Kamala Harris on Saturday became the first sitting vice president to have marched in a pride parade.
She and husband Doug Emhoff attended the Capital Pride Walk in Washington, DC. Harris wore a shirt with the slogan “love is love” imprinted on it, while Emhoff’s said “love first” 11 times in multiple colors, resembling a rainbow.
“Happy Pride,” Harris told other marchers, according to WRC-TV, an affiliate of NBC News.
She also called for the government to pass the Equality Act, which would ensure federal protections for LGBT people. So far, the House has passed the Equality Act, but it’s unclear whether the Senate will take it up. Harris also issued words of support for trans people.
“We need to make sure that our transgender community and our youth are all protected. We need, still, protections around employment and housing,” Harris said, according to WRC-TV. “There is so much more work to do, and I know we are committed.”
In numerous remarks, the Biden-Harris administration has indicated the LGBT community has its full government support.
Earlier in June, for example, in recognition of pride, the White House said “no one should face discrimination or harassment because of who they are or whom they love.”
“The President has the back of LGBTQ+ people across the country and will continue fighting for full equality for every American – including through continuing to urge the U.S. Senate to pass the Equality Act and provide overdue civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ people and families across the country,” the White House statement continued.
Burger King says that for every Ch’King sandwich sold during June, which is Pride month, it will donate to The Human Rights Campaign.
The chain announced the donation plans in a tweet on June 3 that seemed pointed at Chick-fil-A, the reigning chicken sandwich fast food restaurant. BK says it will donate 40 cents for every chicken sandwich sold up to $250,000, or 625,000 sandwiches.
Burger King’s Pride Month promotion is a chance for it to distinguish itself from the crowded chicken sandwich landscape. Burger King released the Ch’King sandwich on June 3 after two years of recipe testing.
KFC, Popeyes, and McDonald’s all sell their own versions of crispy chicken sandwiches, though Chick-fil-A remains the chain to beat. As of December 2020, Chick-fil-A still had by far the largest share of online chicken sandwiches sales at 45%. No other brand even reached 20%.
As brands take to Twitter to celebrate Pride, many of the same companies donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians who voted against expanded LGBTQ protections.
In February, the vast majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against the Equality Act, which aims to expand LGBTQ protections. SEC filings show that some of the best-known companies in the US, including McDonald’s, Walmart, and Amazon, have donated significant sums to politicians who voted against the bill.
Most major companies donate to both parties via political action committees, historically giving more to Republicans. (Industry PACs supported by these organizations also donate to both parties, but tend to skew even further right.) In recent years, many companies’ PACs – including Walmart, Amazon, and McDonald’s – have moved toward a 50/50 split between Democrat and Republican donations.
Companies donate to politicians’ campaigns hoping to influence lawmakers on legislation that might impact business, from immigration to minimum wages.
As a result, these industry giants have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians who are pushing for legislation that protects LGBTQ rights, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians actively working to defeat the same bills.
Companies are increasingly caught between a desire to pursue bipartisan political alliances through donations and expectations that they support progressive social causes. Now, some are being forced to change their strategies.
Walmart, Amazon, and McDonald’s collectively donated over $1 million to lawmakers who voted against the Equality Act
From 2019 to 2020, Walmart’s PAC donated $1.2 million to federal candidates, according to an Insider analysis of FEC data via the Center for Responsive Politics. Donations were exactly an even split – $596,000 to Republicans and $596,000 to Democrats. All but three Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against the Equality Act, saying it could infringe on religious freedom. That means Walmart donated nearly $400,000 to politicians opposing the bill.
Meanwhile, the company’s Twitter avatar is currently rainbow hued, and the retailer is selling a collection of Pride merchandise. A Walmart spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
At the same time, the company’s PAC split donations from 2019 to 2020, donating $659,000 to Democratic candidates and $648,500 to Republicans. More than $460,000 of those donations went to politicians who voted against the Equality Act.
An Amazon spokesperson told Insider that the company “engages with policymakers and regulators on a wide range of issues that affect our business, customers, and employees.”
“That does not mean we agree with any individual or political organization 100 percent of the time on every issue, and this includes legislation that discriminates or encourages discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community,” the spokesperson continued.
