All the press, both good and bad, that gay marriage equality has had over the last year makes it clear that accepting the gays is certainly a hot topic! The gay rights movement had to start from the bottom and work its way up, and it certainly has! It’s incredible to think back to the gay dark ages when gays and lesbians would be forced to meet at hole-in-the-wall bars off the beaten path. Even the idea of having a gay bar in an urban city setting amongst was utterly taboo. We can all agree that where we stand now in mainstream society is leaps and bounds above where we were only fifty years ago.

The beginning of a new year always inspires reflection, self-inquiry, and, hopefully, steps toward change in the right direction. Now, more than ever, the LGBT community hopes that mainstream companies will move toward awareness and inclusion of, well, all things gay! And why not? We spend money just like any straight individual would. In fact, it’s proven that we spend double on things like leisure travel.

In 2008, Witeck Combs projected $712 billion dollars in gay buying power. With this type of spending, it’s no wonder that worldwide companies are going gay. The world’s largest companies are serious about catering to gay population. They are creating LGBT specific ad campaigns, websites, and tailored products for our community.

A great example of this progress is found in LAN Airlines and their outreach for the gay community. LAN Airlines was the first Latin American airline to target their marketing specifically to the LGBT community, emphasizing their importance of diversity and the presence of diversity found throughout LAN’s South America. They pride themselves on the variety and richness of their staff, customers, and destinations they serve. Not to mention they offer access to some of the hottest LGBT destinations in the world, like Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Lima. The type of inclusive and proactive work LAN Airlines does is exactly what we hope to see more of for mainstream companies this new year- and for years to come.

The best part of the going gay concept is most companies are not just using it as a platform to make money, but ensuring that their business has a strict non-discrimination policy. Many also educate their staff on being advocates for gay rights and giving them the tools to ensure their LGBT consumers are satisfied.

In 2008, Fortune Magazine reported that 95 of the companies on its top 100 list have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation. That number had risen to 99 by 2011. This year CNN.com reported that, for the first time, gay rights are protected at all 100 firms on Fortune's Best Companies To Work For list

Michael Cole-Schwartz, communications manager at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest gay rights advocate, claims he isn’t surprised by the unanimous support: “It's not surprising to me that the places that are ranked the best to work are also the ones that are going to respect and value their employees. . . The evolution is clearly in the direction of equality in the workplace.”

Presently 86% of Fortune 500 companies have a similar policy in place, according to data from HRC. Eighty-nine of the 100 companies listed on the Best Companies To Work For list also provide benefits to the domestic partners of gay workers.

Companies taking this leap into our community are building a stronger future for the LGBT population.  Therefore, as we continue to fight for equality it’s important to remember just how far we have come.

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