New California bill could benefit LGBT businesses

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On April 8, the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee of California approved a bill that could extend new opportunities to LGBT businesses.

Under current law, state policy is to aid the interests of women, minority, and disabled veterans by ensuring that a fair proportion of business purchases and contracts/subcontracts are awarded to businesses owned by such groups, in order to maintain and strengthen the overall economy. If AB 1678 is passed into law, that policy would be expanded to LGBT businesses. It is believed to be the first such bill in the United States.

The bill was passed with the assistance of testimony from the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding the LGBT business community.

In an NGLCC press release, the author of AB 1678, Assemblyman Rich Gordon, thanked them for “providing testimony that clearly made the case that this legislation is needed and needed now. Discrimination of any form is unacceptable and LGBT business owners are ready for their full seat at the table.”

NGLCC’s vice president of affiliate relations and external affairs, Sam McClure, stated that “This bill is essential because LGBT businesses should have access to every opportunity to grow their businesses and create jobs without the fear of discrimination. This legislation is a chance for California to be a leader in building a truly inclusive economy that creates economic opportunities for all businesses.”

One example McClure gave in his testimony to the committee was a California-based LGBT supplier he knew that had faced so much local discrimination when trying to do business that they had been forced to turn to the international market.

AB 1678 requires that every business providing electrical, gas, water, and wireless or landline telephone service with annual revenues of over $25 million do a fair proportion of their business purchases and service contracts or subcontracts with LGBT business enterprises, defined as those that are 51 percent or more owned by LGBT people, or with 51 percent or more of their stock owned by LGBT individuals.

The NGLCC has created an independent third party certification process, similar to those for certification as a women and/or minority owned businesses, through which businesses would be able to become certified as LGBT-owned. According to its press release, NGLCC certification “is accepted by over 150 corporations, including public utility corporations.”

The next stop for AB 1678 is the Appropriations Committee. An analysis of the bill can be read here.

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