Corporate Sponsorship Statement

Pride is Earned, Not Bought.

Because Seattle Pride has grown to become a year-round organization working on behalf of Seattle’s LGBTQIA+ community to advance diversity and equal human rights for all – through advocacy, events, community grants and sponsorships – we are reviewing our corporate partnerships to ensure our partners’ words and actions align with our organization’s values. It is critical they actively support – and do not harm – our community not only on parade day, but throughout the year.

We Are Pride 1 We Are Pride 1

Statements

DEI & Corporate Partner Process
Re-Evaluation

Seattle Pride, as an organization and the annual Pride celebrations it produces (Seattle Pride Parade & Seattle Pride in the Park), have grown significantly since the Seattle Pride March/Parade began nearly 50 years ago. We’ve worked closely with corporate partners to support our growing celebration which is now one of the largest in the country.

Because Seattle Pride has grown to become a year-round organization working on behalf of Seattle’s LGBTQIA+ community to advance diversity and equal human rights for all – through advocacy, events, community grants and sponsorships – we are reviewing our corporate partnerships to ensure our partners’ words and actions align with our organization’s values. It is critical they actively support – and do not harm – our community not only on parade day, but throughout the year.

When the Pride celebrations began in Seattle in 1974, few people or businesses wanted to be associated with LGBTQIA+ advocacy or organizations like Seattle Pride. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then, and today the Seattle Pride Parade includes more than an estimated 100 businesses and nearly 400,000 parade-goers.

This growth has also unfortunately attracted corporate entities who participate as a token gesture – often referred to as ‘rainbow washing’ – so as to appear publicly as doing the ‘right’ thing, despite harming our community with blatant, subtle, and sometimes unintentional words and actions throughout the rest of the year.

As an organization dedicated to diversity and equal human rights, we have been criticized for becoming too corporate, with an overabundance of corporate visibility that pushes individuals to the sidelines. While we’ve always believed the more people who want to celebrate the better – a far cry from the early days of the parade -- we also have taken the criticism to heart. We believe it’s our responsibility to be aware of our partners’ values and year-round business practices, words, and actions to ensure they align with ours. If there is a corporate logo next to ours, we must confirm they have earned that honor – and with it, their responsibility to the queer and trans communities.

This is why Seattle Pride is requiring all corporate partners to participate in a diversity, equity, and inclusion survey and evaluation process, with a heavy focus on evaluating our Presenting (highest level) partners with the greatest benefits and exposure. Through this process we will be working with partners to evaluate their values, processes, and procedures to determine if they are indeed eligible for partnering with Seattle Pride, and we ask them to act in line with their values across their businesses. We also offer opportunities for improvement with our partners and recognize systemic change in their businesses and this world takes time and ongoing accountability. We are here to act as a resource and supporter for corporate partners actively working to do better and help the LGBTQIA+ community.


Seattle Pride & Amazon
Statement

Seattle Pride, as an organization and the annual Pride celebrations it produces (Seattle Pride Parade & Seattle Pride in the Park), have grown significantly since the Seattle Pride March/Parade began 46 years ago. We’ve worked closely with corporate partners to support our growing celebration which is now one of the largest in the country.

Because Pride and our LGBTQIA+ community are here year-round, we are evaluating all of our corporate partners, with an emphasis on Presenting (higher-level) partners, to ensure they are of the highest caliber and actively support – and do not harm – our community. Through this evaluation process, Seattle Pride has decided to not partner with Amazon for the 2022 Seattle Pride Parade because of their financial donations to politicians who actively propose and support anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation, oppose pro-LGBTQIA+ and other human rights legislation, and for allowing anti-LGBTQIA+ organizations to raise funds from their AmazonSmile program.

As an organization that has supported Seattle Pride and other Pride organizations over the years, we are saddened to learn about Amazon’s support of anti-LGBTQIA+ politicians. In 2020, Amazon donated more than $450,000 to lawmakers who voted against the Equality Act. Amazon’s Political Action Committee also donated nearly a million dollars ($966,500) to 193 elected Congressional delegates and their PACs (2020 cycle), with 191 of those individuals receiving an “F Grade” from the Human Rights Campaign according to data from the 116th Congressional HRC Scorecard, 115th Congressional HRC Scorecard, and the 2020 Amazon.com PAC Contributions to Candidates report on OpenSecrets.com. In Washington state, Amazon made $11,000 in donations (2020 and 2022) to legislative sponsors of 2022 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills including anti-transgender bills HB 1556 and HB 1960, and critical race theory bills HB 1886 and HB 1807. We simply cannot partner with any organization actively harming our community through the support of discriminatory laws and politics.

