Wal-Mart vice president Dee Breazeale is to take a seat on the corporate advisory council of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). The company will also sponsor some of the chamber's programmes, including two of its conferences.

The NGLCC works to educate corporate America and the public on the economic benefits of providing a diverse workplace and creating mutually beneficial relationships with the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and LGBT-friendly business community.

Wal-Mart is involved with a great number of community organisations, and sees this as no different from any other outreach effort, company spokesman Bob BcAdam said in a telephone interview with The Morning News.

However, not all its customers agree. The response from the American Family Association was both prompt and predictable, with spokesman Randy Sharp saying the organisation was disappointed to see Wal-Mart abandoning the pro-family legacy left by founder Sam Walton.

Less predictably, the Pride at Work lobbying group also criticised the move, arguing that it was a mistake for the NGLCC to partner with a company it believes is not worker-friendly, never mind friendly to gay and lesbian workers. Pride at Work encouraged the NGLCC to demand that Wal-Mart pay all their employees above poverty line wages and offer affordable health care.