Last month, the conservative filmmaker Robby Starbuck posted a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, denouncing Tractor Supply Co. The Tennessee-based firm, which markets its farm supplies with rugged Americana iconography, requires its employees to undergo mandatory “LGBTQIA+ training,” while sponsoring sex-reassignment surgery and hormone-replacement therapy through its health plan. Tractor Supply has also funded drag-queen events as a corporate sponsor. Starbuck’s video, which garnered nearly 3 million views, eventually prompted Tractor Supply to backtrack. “We have heard from customers that we have disappointed them,” the firm said in a statement published on Thursday. “We have taken this feedback to heart.” Tractor Supply vowed to “focus on rural-America priorities” and to eliminate all diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; the firm’s DEI webpage now directs to a photo of one of its stores.

“It isn’t that every Fortune 500 CEO is a queer theorist.”

Why do firms, especially those catering to rural and conservative Americans, do this to themselves? It isn’t that every Fortune 500 CEO is a queer theorist. Rather, companies from Microsoft to Cracker Barrel have adopted multiple of the exact same pro-LGBT initiatives thanks in a large part to the influence of ideological scorecards like the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. 

The HRC is the nation’s largest LGBT activist organization, founded in 1980 as a political action committee. While the organization continues to maintain an active and powerful political lobbying arm, its nonprofit side, HRC Foundation, is responsible for the Corporate Equality Index, launched in 2002 to advance “critical policies and practices indicative of employers’ commitment to equality,” according to the website

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