EchoStar Shareholders Asked To Decide On Gay-Discrimination Issues

September 6, 2005 ( - The proxy for EchoStar Communications, Inc. October 6 shareholders' meeting includes a proposal to change the company's policies to prohibit discrimination against gay employees.

New York City Comptroller, William Thompson, Jr., sponsored the proposal, according to the Associated Press. Spokeswoman Angelica Crane told the AP that Thompson, Jr. has prompted at least 32 companies, including Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. and FedEx Corp., to amend or agree to amend their policies.

EchoStar, which runs satellite television provider Dish Network, opposes the plan. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission the company said, “This does not mean that we don’t share the proponents’ interest in preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation. The board believes that adding to our written policy additional special categories which are not prohibited by federal law undercuts our objective of highlighting federally prohibited activities,” the AP reports.

The company’s board is asking shareholders to reject the proposal. According to the SEC filing, the company’s chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen opposes it and he holds about 92% of the voting stock.

The New York City Pension Funds believes the proposal would“ensure a respectful and supportive atmosphere for all employees” and help EchoStar recruit and retain employees, according to the AP.

Crane said Thompson, Jr. doesn’t expect the proposal to pass, but intends to continue placing the issue on the company’s ballot in future elections.