We are also deeply concerned that AmazonSmile, the shopping program which enables customers to donate to charities as they shop, has allowed more than 40 anti-LGBTQIA+ organizations to list and raise funds through the program, according to this December, 2020 article. As-of March 21, 2022, one anti-LGBTQIA+ organization still listed on the platform is The Family Council in Little Rock, Arkansas. This conservative organization touts their anti-gay marriage stance as “pro-marriage”, stating, “In 2004 we formed the Arkansas Marriage Amendment Committee and, after gathering over 200,000 petition signatures, we worked for the successful passage of a State Constitutional Amendment that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The amendment passed with 75% of the vote.” Another anti-LGBTQIA+ organization still listed on AmazonSmile is Concerned Women for America with their transphobic stance on female sports, opposition to gender-affirming care for children and more. Also listed is the National Organization for Marriage Education Fund, an organization “... founded in order to respond to the growing need for an organized promotion and defense of marriage in state and federal legislatures, in the courts at all levels, and in the general culture.” AmazonSmile, according to its participation agreement, is not supposed to allow organizations that “engage in, support, encourage, or promote: intolerance, discrimination or discriminatory practices based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or age.”

It’s critical Amazon and other corporate partners of Seattle Pride – and for other Pride events nationally – do not allow their platforms to be used by organizations which are actively working against the rights of LGBTQIA+ people.

As Seattle Pride continues to grow, it is our duty to partner with corporate organizations which actively support the LGBTQIA+ community, and whose values align with our own. Unfortunately, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) employer grading system is not comprehensive enough for Pride organizations to rely on when vetting and selecting partners.We must make a more concerted effort to determine an alignment of values and actions. For example, Amazon has a perfect HRC score despite the aforementioned support of anti-LGBTQIA+ politicians and organizations, as well as publicly reported workers’ rights issues including instances of employee discrimination and bullying. This is why Seattle Pride is requiring all corporate partners to participate in a diversity, equity, and inclusion survey and evaluation process.

Seattle Pride is requesting Amazon – and all other corporate partners – take their business actions into account when sponsoring Pride events in Seattle and around the world. The LGBTQIA+ community is forced to fight for equality, and basic human dignity, year-round; not just in June. Seattle Pride is asking Amazon to request the return of political donations from anti-LGBTQIA+ politicians, and actively remove and deny requests by anti-LGBTQIA+ organizations for the AmazonSmile program prior to being considered for future partnership opportunities.

Seattle Pride is also asking the LGBTQIA+ and allied communities to stand together and act as advocates in their workplaces for business practices not actively harming the LGBTQIA+ community.

By standing up for our values, we are losing sponsorship funds used to produce our growing events, which we hope to offset with donations from our community and trusted allies, so we can continue to produce one of the largest Pride Parades in the U.S. while still holding our values above all else. Pride cannot be bought by corporate partners, it must be earned.


HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT SEATTLE PRIDE

Community Support Needed

If you support the work Seattle Pride is doing to be responsive to our LGBTQIA+ community in being intentional about our sponsorship decisions, please consider making a donation to Seattle Pride today.

Thank You.

Seattle Pride is also asking the LGBTQIA+ and allied communities to stand together and act as advocates in their workplaces for business practices not actively harming the LGBTQIA+ community.

DONATE HERE

Frequently Asked Questions

What qualifies Seattle Pride to police the actions of companies and organizations?

Seattle Pride, like all nonprofit organizations, has a responsibility to live up to our mission. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, Seattle Pride has the unique opportunity to engage in political advocacy for our LGBTQIA+ community, which adds to the responsibility we feel to speak out against injustices our community faces.

