Google Loses Gay-Rights Endorsement Over Controversial Conversion Therapy App

March 28, 2019, 10:42 AM UTC

Google lost an endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. LGBTQ group, over an app tied to the practice of so-called “conversion therapy” to change a gay person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which had previously scored a perfect 100 on the annual Corporate Equality Index, will have its rating withheld until the app is removed from its Android phones, Human Rights Campaign said in a statement. It’s only the third time in the 17-year history of the index that a rating has been withheld.

“We have been urging Google to remove this app because it is life-threatening to LGBTQ youth and also clearly violates the company’s own standards,” the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement. The program has already been removed from app stores run by Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Inc., the group said. Conversion therapy has been denounced by medical organizations and lawmakers who have pushed to ban licensed therapists from working with minors on the program.

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

A perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index is used by many companies to appeal to future and current employees seeking a diverse and supportive workplace, particularly millennial workers moving into the majority of the labor pool. This year, a record 570 companies received the top 100-point rating, according to the report released Thursday.

The app in dispute was developed by Living Hope Ministries, a Christian group formed in 1989 in Texas which says it is an outlet for people struggling with a conflict between faith and sexuality. A January blog post that protested Apple’s decision to remove the app from its App Store disputed a connection to conversion therapy. Living Hope Ministries didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.

Walmart Inc. retained a perfect score in this year’s Corporate Equality Index. The largest retailer had its perfect score suspended last year after two federal complaints alleged the world’s largest retailer hadn’t protected transgender employees from discrimination. The only other time a rating was withheld was in 2015 when Saks Inc. was involved in a legal dispute with a transgender employee.