Companies are changing how they approach political donations
In 2021, more brands are openly supporting LGBTQ people and celebrating Pride on social media than ever before.
Simultaneously, the US is seeing an explosion of anti-trans bills. Lawmakers are not simply voting against expanding protections for LGBTQ people, they are trying to pass new laws that advocates say will harm vulnerable individuals.
“These are organized anti-transgender forces, people who are ideologically anti-transgender, who are trying to push this everywhere that they can,” trans advocate Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen told Insider in April. “So it’s coordinated, it’s deliberate, and it is all about using trans people and especially trans youth as a political football.”
Employees and customers increasingly expect companies to uphold progressive social values, including vocal support of LGBTQ people. But, companies typically don’t want to surrender the chance to engage with politicians on both sides of the aisle.
In 2021, it is increasingly difficult for companies to say they support a cause, while donating to politicians who vote for laws that indicate the opposite. Marcia Chatelain, a Georgetown University professor, told Insider earlier this year that – in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests – brands like McDonald’s had assumed that tweeting support would satisfy most people.
“What they probably didn’t anticipate was we are at a moment where people ask for more,” Chatelain said. “They ask for more than donations. They ask for more than diversity-pipeline programs. They ask for more than skillful marketing. They actually ask for racial and economic justice.”
I get pitched a lot by publicists, agents, and agencies for this column. Because I often use the behavior of certain people or companies as a jump-off point for articles, it makes sense that PR professionals would seek out similar coverage for their clients.
Publicists and account reps have many different resources for building their network, and an increasingly popular approach is to join and participate in online communities such as PR-focused Facebook groups. I’m in a few of these myself to stay informed, and the other day I saw a passing post that mentioned some new LGBTQ-related research. I’m always interested in seeing and referencing new data-backed studies, so I commented and asked for the press release.
I thought I wrote, “Feel free to send that report my way.” But from the looks of my inbox the past few weeks, perhaps I blacked out and actually said something more along the lines of “Open Sesame!” because the number of pitches I’ve received lately has been bonkers.
Brand after brand has forwarded me their “revolutionary” new campaign in which they’ve printed a rainbow version of their product and are giving a portion of proceeds to an LGBTQ-focused charity. I’ll certainly never turn my nose up at a company’s charitable giving efforts. But I’m also worried. For many of these companies, a rainbow version of their product for the month of June feels both performative and – dare I say it – lazy.
We know that we exist. So we want to see more than awareness in your pridemarketing; we want to see allyship and innovation. Here are a few ideas on what that could look like – and why companies should care.
Consumer psychology has changed
Consumers increasingly look to where a brand stands on topics of social justice to determine their loyalty. Your customers and clients want to follow your company and buy your product not only for what it does but also for what you stand for.
We all like to purchase from companies that get us. And according to polling data from Gallup, the roar of both the LGBTQ community and economy is only getting louder. Highlights from that data include:
5.6% of Americans identifying as LGBTQ, up from 4.5% in 2017,
9.1% of millennials identifying as LGBTQ, with about half of that population identifying as bisexual, and
Nearly 16% of Gen Z identifying as LGBTQ, with 72% of that population identifying as bisexual. 1.8% of Gen Z identifies as transgender.
Translation? Queer people exist, and younger people identify as queer in greater numbers. Oppression efforts continue to run rampant, so we need your help.
As of this writing, 17 anti-transgender bills have already been signed into law this year, per a press release from the Human Rights Campaign. The impact these bills will have on trans youth is staggering; a University of Arizona study found that trans youth experience far higher suicide attempt rates, but an affirmation of their identity and pronouns by parents can greatly reduce this number.
Financial data on the LGBTQ community also paints a complex picture. Mainstream stereotypes depict queer people as lavish and fabulous. But overall, LGBTQ people are more likely to experience socioeconomic inequality, according to a demographics report from UCLA.
As you create awareness for the LGBTQ community during pride month, take time in your messaging to give context. Share with your audience about the current challenges we face as well as where your company stands.
How to attract loyal customers who promote you on their behalf
If pride marketing feels like walking on eggshells this year, here are a few steps you can take that are largely guaranteed to make a difference.