Who, specifically at Seattle Pride, is involved in evaluating and making decisions regarding the actions of your sponsors and determining if they are worthy of continuing their sponsorship? What is the background of these individuals which qualifies them? How do you ensure that these evaluations and decisions are consistently made and executed?

Seattle Pride’s Executive Director (Krystal Marx) reviews potential sponsors throughout the year in the course of conversations with them, and the volunteer Board of Directors review corporate sponsors on a rolling basis at their monthly Board Meetings. The Board is made up of passionate, experienced, and diverse individuals with experience ranging from large corporation recruitment, finance, public safety reform, education, small business ownership and local government.

What is the specific criteria for determining if a company or organization can serve as a sponsor of Seattle Pride’s events?

All Seattle Pride sponsors are required to complete our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion survey, and sign on in support of our Statement of Values as part of their contractual obligations. The DEI Survey was designed by Seattle Pride staff to replace the often inaccurate Human Rights Campaign (HRC) reports, as it digs deeper into how LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC individuals are treated as employees at that particular organization. Board and staff members also conduct internet searches into the history of the company supporting (or harming) LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Will you be making the evaluation results public on your website? Will you also be sharing the findings of your other sponsors?

Seattle Pride is committed to working with our sponsors to improve their DEI Survey scores year after year, and believe the best way to do that is dedicating Seattle Pride staff time and effort to advising these organizations on areas they could improve. Anonymized, aggregate scores from the DEI Survey will be posted to the Seattle Pride website in August, 2022.

Why are you focusing on your Presenting corporate partners? Shouldn’t all partners be evaluated? If so, when will they be evaluated?

We are focused on all levels of partnership (sponsorship), and require all sponsors to complete the DEI Survey regardless of their level of sponsorship. Presenting corporate sponsors receive the greatest benefit from Seattle Pride in our marketing efforts, at our events, and over social media, however, and therefore have the greatest visibility. By starting at the top, we hope to send a clear message that no amount of money can buy access to LGBTQIA+ spaces.

Should your sponsors who’ve supported you for years see these evaluations as a veiled threat?

Not at all! Seattle Pride has made an intentional, ongoing effort since 2019 to share our plans to align ourselves with corporations who align with our goals in supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. This is when we hired our first staff member (Krystal Marx, executive director), with this being one of the reasons. We also celebrate our sponsors, such as Nordstrom, who are doing amazing things for the LGBTQIA+ community, such as funding hormone therapy for transgender folks during Pride month.

Companies and organizations have been criticized for years for rainbow washing. Why did it take Seattle Pride so long to act?

Moving from a volunteer-run organization to one professionally staffed has brought around increased ability to focus on the effects of rainbow washing, which started in October of 2019. The increased lived and professional experience of our Board of Directors had a great impact as well, as the oversight of the organization is now more firmly rooted in community, anti-racism, and advocacy.

For some time now, Seattle Pride has been called the producers of “corporate pride” events. How will your actions now address that criticism?

The truth is, a pride parade the size of the Seattle Pride Parade (attracting over 400,000 attendees participants) and an early-June festival the size of Seattle Pride in the Park (attracting over 10,000 attendees) is likely to always have some measure of reliance on corporate funding. Couple that with the increased number of free events our organization has put on (an increase of over 700% in 2020-2021). Finally, LGBTQIA+ individuals help make up the workforce of these corporate sponsors, and providing a space for them to take pride in their ability to be their full, authentic selves is crucial. We believe in celebrating with partners who are walking the walk.

Are you allowing Amazon employees to march in the Parade even though Amazon isn’t a sponsor?

LGBTQIA+ individuals help make up the workforce of these corporate sponsors, and providing a space for them to take pride in their ability to be their full, authentic selves is crucial. To that end, Amazon employees will be welcome - and encouraged - to walk in the Seattle Pride Parade the same as any other contingent.

If you are not allowing a company or organization to serve as a Seattle Pride Parade sponsor, why should they be allowed to march in the parade? Isn’t that level of participation just as bad or worse for a company/organization who has a history of being harmful to the queer community?

The vast majority of those who work for corporations we have chosen not to accept sponsorship from are far removed from the harmful actions the corporations engage in and, in some cases, are the victims of those actions themselves. We believe in supporting our LGBTQIA+ community members and allies, and encourage them to speak out within their own organizations.

