Image via Ted Eytan (CC BY-SA 2.0)

An open letter to the Human Rights Campaign

You rank Wall Street firms on equality. Where do they stand on bigotry in the White House?

To the Human Rights Campaign,

In the final days of the Obama presidency and as we anticipate the most anti-LGBTQ administration we’ve seen in decades, I write to urge you to use your significant influence to stand up to these anti-LGBTQ forces. The Human Rights Campaign is positioned in a way that few other organizations are, and I hope you can exercise your influence over Wall Street to change the course of the time ahead.

I’m very grateful for the work the Human Rights Campaign has already done calling attention to the anti-LGBTQ record of Steve Bannon, Trump’s choice for chief strategist. You thoroughly documented the attacks that Bannon waged against LGBTQ people while he headed the website Brietbart, in particular, the vile smears he launched against transgender people. And I appreciate the work the Human Rights Campaign is doing now to call out the anti-LGBTQ record of Trump’s cabinet choices, from Jeff Sessions to Tom Price to Ben Carson.

I’m hoping that the Human Rights Campaign can do more, by deploying leverage in a way only you can: through the Corporate Equality Index.

I’m a lesbian who used to work on Wall Street. During my time there, it became clear to me that garnering the approval of the Human Rights Campaign was incredibly important to the financial industry. The firms I worked for — Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, and Deutsche Bank — spent a lot of money buying seats for its employees at your charity galas, galas I was always eager to attend and never left with dry eyes. And my old firms were very proud of the perfect scores they achieved on your Corporate Equality Index, which is meant to be the benchmark that measures corporations’ support for LGBTQ equality in the workplace. These banks were and are so proud of their perfect scores. They featured them in internal emails to employees, and post them prominently on their websites.

Wall Street firms like Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank have pages on their websites that laud their perfect scores on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, as well as their commitment to diversity and inclusion. (Image via screenshots of linked websites)

However, not a single one of the banks that currently hold a 100% ranking on your Corporate Equality Index has spoken out against the choice of Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist. To the contrary, high-ranking employees of major Wall Street firms, like Goldman Sachs’ COO Gary Cohn, appear ready and willing to serve in Trump’s Administration alongside Bannon and so many others with anti-LGBTQ views.

You know well that LGBTQ employees and customers come from every racial, ethnic and religious group —and thus face unique risks in this new administration. And as you well understand and have discussed at length, the rights of LGBTQ people are now at grave risk. Equality doesn’t end when you leave the walls of the firm you work at. To continue to grant perfect scores to Wall Street banks and other major corporations that remain silent on the flood of anti-LGBTQ nominations to Trump’s cabinet and advisory team would undermine the legitimacy of future Corporate Equality Index ratings.

I urge you to change the methodology of the Corporate Equality Index to include consideration of whether or not a company has condemned anti-LGBTQ cabinet nominations and White House advisers.
Chase Bank is proud of the way the Human Rights Campaign ranks them on LGBTQ equality. But they’ve been silent on Trump’s anti-LGBTQ nominations. (Screenshot via HumanRightsCampaign’s Twitter)

Every major Wall Street bank has an LGBTQ Association. These banks make constant and public proclamations of support for their LGBTQ employees. It’s time that they also make public denunciations of Trump’s choice to tap an anti-LGBTQ white nationalist as his chief strategist. Their silence thus far implies that the allure of being in the room to lobby to relax crucial Wall Street reform rules is more important than taking a stand for basic human dignity and decency.

As a former Wall Street employee, I started a petition calling on the financial industry to demand that Trump fire Steve Bannon. There has been an outpouring of support, with over 25,000 people signing it. But the Human Rights Campaign has the ability to exert a whole new level of pressure.

Wall Street wages enormous influence in Washington. The Human Rights Campaign wages enormous influence on Wall Street. I call on you to exercise it.


Alexis Goldstein spent seven years on Wall Street. She now works to advocate for a safer and fairer financial system.