their workplaces can expect both partner benefits and transgender-inclusive benefits and that retiring LGBT workers will see the financial benefits that they have worked so hard to accrue will go to their surviving family members.

Last year, 189 major businesses accomplished a 100 percent rating on the most stringent scorecard the HRC Foundation has ever administered, including comprehensive benefits parity and more robust requirements of corporate responsibility to our community. 252 businesses received a perfect score this year including PNC Bank, Alcoa, BNY Mellon, K&L Gates, Deloitte, Google, and Ernst & Young.

Unfortunately there are still some companies that have some work to do.


Early this year, the spaghetti war was raging when Guido Barrilla, Chairman of the Barilla Group, a pasta company, said, “I would never do [a commercial] with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect, but because we don’t agree with them.” He told Italian radio, “Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role.”

Another pasta company, Buitoni Pasta, quickly launched a “pasta for all” campaign to counter balance their competitors discriminatory comments.

Cracker Barrel

In 2002, Cracker Barrel finally added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy.

Before 2002, the company’s HR policy stated, “It is inconsistent with our concept and values, and is perceived to be inconsistent with those of our customer base, to continue to employ individuals in our operating units whose sexual preferences fail to demonstrate normal heterosexual values.” Seventeen workers were fired because they were assumed to be gay after the first few months the policy was created. When Cracker Barrel entrepreneur Danny Evins died in January, 2012, the first line of his obituary in the New York Times reminded readers about his controversial policies.


Even though the boycott list is shrinking, Chick-Fil-A should still be avoided. After a very public fight about gay marriage, the fast food chicken joint released a statement in July, 2012: “Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.” It doesn’t sound like an apology. However, even after a U.S. wide boycott of the chicken restaurant in 2012, sales rose 12 percent.


Exxon, the nation’s largest Oil & Gas Company, has also improved its non-discrimination protection by offering same sex domestic partnership benefits in September, 2013. In years prior, the company has fought against non-discrimination protection and equal benefits coverage for their employees for years. The Texas based company received a score below zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) ranking of corporate policies toward LGBT employees.


Wal-Mart started offering domestic partnerships in August, 2013. Though it is improving its relationship with LGBT shoppers, there are still isolated incidents of discrimination, probably due more to the geographic location of the store and less to do with the company nationwide.

In Chickasha, Oklahoma, Jonathan Pacheco and his boyfriend Miguel Escobedo, went into a Wal-Mart to buy cookies. The couple was told by an employee that they were not allowed in the store. The employee also quoted scripture and made indelicate remarks such as, “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Pacheco spoke to two store managers, but nothing was done about the situation.

Pacheco laughed about the situation. He said, “I couldn’t do anything but laugh all the way home. I feel like I can’t go anywhere now. Out of all the stores I go to, Wal-Mart is the one that is prejudiced against someone’s sexual orientation? I mean, come on!”

The store is looking into the allegations.

Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2013 Corporate Equality Index is the national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices related to LGBT employees. For more info, visit hrc.org.

Michael Buzzelli is a stand-up comedian and sit-down author. As a comedian, he has performed all around the country, most notably, the Ice House, the Comedy Store and the Improv in Los Angeles. As a writer, Michael Buzzelli has been published in a variety of websites, magazines and newspapers. He is a theater and arts critic for 'Burgh Vivant,’ Pittsburgh's online cultural talk magazine. He is also a Moth Grand Slam storyteller and actor. His books, "Below Average Genius," a collection of essays culled from his weekly humor column in the Observer-Reporter, and his romantic comedy,  “All I Want for Christmas," are on sale at Amazon.com. He is working on a LGBTQ romantic comedy called, “Why I Hate My Friends.” You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. (He / Him / His)