When will you evaluate your other non-presenting corporate partners?

This is done on an ongoing basis. See above.

How did you notify Amazon of this decision, and what was their response upon learning this decision?

Our contacts at Amazon were notified of our concerns with partnership early on in the proposal/discussion process, and informed that the Board and Staff of Seattle Pride would be discussing their sponsorship proposal at one of our regularly recurring Board Meetings. Our Executive Director called them on March 21st, prior to the statement being issued to the public. We encourage you to reach out to Amazon directly for their response.

Are you also asking the public to stop doing business with Amazon? Why/Why Not?

We encourage the public to consider the information we have provided in regards to their shopping decisions, and how it may or may not align with their values. We also acknowledge that boycotting companies is a privileged act for many, where companies like Amazon may be the only way someone has to access items they need for survival, healthcare, etc.

Will you limit any messages (either verbally or via signs) the Amazon parade contingent may voice during their march in the parade?

Seattle Pride maintains a Parade Guideline document that addresses this directly: “Lewd, profane, indecent, or otherwise unacceptable expressions of speech will not be permitted in the parade. Additionally, Seattle Pride reserves the right to remove content that goes against our mission and values. Violators of this requirement will be directed to remove the offending material from the parade; refusal to do so will result in removal of the participants from the parade.” (Seattle Pride Parade Contingent Guidelines for 2022, pg. 10, or visit the Seattle Pride Month Events page.)

You have criticized Amazon for giving money to elected officials who have supported anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation, and have suggested they request their donations be returned. Will Seattle Pride be returning sponsorship funds it has received in previous years back to Amazon?

No. Funds received from Amazon in previous years (the latest being 2019) were in exchange for sponsorship benefits that cannot be undone or taken back, and as a small nonprofit organization, all funds previously received are used to advance our mission.

In announcing your decision about Amazon, you also referenced its pattern on workers’ rights concerns. Isn’t that a bit out of Seattle Pride’s lane, and isn’t focusing on these types of issues a bit of a slippery slope? Doesn’t it take the focus away from Seattle Pride’s mission which is intended to be focused on the LGBTQIA+ community?

Our LGBTQIA+ community is made up of workers at every level of society and the economic strata, often with the least amount of advocacy awarded to them while simultaneously being one of the most harmed segments of workers, which is why addressing Amazon’s pattern of workers’ rights concerns is entirely in our lane. By calling attention to this, we are furthering our mission to advance equal human rights in our state, region and the world.

Who determines, and how is it decided, if a company/organization has corrected their ways and is once again worthy to be a Seattle Pride sponsor? Is there any amount of time that must pass before they will be considered again?

All corporations will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in this regard. The Board of Directors of Seattle Pride looks forward to helping Staff outline a restorative justice process.

How far back in a company/organization's historical past do you review their words/actions and determine they are unfit to be a Seattle Pride sponsor?

It is less about how far back we look, and more on how much harm is still being perpetrated against the LGBTQIA+ community, in addition to what the company has done to make up for that harm since it was committed.

Doesn’t the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) measure corporate behavior as part of its annual corporate equality index and serve as a national benchmarking tool on corporate policies, practices, and LGBTQIA+ employee benefits? Why doesn’t Seattle Pride just look at this trusted third-party tool instead of reinventing the wheel? (If Needed) Has Seattle Pride shared its concerns about the tool with HRC? What was the response/Why not?

The HRC’s corporate equality index gave Amazon a perfect ‘100’ rating, despite glaring examples that should indicate otherwise. That alone means that it cannot be used as a screening or benchmarking tool by LGBTQIA+-serving organizations, because the data cannot be trusted. Seattle Pride intends to share our concerns with the HRC and ask to not only see the inner workings of how the scores are generated, but to also suggest process improvements that will have a huge impact on LGBTQIA+-serving organizations around the country.

Why isn’t the HRC corporate equality index comprehensive enough? What are you asking that they don’t already evaluate?

It is not comprehensive enough if a simple Google search shows multiple workers’ rights issues, funding of anti-LGBTQIA+ politicians and more for a company reported to have a perfect ‘100’ score on their corporate equality index. We aren’t asking the HRC to evaluate a different area so much as we are asking them to examine how accurate their evaluations are.

