The Human Rights Council, the largest LGBT+ rights group in the US, said it was suspending its endorsement of the tech giant, after it did not remove an app designed by a conservative, Texas-based religious group accused of promoting so-called “conversion therapy”, from the Google Play Store.
“We have been urging Google to remove this app because it is life-threatening to LGBT+ youth and also clearly violates the company’s own standards,” the HRC said in a statement.
Google, whose parent company is Alphabet Inc, has previously scored a perfect 100 on the HRC’s annual corporate equality index, which has been released this week, highlighting 517 companies that had reached the highest score possible.
“America’s leading companies and law firms are continuing to advance vital and increasingly rigorous policies and practices to protect their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer workers around the world,” the HRC said.
“This year, 571 businesses earned the top score of 100, meeting new and higher benchmarks — including a record number offering transgender-inclusive health care policies — in the most comprehensive assessment of workplace LGBT+ inclusion in the 17-year history of the report.”
Bloomberg News said a high score on the equality index is frequently used by companies as they seek to attract new employers, especially millennial and younger workers.
The app was developed three years ago by Living Hope Ministries (LHM), a church group based in Texas and headed by executive director Ricky Chelette. Last year, a petition on change.Org by a group Truth Wins Out urged major tech companies to remove the LHM app, which it claimed “falsely portrayed being gay as an addiction, sickness, and sin”.
The gay rights group, which is headquartered in Philadelphia, said on Thursday it welcomed the HRC’s decision to suspend Google from its equality index.
“Google needs to stop digging a hole with the LGBT+ community before it’s too late,” said the group’s executive director, Wayne Besen. “The company, whose motto was once ‘Don’t be Evil’, has recklessly chosen to let its reputation die on the hill of an evil ‘ex-gay’ app. For all the smart people who work at Google, it’s amazing that no one at this company has thought this through.”
Google said it had no comment to make on the HRC's decision. It said all apps had to comply with its Google Play policy and that these policies were constantly being reviewed. LHM did not respond to enquiries.
LHM has denied it is involved in so-called conversion therapy, a widely condemned “treatment” that some conservative and Christian groups have over the years sought to use to try and force people to change their sexuality.
Its website reads: "Living Hope Ministries hosts the largest, world-wide online support groups for men and women impacted by same sex attraction. Our online forums provide a free, safe, and moderated opportunity for accountability, encouragement and support from people who understand your struggle.”
In a recent newsletter, Mr Chelette criticised a decision by Microsoft and Apple to remove the app.
“We are a ministry that for nearly thirty years has helped individuals resolve their feelings they deem incongruent with their faith. We help people deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ,” he wrote