The GSBA Blog

  • $2.7 million in scholarships since 1990

    | May 26, 2016
    Celebrating 26 years
    Reaching $2.7 million in Scholarships awarded since 1990
    Presenting $410,000 to 55 extraordinary Scholars
    Announcing the GSBA Guarantee
    Raising a record $180,000

    What an incredible evening!

    Over 500 guests filled the Seattle Marriott Waterfront ballroom to hear our Scholars share their stories, dreams, and incredible accomplishments, all too often achieved under very difficult circumstances and without support. Through the power of video, beautifully produced byInterchange Media, each story came alive. This year, the entire night was Scholar-focused as past Scholars presented scholarships to new students. Our emcee extraordinaire was our very own 2013 Scholar, current Board member, and Starbucks partner, Danny Cords.
    Special moments of the evening included hearing from 2003 Scholar Melissa Marsh, who shared her journey from hard times to being the impressive professional she is today. Then we had the presentation of the two newly endowed scholarships. It is an amazing tribute to honor someone's memory by creating a lifetime scholarship! Leslie Giblett presented the Giblett Family Scholarship to a student who is majoring in Political Science with the goal of representing the LGBT community in elected office. Carrie Carson presented the L. Robb Scholarship to Angela Tang, a fourth year GSBA Scholar and a student at Whitman College studying Economics.
    We were thrilled that Glenn Johnson and Michael MelanconBob Rhodehamel and 
    Dana SnyderKent Thoelke, Shay Thoelke, and Richelle Monahan; Linda Barzalai; and Tina Podlodowski were all on stage to congratulate their scholars: Anne Bryson Doyle (Glenn Johnson and Michael Melancon Bright Horizon Scholarship), Veronica Beltran Leyva(Chester Podlodowski Scholarship), Victor Puoci (David Barzilai Memorial Scholarship), Scout Osborne (Rich Thoelke Scholarship), and Laura Yanez (Rich Thoelke Scholarship).
    Hearing from our named scholarship donors, and from the recipients, created some very powerful moments that I know inspired many guests to think about leaving a legacy. If you are considering supporting a future LGBTQ leader, please don't hesitate to reach out to Mark Rosén, Stephanie Dallas, or me. We would love the opportunity to provide the GSBA Guarantee to even more deserving students next year.
    Two corporate partners created new scholarships this year, as well. Kasey Essex presented the first Wells Fargo GSBA Scholarship to Rigoberto Garcia who is currently pursuing a degree in accounting at Seattle University; and Joe Whittinghill presented the Microsoft Scholarships toOlivia Barrell (Digi Pen Institute of Technology), Katherine Cavanaugh (University of Washington), and Julia Weaver (University of Washington).
    The announcement of the GSBA Guarantee brought folks to their feet as we announced that,from this year forward, every Scholar will be guaranteed support for all four years of their undergraduate education as long as they stay in school.  
    The success of this year's dinner was due in large part to our Dinner Chair, Dena Levine and her outstanding Dinner Committee: Gen Bryant, Ryan Digges, Steve Gunn, Bob Rhodehamel, andLauren Mehl. Special thanks must also go to our Board Chair, Kevin Gaspari and Scholarship Fund Chair, Stephanie Dallas, and the entire GSBA Board who give countless hours to ensure the GSBA Scholarship Fund remains strong. Working alongside this extraordinary Board, is Team GSBA, our amazing GSBA staff. As VP of Development and Corporate Relations, Mark Rosén had a vision for this dinner and under his direction with support from the entire staff, the dinner was transformed. Add, Jessica Wootten's skill and talent in leading our 100 volunteers who read hundreds of applications and make the difficult decisions selecting these talented students, plus the incredible volunteers at the dinner, and you have a magical evening and a unique and life changing scholarship program.
