Elon Musk flaunts Tesla’s perfect score on LGBTQ equality index, saying his company respects ‘personal choices’
It’s Pride Month, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk marked the first day of the LGBTQ awareness month by touting the electric-car maker’s equal opportunity credentials.
“Tesla scores 100/100 for the 7th year in a row for LGBTQ equality,” Musk tweeted, linking to the latest Corporate Equality Index (CEI) from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an LGBTQ advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.
The CEI ranks over 1,200 businesses, including all Fortune 500 companies, by their implementation of and commitment to policies for LGBTQ equality, awarding each company a score out of 100 based on HRC’s own metrics, such as whether the company has introduced a nondiscrimination policy for LGBTQ issues or offers health policies that cover “domestic and civil partnerships.”
Yet Musk’s follow-up tweet appears to misalign with Tesla’s apparent commitment to LGBTQ equality.
“We are trying to accelerate sustainable energy, so what matters is how much someone can contribute to that goal,” Musk said. “Personal choices are your own and are respected.”
Need it be said, sexual orientation is not a “personal choice.” But, based on Musk’s previous tussles with the HRC, the Tesla executive’s comment might have more to do with gender identity (which the HRC defines as “how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves”) than sexuality.
Tesla and the HRC didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
In 2020, Musk tweeted a cartoon mocking people for putting gender pronouns in their bios, which some people viewed as transphobic. In response, Musk said that he “support[s] trans [rights], but all these pronouns are an esthetic nightmare.” At that time, too, he pointed to Tesla’s perfect score on the CEI.
In response, then-president of HRC Alphonso David joined the chorus of campaigners rebuking Musk’s pronoun tweet, saying the CEO’s comment “is exactly the opposite of what inclusive leadership looks like today” and is “decidedly out of step with the best practices we advise companies.”
“Musk should apologize,” David said. Musk did not.
Tesla is far from the only company to achieve a perfect score on the CEI rating. According to HRC, there are 842 companies with a 100-point ranking on this year’s CEI, including 258 Fortune 500 companies. (Fortune was not involved with compiling the index.)
HRC also notes that there are seven companies on its list that have achieved a perfect score for 20 years running, starting from the inaugural CEI in 2002: Apple, JPMorgan Chase, American Airlines, Nike, Xerox, Eastman Kodak, and Replacements Ltd. However, other rights groups suggest that HRC’s rankings are not a perfect measure for how corporations embrace LGBTQ rights.
Last week, progressive think tank and advocacy group Data for Progress published its annual Corporate Accountability Project list, which provides research on Fortune 500 companies’ political donations to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians.
According to the Corporate Accountability Project, some companies that achieved a 100% on the CEI—including AT&T, Comcast, Amazon, the Walt Disney Co., and Walmart—are still donating to politicians that Data for Progress considers to be anti-LGBTQ. A spokesperson for the organization told Fortune that Tesla was not found in the “narrow scope” of their analysis.
Update, June 6, 2022: This article has been updated in the final paragraph with a comment from Data for Progress.