Gay-rights group pushes Wal-Mart shift

Seattle: When news broke that Wal-Mart was broadening its employee antidiscrimination policies to include gays and lesbians, it wasn't the giant retailer that broke the story.

Seattle: When news broke that Wal-Mart was broadening its employee antidiscrimination policies to include gays and lesbians, it wasn't the giant retailer that broke the story.

Local gay and lesbian group the Pride Foundation urged Wal-Mart for two years to make the change. Once it discovered the retailer was about to agree, it worked with local agency The Pyramid Group on a pro bono basis to get media attention for the decision.

Pyramid offered The New York Times an exclusive. The story ran on the front page July 2, prompting a flood of media calls, said Zan McColloch-Lussier, campaign director for Pride.

The foundation found out on June 30 that Wal-Mart would make the change, and contacted Pyramid. It informed Wal-Mart Tuesday that it was going to release the news to the Times, and Wal-Mart didn't object.

The foundation had been talking with Wal-Mart for two years, asking it to change its policy to include gays, lesbians, and people with gender-identity issues, said Marsha Botzer, a foundation board member and member of the group's shareholder activist committee who took the lead in the effort.

"It's been very respectful on both sides," Botzer said. Her efforts focused on educating Wal-Mart about what other major companies have done.

Of the 10 largest US employers, only Exxon Mobil does not include gays and lesbians in its antidiscrimination policy.

McColloch-Lussier said the foundation's website had more than 2,000 visitors the day the story broke, compared to about 250 a week on average. Botzer answered more than 100 media calls after the Times story ran.

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