Are you saying the HRC corporate equality index is flawed or not representative of the actual behaviors of companies and organizations? Does it serve any value?

We do believe the HRC corporate equality index is flawed, and that it is not representative of the actual behaviors of companies and organizations, but it is a better tool than having nothing at all, especially if a company is missing or has a low score. We simply question the validity of the higher scoring companies, especially in the light of Amazon’s actions and their perfect score.

What about election data from 2021/2022? Do you know they are still supporting politicians as heavily as they used to?

Our federal data is primarily pulled from the 116th Congress (January 3, 2019, and to January 3, 2021), as supplied by the HRC. Locally, we have pulled data from 2020 and 2022 contributions.

How much money has Amazon donated to politicians who have supported LGBTQIA+ rights? Did you research that to confirm they are doing more harm than good?

If a corporation is actively donating to politicians who vote against LGTBQIA+ rights, we have no interest in searching for ways they are offsetting that harm; hurt communities should not have to search for ways those causing the harm might be attempting to “offset” it. In fact, rainbow washing, as defined by Urban Dictionary, is: “The act of using or adding rainbow colors and/or imagery to advertising, apparel, accessories, landmarks… in order to indicate progressive support for LGBTQ equality (and earn consumer credibility)—but with a minimum of effort or pragmatic result.”

Did you search for anti-LGBTQIA+ organizations on AmazonSmile? What are the key ones of note that should be removed and why?

We did, and have found numerous organizations that, despite the attention in the media in 2020 around anti-LGBTQIA+ organizations receiving AmazonSmile donations, are still somehow listed as able to receive donations. The Family Council in Little Rock, Arkansas is a conservative organization that touts their anti-gay marriage stance as “pro-marriage”, stating, “In 2004 we formed the Arkansas Marriage Amendment Committee and, after gathering over 200,000 petition signatures, we worked for the successful passage of a State Constitutional Amendment that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The amendment passed with 75% of the vote.” AmazonSmile, according to its participation agreement, is not supposed to allow organizations that “engage in, support, encourage, or promote: intolerance, discrimination or discriminatory practices based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or age.”

How do you plan on staying financially viable and sustainable if you end up losing significant amounts of money from large corporations?

We are approaching this possibility from two directions; first, with the hope that our LGBTQIA+ community and allies will step up to help fund our work through independent donations, and second, by trusting in the other amazing partnerships we have with our sponsors who are committed, year-round, to the LGBTQIA+ community.

What will you do if Seattle Pride is no longer able to maintain operations?

In the eventuality that Seattle Pride is no longer able to maintain operations due to a lack of financial resources, we will be forced to lay off our four staff members and scale back our scope to our 2019 level of production (namely, only the Seattle Pride Parade and Seattle Pride in the Park) if possible.

What sort of resources does Seattle Pride have to support corporations in aligning with your mission, vision and values?

All Seattle Pride sponsors, regardless of financial commitment level, are offered various opportunities for free training by Seattle Pride on a variety of DEI issues - from the importance of using pronouns in the workplace, to how DEI is good for business, and much more. We see this as a way to help these corporations grow and improve, in a manner that is positive and rewarding.

Why is Seattle Pride making these changes in sponsorship criteria?

We have seen attacks against our LGBTQIA+ community increase, especially our transgender and nonbinary family… and more so if they are non-white. As such, we need to look at how those in power have come to be so (such as through corporate donations), and who is funding other organizations that seek to harm us. That is part of what it means to advance equal human rights.

What outcomes is Seattle Pride hoping to gain out of these changes in sponsorship criteria?

We are hoping that corporations considering sponsoring Seattle Pride will see these actions as a warning and a welcome. Beyond that, we would like to see our fellow Pride organizations around the world take similar steps to fight against the harms of rainbow washing in these instances.

Did Seattle Pride take into account LGBTQIA+ community feedback in making this decision?

While we did not first put this action to the LGBTQIA+ community before acting, we have heard similar requests to this (i.e. stepping away from corporations who support those who seek to harm the LGBTQIA+ community) spring up as we get close to June every year.