    Very special thanks to PwC, our Title Sponsor; Dinner Sponsors Carter Subaru and Goodwill; and the Voice of Scholarship, Interchange Media. Thank you also to all of our table captains who brought wonderful guests to fill the room; to our Supporting Sponsors Girlie Pressand Countryside Floral & Garden; our Media Sponsors Pacific PublishingPuget Sound Business Journal, and Seattle Gay News; the remarkable volunteers; and Malcolm Smith Photographyand Dani Weiss Photography for capturing the evening in photographs. Big thanks also to the Seattle Marriott Waterfront for all the support they gave to this event and to their wonderful staff for taking such good care of us.
    Demonstrating their continued support of the GSBA Scholarship Fund, our annual sponsors were well represented, including our Jewels, the businesses which invest in both the chamber and the Scholarship Fund: our Diamond Jewel Sponsors Wells Fargo and Microsoft; Emerald Jewels 1st Security Bank and Alaska Airlines; Ruby Jewel PwC; and our new Sapphire Jewels Carter Subaru and Comcast. Thanks also to our Annual Sponsors: Platinum Partner US Bank; Gold Partners BulkFR8, Outerwall, Pacific Medical Centers, Starline Luxury Coaches, and Whitepages;  Silver Partners Amazon, Boeing, Everest University, Goodwill, Liberty Mutual,  Precision Garage Door Service, RBC Wealth Management, Safeco, Starbucks, and UW Medicine; and our Bronze Sponsors CenturyLink, DML Insurance, Google, Group Health, Irons Brothers Construction, Mona Smith, Attorneys at Law; Nesteggg, Sound Fertility, Sound Publishing, Sound Transit, RD House, Verity Credit Union, and Vulcan Inc. We are so grateful for all your support.
    The only bittersweet moment during the dinner was our farewell to Jessica Wootten, who is moving back to Indiana to be near family. The cheering and tears from our guests and scholars, as Jessica was presented with a poster signed by our scholars and her own Emerald Slipper, in honor of her success in raising important funds for the scholarship program, was an amazing tribute to the impact that Jessica has had on our Scholarship Fund. She will be missed!
    If you were unable to attend this powerfully moving 26th Scholars Dinner,
    it's not too late to join the celebration and to invest in the next generation of leaders by making a donation today.
    Also, it was so exciting to see many guests ready to sign up as table captains for our over-the-top Scholarship Fund gala, the TASTE of GSBA on November 19, 2016. Given, this event has sold out for the past five years, it is a good reminder to reserve your TASTE table now!
    Before I conclude my thanks to you all, I want to acknowledge the outstanding response from the business community to stand up against bigotry and intolerance by joining together and signing on to Washington Won't Discriminate, our campaign created to ensure our antidiscrimination policy, which has been in effect for 10 years, does not roll back civil rights for our transgender community. VOTE NO ON I-1515! If your business has not yet signed on to WA Won't Discriminate, please do so now.  Certainly, weakening our civil rights laws does not reflect Washington State values, where we are proud of being a progressive and inclusive state.
    For the future,
    Louise Chernin
    President & CEO
  • GSBA Launches New Group for Seattle Entrepreneurial Women

