Entering the busiest shopping season of the year, Wal-Mart is once again under fire, this time for a failing grade on homosexual rights.The Human Rights Campaign tagged the nation’s largest retailer with a red “do not buy” rating for the holiday season, claiming the company is moving in the wrong direction for equality of gay employees.

Last year labor groups criticized Wal-Mart over worker healthcare. The Baptist Center for Ethics was among faith groups challenging Wal-Mart to become a “Golden Rule company,” while a Kentucky Baptist pastor and BCE board member starred in a provocative television commercial questioning “Would Jesus shop at Wal-Mart?”

About the same time, fundamentalist Christians threatened to boycott the retailer for partnering with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and other acts viewed as promoting homosexual activism. Wal-Mart announced a policy to avoid “highly controversial issues,” ending discussions with pro-gay groups and prompting religious conservatives to declare victory.

This year the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay-rights group, ranked Wal-Mart near the bottom of places to shop in its 2008 “Buying for Equality” guide. Wal-Mart scored 40 out of 100 possible points in the HRC’s sixth annual Corporate Equality Index, which rates companies on policies like anti-discrimination policies, domestic-partner benefits, diversity training, transgender issues and advertising.

Last year Wal-Mart scored 65, earning a “yellow” rating for companies that “have taken steps toward a fair-minded workplace, but where there is still progress to be made.” This year’s “red” ranking encourages consumers to, “If possible, make the choice to support a fairer company.”

Wal-Mart competitor Target scored 80, just qualifying as a “green” company, where, “Consumers should make every effort to support these companies.”

Large retailers including Best Buy, Borders, Sears and Kmart earned a perfect 100 rating.

Toys “R” Us and Radio Shack joined Wal-Mart in the lowest “red” group. OfficeMax, Barnes & Noble, Office Depot and Circuit City all earned a middle “yellow.”

“Voting doesn’t just happen on Election Day,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said on the group’s Web site. “Whenever you buy a cup of coffee, fill up your gas tank or book a flight for that dream vacation, you’re giving your dollars to a business that can have a tremendous impact on the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.”

In all 195 companies achieved a top rating of 100 percent this year, up from 138 last year. In the first report in 2002, just 13 employers achieved a perfect score.

In terms of where to buy gas, the HRC gave BP/Amoco, Chevron and Shell Oil high ratings, while Exxon Mobile earned a zero.

In major restaurant chains in the study, Cracker Barrel was the lone “red” rating, earning a score of 15.

Other rankings for businesses included home and garden, banking, apparel, food and beverages, household products, medicines, travel, entertainment, technology, news and insurance and healthcare.

Last year more than 250,000 people downloaded the 2007 Buying for Equality Guide.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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