November 15, 2012 | by Santiago Melli-Huber
The business of being out
Mark Guenther, CAGLCC, Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Guenther, director of the Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce will hold its 10th anniversary national dinner, “Beyond Expectations” Friday night at the National Building Museum. On Saturday, the Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce will hold its first “g.life expo.”

The National Dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. and includes a silent auction, dinner, an awards ceremony and an after party. About 800 people are expected to attend, an increase from the 700 attendees the previous year. Tickets for the event are no longer available.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will receive the organization’s Pinnacle Award, given only under “exceptional circumstances.” In a press release, National Chamber President Justin Nelson cited Clinton’s 2011 speech to the United Nations as “a moment that changed the landscape for LGBT people around the globe.” In her speech, Clinton said, “LGBT rights are human rights.” The same year, Clinton launched the State Department’s Global Equality Fund, which works to promote the rights of the LGBT community around the world.

Clinton is the third honoree and the first individual to receive the Pinnacle Award. Previous recipients include Wells Fargo and IBM. Daniel Baer, deputy assistant secretary for democracy, Human Rights and Labor will accept the award on Clinton’s behalf.

Judith Light will receive the Chamber/American Airlines ExtrAA Mile Award. The Tony Award-winning actor is being recognized for supporting LGBT legislation and fighting discrimination for more than 20 years. Light sits on the board of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and other LGBT charities.

Shepard’s family will attend the dinner, according to Laura Berry, the Chamber’s director of communications. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray will also attend the dinner and is expected to declare today National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Day in the District.

“This is not our annual fundraising dinner,” says Nelson. “This is our annual celebration. This really is about bringing together our corporate partners, our affiliate chambers, our certified suppliers, our organizational allies and our elected official champions to celebrate what we’ve accomplished … over the last decade.”

The following day, the Capital Area Chamber (CAGLCC) will hold its first-ever “g.life expo,” slated for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Washington Marriot Wardman Park (2600 Woodley Rd., N.W.). Registration is free and open to the public and includes vendors, seminars, bars and park areas.

One seminar is a “boot camp” to teach businesses how to take advantage of their LGBT certification, which the local chamber gives to LGBT-owned businesses.

“We won the Chamber of the Year award,” says Mark Guenther, executive director of the local group. “We’re hoping to leverage that notoriety at the dinner to have people come to g.life the next day.”

Guenther hopes that in years to come, corporate partners attending the national dinner will also participate in g.life.

CAGLCC has close to 400 members, many of whom are participating in a “pop-up metropolis” at g.life, which includes vendors pitching their products and services to attendees.

“We want to show our vendors … that the LGBT marketplace is a very viable way to have a great return on their investment,” Guenther says. “We hope that people who come as attendees have a great time and learn who the LGBT friendly or LGBT welcoming businesses in town are.”

Chance Mitchell, CEO of the National Chamber, saw the need for an economic component in the LGBT movement when co-founding the organization with Nelson.

“If you look at what other diverse constituencies have done,” Mitchell says, “they’ve really coalesced around economic empowerment, and we felt that diversity and inclusion has to be phrased in that context of economic empowerment.”

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