Gap’s Human Rights Hypocrisy

Clothing Company Opposes American Religious Freedom Laws While Quietly Operating in Nations Lacking Basic Civil Liberties

Investor Alert: Gap, Inc. Shareholders Urged to Vote For Proposal #6 to Encourage Company to Explain Human Rights Policies in High-Risk Regions Around the World

San Francisco, CA / Washington, D.C. – In a shareholder proposal to be voted on at this week’s annual meeting of Gap, Inc. investors, the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project (FEP) is calling on the company to explain its hypocritical and inconsistent response to policies — supposedly affecting the LGBT community — at home and abroad. FEP, the nation’s leading proponent of free-market investor activism, questions why the world-famous clothing retailer is opposing religious liberty in the United States on alleged LGBT civil rights pretenses while simultaneously maintaining operations in numerous countries that officially enforce and sanction deplorable treatment of this group.

“Gap apparently believes so much in advancing the LGBT agenda here in the United States that it has lent its brand to a fervent anti-religious movement. But this is a distortion of the issues. It is possible to support the LGBT community without opposing religious liberty,” said National Center General Counsel and FEP Director Justin Danhof, Esq., who will represent FEP at the Gap shareholder meeting. “While Gap continues to promote distorted narratives surrounding state-level religious freedom laws here in the United States, it has operations in nations where homosexuals are persecuted. Gap executives need to explain this discord. If the company gives a full accounting in the report requested by our proposal, Gap investors — not to mention religious Americans — might get an answer to that question.”

Gap, Inc. – a company with operations in 90 countries and selling worldwide through retail chains including Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta, Intermix and Old Navy – has scheduled its 2017 shareholder meeting for Wednesday, May 17. The meeting will be held at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco, California at 10:00AM Pacific/1:00PM Eastern.

FEP is offering Proposal #6, “Human Rights Review – High Risk Region,” which is the only proposal offered by shareholders to be considered at the Gap, Inc. meeting. The full proposal, and Gap’s statement against it, can be found on pages 56 and 57 of the company’s proxy statement. Information on how to listen to the Gap shareholder meeting by webcast is available here.

The National Center’s proposal “requests the board of directors review the company’s guidelines for selecting countries/regions for its operations and issue a report, at reasonable expense excluding any proprietary information, to shareholders by December 2017. The report should identify Gap’s criteria for investing in, operating in and withdrawing from high-risk regions.”

“In response to our proposal, Gap’s board of directors had the temerity to claim that ‘[w]e do not believe exiting certain regions protects or enhances human rights. On the contrary, local engagement protects and improves human rights.’ Yet, that’s exactly what the liberal ideological movement – with which it stands in solidarity – espouses,” said Danhof. “Companies such as Salesforce and Angie’s List threatened to cancel expansion efforts and jobs in Indiana when the Hoosier State passed a religious freedom law. And many corporations and sporting interests, including the NBA and the NCAA, withdrew events from North Carolina in response to that state’s so-called bathroom bill. Gap is front and center in this movement against religious liberty and common decency, so we do not take the Board’s statement at face value.”

Over the years, Gap, Inc. has lent its corporate reputation to advance the cause of LGBT activists in the United States. In 2016, Gap joined the Obama Administration’s lawsuit against North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill. At the time, FEP blasted the lawsuit as a naked power grab in which the Obama Administration was trying to rewrite federal law in its own image. Other instances of Gap advocacy include opposition to California’s Proposition 8 and support for the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, not to mention utilizing LGBT-friendly advertising. Yet the company allows franchise stores to operate in regions such as the Middle East and Oceania, where homosexuality can be openly ridiculed and may even carry state-enforced penalties that include the death penalty.

This will be the second time this year a National Center representative has raised a proposal of this nature at a shareholder meeting in 2017 (the other was Coca Cola). In 2016, FEP brought similar proposals before shareholders at Apple, Eli Lilly, General Electric and Walmart. It also raised civil rights and federalism issues with executives of Home Depot, Nike, PepsiCo and Red Hat.

Launched in 2007, the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group — focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. Since 2014, National Center representatives have participated in nearly 100 shareholder meetings to advance free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues. This will be fifteenth shareholder meeting FEP has participated in during the 2017 shareholder season.

FEP activism has yielded a tremendous return on investment:

  • FEP’s highly-publicized questioning of support for the Clinton Foundation by Boeing and General Electric helped trigger an FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundation’s activities that dominated the 2016 presidential campaign.
  • FEP inquiries prompted Facebook to address political bias against conservatives in social media.
  • Company executives acknowledged media bias at ABC News (Disney), the Washington Post and CNN (Time Warner) in response to FEP’s challenges, which helped to bring about more objective reporting and more balanced political representation. 
  • FEP’s “Employee Conscience Protection Project” strengthened protections for the political beliefs and activities of over five million workers at 13 major U.S. corporations.

So far in 2017, FEP has been featured in media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Variety, Newsmax TV, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Breitbart, Denver Post, Drudge Report, Business Insider, Orlando Sentinel, National Public Radio, American Family Radio and SiriusXM. In 2016, FEP was also featured in the Washington Times, the Fox News Channel’s “Cavuto,” the Financial Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, the Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Newsmax, the Daily Caller, Lifezette, the Seattle Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune among many others. The Free Enterprise Project was also featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kimberley Strassel’s 2016 book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for email updates here. Follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter for general announcements. To be alerted to upcoming media appearances by National Center staff, follow our media appearances Twitter account at @NCPPRMedia.


The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.