(The Hill) — The Human Rights Campaign, one of the U.S.’s biggest LGBTQ+ equality organizations, is calling on Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Bud Light, to publicly reaffirm its support for the transgender community. It comes after weeks of right-wing pushback over the brewing company’s recent partnership with transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
In a letter sent this week to Anheuser-Busch’s head of human resources, Jay Brown, a senior vice president at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, slammed the company’s response to the controversy as insufficient and cowardly.
“In this moment, it is absolutely critical for Anheuser-Busch to stand in solidarity with Dylan and the trans community,” reads the April 26 letter obtained by The Hill.
“However, when faced with anti-LGBTQ+ and transphobic criticism, Anheuser-Busch’s actions demonstrate a profound lack of fortitude in upholding its values of diversity, equity, and inclusion to employees, customers, shareholders and the LGBTQ+ community.”
“This not only lends credence to hate-filled rhetoric, it exposes Anheuser-Busch to long-term business impacts with employees and customers increasingly looking for steadfast commitment to LGBTQ+ corporate citizenships,” Brown wrote.
The Human Rights Campaign is the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization.
Conservative media personalities, musicians and politicians for nearly a month have waged a highly publicized campaign against Anheuser-Busch after Mulvaney shared a sponsored post to her Instagram page promoting Bud Light’s March Madness contest.
The transgender social media star, who has shared her transition journey with followers online, addressed the pushback for the first time on Thursday, telling her 1.8 million Instagram followers in a video that she’s “doing OK” despite the hate she has received.
“I think it’s OK to be frustrated with someone or confused,” she said. “But what I’m struggling to understand is the need to dehumanize and to be cruel.”
Responding to the criticism of its partnership with Mulvaney, Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth this month said the company has “thousands of partners, millions of fans and a proud history of supporting our communities, military, first responders, sports fans and hard-working Americans everywhere.”
“We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” Whitworth said in a written statement shared on Anheuser-Busch’s social media accounts. “We are in the business of bringing people together over beer.”
The company this month also put the marketing executive who oversaw the partnership between Bud Light and Mulvaney on a leave of absence, according to media reports.
Pushback over Anheuser-Busch’s partnership with Mulvaney comes at a pivotal time for transgender rights, as well as LGBTQ rights more broadly.
Nearly 470 bills targeting LGBTQ people have been introduced this year in state legislatures nationwide, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. This year alone, 40 new anti-LGBTQ bills have been signed into law, with most targeting the transgender community.
At least 10 transgender and gender-nonconforming people have been killed this year, according to HRC data.
According to the HRC letter, the group is preparing to lower Anheuser-Busch’s long-standing 100 percent Corporate Equality Index score, a national benchmarking tool on corporate policies, practices and benefits relevant to LGBTQ employees.
Brown in the letter requests that company executives meet with HRC leadership to discuss a number of recommendations, including that Anheuser-Busch releases a public statement “reaffirming its full support for its transgender customers, shareholders, and employees.”
Anheuser-Busch has declined several meeting requests from HRC in the wake of right-wing pushback over its partnership with Mulvaney, according to an individual with knowledge of the situation. Anheuser-Busch did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.
The letter also recommends that Anheuser-Busch meet with its LGBTQ employees to discuss and “understand their concerns” and conduct workplace transgender inclusion training for company executives.