March 16, 2015 at 11:24 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Blade officially launches LGBT-friendly business campaign
business campaign, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, Sheila Alexander-Reid of the D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, Stephen Rutgers of the Washington Blade and Ana Harvey of the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development met with other business leaders at Duke’s Grocery on March 16, 2015 to launch the ‘LGBT Welcoming Business’ initiative. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade on Monday formally launched a campaign designed to highlight LGBT-friendly businesses in D.C.

Businesses who join the “LGBT Welcoming Business” initiative will display a decal upon agreeing to “avoid heterosexist assumptions, confront homophobia and use inclusive language” and supporting the idea they are “enriched by the inclusion of LGBT people.”

The D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development and City Center D.C. have partnered with the Blade on the “LGBT Welcoming Business” campaign.

“A lot of people aren’t out and a lot of people just aren’t at that point where they’re being comfortable being out,” said Stephen Rutgers, director of sales and marketing for the Blade, during the campaign’s formal kick-off at Duke’s Grocery in Dupont Circle. “So that’s why we’ve created the program so people can go into businesses that market to them, feel comfortable, feel safe in going in there and spend money.”

Sheila Alexander-Reid, director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, is among those who also spoke at the event.

“We want to make sure that our community not only knows they are welcome, but also that business leaders understand the value of the gay dollar and the power of the dollar,” said Alexander-Reid.

Rutgers said that more than two-dozen businesses have already signed up for the “LGBT Welcoming Business” campaign. He added it is also a response to the growing number of laws that have taken effect across the country that critics contend allow business owners to discriminate against potential customers based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

“We want to support business that make people feel welcome,” said Rutgers.

“We’re proud to be part of this community,” added Daniel Kramer of Duke’s Grocery. “We’re really happy to be a part of this initiative.”

Equality Virginia, Equality North Carolina and South Carolina Equality in January launched a campaign designed to highlight LGBT-friendly businesses in their respective states. More than 1,000 businesses in Mississippi and around the country last year joined a campaign against a state law they contend allows business owners to deny services to LGBT people based on their religious beliefs.

Business owners who want to join the “LGBT Welcoming Business” campaign can sign up at washingtonblade.com/business.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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