Hou-Yin Chang, a resident of Orangeburg, South Carolina and owner of 49 shares of the company, proposed a shareholder resolution to be voted on at the company’s April 16 annual meeting in Houston. Chang’s resolution “recommend[s] the shareholders request the Board of Directors to amend the company’s corporate, diversity and equal employment policies to exclude reference to sexual orientation, and cease support of homosexual lifestyle and other deviant lifestyle behaviors opposed by the majority of people,” according to a Houston Voice report.
Chang contends the Atlanta-based soft drinks maker has seen its performance hurt by its gay-friendly policies. “What we have seen for the past couple of years of Coca-Cola performance is the way they have insulted shareholders, most of whom belong to middle America people who fear and understand God and believe in the traditional family,” he said. “We are concerned that companies are putting the lifestyle of Sodom and Gomorrah on their agendas.”
Further, Chang said he also wants Coke to discontinue its corporate sponsorship of the Atlanta Pride Festival, instead offering sponsorship to AtlantaFest, a gospel festival, and more NASCAR events. “Because people at those events share our values,” he said.
Chang, like any shareholder owning more than $2,000 worth of stock for more than a year, may submit a resolution to be voted on during the company’s annual meeting. If a majority of shareholders agree, Coke’s board of directors will take it under advisement.
Even if the proposal fails to garner a majority vote, it could still carry on by gaining 3% of the total votes and thus being eligible for resubmission in 2004. Since submitting the resolution in February, Chang has received 10 letters, evenly split between supporting the proposal and criticizing him, he said.
Coca-Cola recommends that shareholders reject Chang’s proposal, according to Ben Deutsch, director of marketing communications. “The Coca-Cola Company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to benefit and grow our business, and to ensure that our company is the best place possible to work,” Deutsch said. “We do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Among the programs that Coca-Cola offers are domestic partner benefits, a non-discrimination policy and a gay employee group.