Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Weathering the Storm

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Weathering the Storm

Article excerpt

Do socially responsible investments make sense in today's bear market?

The power of the gay dollar in corporate finance was perhaps first felt in 1991, when Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, a Tennessee-based restaurant chain, fired at least 11 gay and lesbian employees because of their sexual orientation. The reaction of angry gay and lesbian Cracker Barrel shareholders ignited a media frenzy, giving birth to gay shareholder activism and even changing U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regulations regarding the influence of shareholders on the businesses in which they invest.

By the late 1990s, the perceived economic clout of gay men and lesbians had become a hot Wall Street commodity, with investment firms marketing "socially responsible" options to gay investors through national ad campaigns. And no wonder--according to the Gay Financial Network, a financial services Web site, the tangible assets of U.S. gays and lesbians exceed $800 billion, and 3.2 million of them own stocks. But with the U.S. economy tightening, how realistic is it for gay people to target their monies to socially responsible investment options?

"Follow your heart, but don't invest sentimentally," warns Kermit Johns, managing director of Christopher Street Financial, a full-service investment firm with a clientele that is approximately 70% gay. "Any investment option is only as good as its managers, so there is no difference from the past to the present," Johns says, addressing the recent decline of the overall market. "There are very well-managed investment funds that profess their social responsibility, and they remain good investments."

Grant Lukenbill, author of Smart Spending: The Gay and Lesbian Guide to Socially Responsible Shopping and Investing, also says to "follow your conscience" when considering investment options. …

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