Hand the microphone over. Instead of rainbow-washing a community’s needs, partner with a community leader who can speak to important issues in an informed, compelling way. Influencer marketing is still a slippery slope, but spokespeople have been a tried-and-true visibility tactic for decades. The approach is win/win.
Do something outside of June. If you’ve missed the opportunity to promote pride in June … there are LGBTQ-related awareness days throughout the year. Your campaign is less likely to get caught in the rainbow-washed echo chamber that is June, too.
Go local. GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide includes a directory of community organizations to spotlight and be aware of. What are your local organizations, and how can you encourage supporting them? These grassroots initiatives often make an immediate impact and can literally save lives.
The LGBTQ economy continues to grow, and as a result, the pride marketing landscape is changing. Instead of phoning it in, use marketing dollars to spotlight issues that truly matter to your customers. Challenge yourself to zig when others zag, and you’re more likely to command our market’s attention for months and years to come.
Pride’s back! In truth Pride never went away. We’ve been marching for half a century in the face of arrest, harassment and worse, through nearly four decades of an epidemic that devastated yet ultimately galvanized our community, and now through a global pandemic.
We will always exercise our right to be visible and celebrate our magnificent diversity. While we did it mostly virtually in 2020, the trend in 2021 is to meet in person. For now, we’ll skip crowded and sweaty parades and parties (alas!), but in order for us to join safely together in person, many Prides have been restructured as celebratory hybrid events. A few will be drive-through; others will postpone large gatherings till later in the year. Most importantly, we’ll gather in 2021 to celebrate the many reasons to be proud while mourning those we’ve lost.
From California wine country to the streets of New York, there’s a US Pride celebration ready for you to join, with many launching this coming week and sashaying all the way through September.
Here are some of the best US pride celebrations in 2021, plus hotels for each.
Sonoma County Pride – June 5
Discover the white, red, rosé, and rainbow-hued wines of gay-popular Sonoma County, an hours’ drive north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Sonoma’s beautiful rolling hills lack the star power of nearby Napa with its haute cuisine and celebrity-driven vineyards, but it more than compensates in seasonal-focused produce, a wider variety of wines, and a large concentration of LGBTQ residents, including many in the wine industry.
The theme of Sonoma County’s homey Pride celebration, “Beyond the Rainbow: Surviving, Reviving, and Thriving,” draws inspiration from the Wizard of Oz to offer renewal and support. The marquee event has been redesigned as the Drive-Thru Parade on Saturday, June 5, but there are 16 other official events scheduled throughout the month of June. If you can’t join for Pride month, consider visiting for one of the summer’s smaller Gay Wine Weekends.
Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade and Street Festival – June 19
The tiny island city of Wilton Manors — entirely bordered by waterways — is the beating gay heart of LGBTQ-popular Fort Lauderdale. This is where you’ll find the most queer-owned businesses, the majority of which are conveniently located adjacent to one another in nearby shopping centers allowing for fun, boozy walks among the various bars, restaurants, and novelty stores.
Pride is a folksy affair here. As you’ll find in many communities, there are official events throughout the month, but the parade and festival take place on Saturday, June 19. Be sure to get vaccinated before your visit. It’s Florida so expect a crowded gathering with a somewhat lax attitude towards social distancing and mask-wearing.
Pride in the Park Chicago – June 26-27
Chicago is known for outstanding architecture, a vibrant cultural and art scene, a gorgeous (and gay!) beach, and that Magnificent Mile. But it has also long been an underappreciated locus for LGBTQ culture, from literary icons like Jane Addams to gay rights activists such as Henry Gerber.
Their stories can be discovered on a self-guided LGBTQ Legacy Walkproviding context for what has become a robust LGBTQ community. This year’s Pride in the Park live-music celebration (featuring Tiësto, Chaka Kahn, and more) returns as an in-person event although the Chicago Pride Parade will be delayed until Sunday, October 3rd and Chicago Pride Fest remains postponed with a possible return in September or October. Expect a laidback but joyous reunion.
New York City Pride – June 27
It’s a thrilling time to visit New York. This resilient city is rapidly picking up pace as increasing numbers of visitors people-watch, museum-hop, and pose for selfies in Times Square. Outdoor restaurants are (safely) packed adding a European-style plein-air dining scene. NYC has long been a beacon to queers escaping oppressive, narrow-minded, or just plain vanilla hometowns. Riled by continuous assaults on their dignity, queers, led by young transgender people of color, revolted on June 28, 1969. Marking this spontaneous uprising a year later, the first Prides were born in NYC and elsewhere.
