At New York Life, we are proud to stand with the LGBTQ+ community. The company has a long history as an LGBTQ+ ally and today is regularly recognized for its diversity, equity & inclusion efforts. Our company’s products, employment practices, and philanthropy are all part of this tradition. In honor of LGBT History Month we present a brief history of New York Life's commitment to the LGBTQ+ community:
Facing down adversity for a half century
The LGBTQ+ community has long faced discrimination, prejudice, and even threats to its collective health. It has for decades been fighting for a range of rights–from the right to be with who they love, whether in a same-sex union or in a legal marriage, to access to medical care, financial services, and insurance. The LGBTQ+ community has had to fight for many of the rights that others take for granted.
But it also had a singular battle to fight in the early 1980s, when the AIDS virus reached epidemic levels. By the end of the decade, the disease had claimed nearly 20,000 lives in New York City alone, and to date, it has killed more than 650,000 people across the U.S.1 This crisis had a devasting impact on the LGBTQ+ community, especially gay and bisexual men.
Fighting the good fight for equality
Like many institutions, New York Life was concerned about LGBTQ+ issues during the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Farsighted leaders like former company Chairman Donald K. Ross publicly supported the community: “AIDS is merciless and indiscriminate and we must fight it on every battlefield. We’ve got to speak out, and we’ve got to back up our words with resources and effort.”
Ross was speaking at a New York Life-sponsored fundraiser, which featured then-President Ronald Reagan as the keynote speaker and raised more than $1.5 million.2 In 1987, the company contributed more than $1 million to a joint public service campaign with the New York City Department of Health that raised awareness and encouraged prevention.3 The following year, New York Life became a founding member of the National Community AIDS Partnership (NCAP), now AIDS United, which would become the largest philanthropic collaboration dedicated to helping local communities fight the disease.4
How love takes action by inclusion
New York Life’s early efforts helped establish it as an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, and the company has continued to build its support over time. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion was founded in 2006, and shortly afterward, four new Employee Network Groups were created, including a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender group, now known as NYLPride.
Building on this tradition, New York Life signed the Amicus Brief supporting marriage equality in 2013 and again in 2015, and in 2017 the company became an early adopter of the United Nations LGBTI Standard of Conduct for Business, joining its own internal efforts with a global movement. In 2019, the company signed an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to secure the protection of LGBTQ+ rights in federal antidiscrimination laws. We take heart in the recent historic Supreme Court ruling, which affirmed that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This landmark ruling reflects New York Life’s longstanding belief that diversity and inclusion are the foundation of a successful company culture.
As more people and organizations have come to recognize the importance of inclusion in recent years, New York Life has been recognized for its practices fostering equality. Since 2009, the Human Rights Campaign has regularly listed New York Life as a top place to work for LGBTQ+ equality, and the company has been named to Diversity Best Practices’ Leading Inclusion Index for the past several years.
2 “Don Ross, Elizabeth Taylor Co-Host AIDS Fund-Raising Program,” New York Life News, April 1995
3 A Timeline History of New York Life, 1841–1994
4 New York Life News, February/March 1993