Give LGBT businesses an equal chance 

California’s economy is the eighth-largest in the world, rivaling countries such as Italy and Brazil. Our state is made up of farmers, manufacturers, service workers and innovators. However, the backbone of any economy is small-business owners. The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that small businesses represent 99.2 percent of all employers and employ 50.4 percent of private-sector labor. The state must recognize the importance of these enterprises and the value that diversity brings to our state.

I have introduced legislation to increase the diversity in public contracting with small businesses. AB 1678, which will be heard on the Assembly Floor today, extends provisions already granted to minority-, female-, and disabled veteran-owned business enterprises to LGBT-owned businesses under public-utilities contract and procurement rules.

In doing so, we are supporting and opening economic growth opportunities to all businesses and creating a system that is more equitable and inclusive.

Since the late 1970s, it has been illegal in California to discriminate against an individual based on his or her sexual orientation. However, this does not negate the bitter and unfair legacy of discrimination against and disenfranchisement of members of the LGBT community.

The equality that AB 1678 tackles is one of economic opportunity. According to the Greenlining Institute, contracting with minority-based enterprises grew by $1 billion from 2010 to 2011 and, for the first time ever, six California-based companies are spending at least 20 percent of their procurement funds with minority-owned businesses. AB 1678 strengthens this remarkable achievement and will widen the pool of eligible businesses while simultaneously supporting the ingenuity and innovation of LGBT entrepreneurs.

With leadership from the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and its seven California affiliate chambers, the full support of the California Small Business Association and Small Business California, public utilities — Southern California Edison and AT&T, and hundreds of economic mobility groups, AB 1678 ensures that public utilities will serve as a model industry that champions supplier diversity and supports the economic achievement of all Californians.

I think back to the beginning of my career and how the corporate inclusionary climate has changed. Still, there is much to be done.

The LGBT movement for social justice extends far beyond marriage equality — it also encompasses social and inclusive economic opportunity for all Californians. In doing so, we must ensure that each and every person has an equal and equitable stake in our state’s success — AB 1678 is a great first step towards achieving this.

Assemblyman Rich Gordon represents the 24th Assembly District, which covers San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. He is chairman of the LGBT Legislative Caucus and chairman of the Assembly Rules Committee.

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Rich Gordon

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