Fifty years later World Pride welcomed over 5 million visitors representing all the colors of the queer rainbow. This year, with vaccination rates among the highest in the land, NYC boasts a huge lineup of official in-person and hybrid Pride celebrations. You’ll also find several other non-commercial alternative protest-oriented marches including the in-your-face queer Reclaim Pride march also on June 27 and the Dyke March on Saturday, June 26.
San Francisco Dyke March – June 27
Many who visit San Francisco harbor deep down a desire to stay. This was equally true for Mary Ann Singleton from “Tales of the City,” and the legions of homosexual G.I.s returning from World War II who remained, thus establishing the roots of a robust queer culture still thriving today.
Pride is a city-wide, month-long celebration with corporate headquarters and City Hall bedecked in rainbow colors and rainbow flags flapping everywhere. A highlight is the nation’s largest Dyke March, a non-commercial, protest-oriented but nonetheless joyous celebration of all things queer.
San Juan, Puerto Rico Pride – June 27
Generally speaking, the Caribbean is not LGBTQ-friendly. Many of the region’s islands criminalize homosexuality, and at best they tolerate openly queer visitors for their much-needed tourism money. A glittering exception is San Juan, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean’s true queer capital. It’s not only that the laws of the US, like marriage equality, apply here, but the locals, even those in the more conservative rural parts of the island, are truly hospitable. They want you to enjoy yourself. And you will.
Even at this year’s lowkey, socially distant car-based Pride, you’ll find fun all-welcome outdoor party scenes like La Placita de Santurce, a hub for convivial alfresco dining and drinking and all-night salsa dancing making a weekend here an attractive option whether for Pride or another time of the year.
Twin Cities Pride Festival – July 17-18
Separated by the Mississippi River, Twin Cities Minneapolis and St. Paul are more fraternal than identical. Locals in both are similarly welcoming to visitors, but St. Paul is the epicenter of old money and political power represented by glorious marble municipal buildings and stately old homes. Minneapolis has an edgier feel, with a vibrant art scene: Check out the world-class Walker Art Center and the popular Theatre District.
Warmer weather entices denizens of both sides of the river to flock outside enjoying outdoor cafes, abundant parks and the annual Twin Cities Pride Festival. After a virtual edition in 2020, this year’s festival will welcome in-person participants at a number of mostly free events from now into July (culminating with the Festival), including a nighttime party, two 5K runs, and a family fun day. Note that there will be no pride march as an extra COVID-era precaution.
Atlanta Black Pride Weekend – September 1-7
In addition to a sizzling restaurant scene and sparkling new tourist attractions (Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca Cola and more), visitors find important traces and celebrations of African American history like the King Center and perhaps surprisingly abundant natural attractions including miles of hiking trails and swaths of gorgeous flowering green spaces.
Expect a warm welcome: Atlanta is a liberal blue island in an otherwise mostly red conservative state. There is also a vibrant, approachable gay scene here filled with queer refugees from the entire region. You’ll find lots of LGBTQ venues to enjoy, with the only drawback being the driving distances between hotspots.
Atlanta proudly boasts three annual Pride celebrations. National Pride Month in June, Black Pride during Labor Day Weekend, and Atlanta Pride Festival and Parade in October. Atlanta Black Pride is the largest Black gay Pride festivity in the world and celebrates the important impacts Black queer Atlantans have had on the community, city, and state.
Miami Beach Pride Festival and Parade Weekend – September 18-19
Miami continues to draw LGBTQ visitors to its sun-drenched, palm-studded shores, best known for the neon-limned boutique Deco hotels and outdoor dining scene. Of course, in recent years Miami’s appeal has widened considerably to include buzzy mainland neighborhoods like Brickell and the Wynwood Arts District.
The local queer population has likewise spread out and integrated along with the nightlife and dining scene. If you come for Pride, center your visit in South Beach which will throng with queer locals and visitors. The annual Pride Festival and Parade Weekend promises to be better than ever with far more in-person events scheduled than last year.