    | May 26, 2016

    SEW 1Several years ago, GSBA member Laura Culberg (Sweatbox Yoga) had a vision to connect women small business owners of Capitol Hill, and founded a group called Capitol Hill Entrepreneurial Women (CHEW).  The group provided a safe space for entrepreneurial women to meet and share the unique challenges facing their businesses, and offer one another support. The group’s goal was to “make a difference, make a living, make it better.”

    While there was great demand and interest for such a group, there was sadly not enough infrastructure or support to sustain this effort. Until now!

    nder the guidance of GSBA member Dani Cone (High Five Pie, Fuel Coffee and Cone & Steiner), a new and expanded version of this group has begun. Seattle Entrepreneurial Women (SEW) is GSBA’s latest initiative to bring women business owners together to find out what they need and how GSBA can best support them. The focus would be around business resource and skill-sharing, advocacy and representation of women small business owners, mentorship opportunities for aspiring women entrepreneurs and visibility within the community.

    To ensure the success of this important group, GSBA will provide administrative and logistical support. As issues and concerns are raised, GSBA’s Public Policy Task Force and Small Business Council will ensure these issues are brought before appropriate elected officials and government agencies. Given GSBA’s  vast nonprofit, government and small business networks, we are excited to be able to provide speakers, support and resources to SEWgsba, our newest affinity group.

    At our most recent meeting, 22 local women business owners showed up to learn more about upcoming legislation, discuss the start of a mentorship program for new entrepreneurs and offer resources to support one another.

    EWgsba is open to all women who independently own their own business and are current GSBA members. SEWgsba generally meets on the last Monday of the month from 9 AM to 10:30 AM but next month we will be meeting on Monday, June 20.

    Participants include: Christy Lillard (Laughing Buddha Tattoo), Cherri Trusheim (Urban Animal), Diane Skwiercz (Street Treats), Grace Schlitt (Illuminarrative), Cat Wilcox (Velouria), Karyn Schwartz (SugarPill), Linda Morgan (Terra Plata), Laura Culberg (SweatBox Yoga), Malia Keene (Magpie), Danielle Hulton (Ada’s Technical Books & Café), Francine Moo-Young (Moo-Young), Donna Larson (Stuffed Cakes), Erin Krohn (Hammer and Awl), Jenny Harding (New Chapter Events and Weddings), Jessamy Whitsitt (Pie), Lisa Michaud (Two Big Blondes Plus Size Consignment), Mariana Martos (Sur 16 Restaurant), Amanda Bedell (Nuflours Bakery), Dani Cone (Cone & Steiner, High 5 Pie, Fuel), and Louise Chernin (GSBA).

    For more information, please contact GSBA Membership Services Manager Ari Rosen.

  • LGBT Family Travel

    | May 25, 2016

    by Jason Dittmer

    LGBT parents may experience challenges other households do not, but a family is still a family, and families need to get away every once in a while!


    Planning a trip abroad with your family is an awesome opportunity to show your kids that the world is huge, to unplug and connect, and to kindle a sense of adventure. International travel destinations are becoming increasingly inclusive and welcoming to LGBT families, but here are a few things to consider prior to your departure.



    As Americans, we all take certain precautions to either avoid or to be prepared for situations where we may be disliked due to our nationality. LGBT families have to be even more careful and selective about the international destinations we visit.


    Although most LGBT travelers encounter no problems while overseas, the US Department of State advises,” …it helps to be prepared and research your destination before you go. There are a number of countries that provide legal protections to those who are LGBTI. Unfortunately, there are others that do not… Personal judgment and knowledge of local laws and customs before one goes will help ensure your safety.”


    While planning a trip abroad, visit the State Department’s LGBT webpage (see RESOURCES). The advice from the Department includes: “before choosing one’s international destination, LGBTI travelers should carefully consider the laws and biases of their international destination and decide how open one can be regarding one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”


    The most important legal questions to answer for your family are:


    Is my same-sex marriage accepted in this country?


    Will my same-sex partner be recognized as my spouse?

    Even if marriage legislation is similar, there is no harm in carrying papers such as a marriage license and health care proxies with you.


    Will we be recognized as the legal parents of our children?

    Without a formal adoption certificate, a country could nullify your custody, so it may be best to clear any doubts with a lawyer or contacting the embassy at your destination.


    TIP: leave a copy of all documents with relatives or friends back home. In case the documents you take on your trip get lost or stolen, they can easily send you a copy.



    Despite dramatic increases in the visibility and acceptance during our lifetimes, being LGBT still means being treated differently in a surprising number of situations and personal interactions.


    As many of us have experienced, the logistics of travel require a lot of interacting with people who are in positions of power or control, such as TSA agents, immigration officers, car rental agents, hotel desk clerks, restaurant servers, and tour guides.


    “Typically, these interactions involve some exchange of information about who is in our traveling party and how we’re related to each other. For example, just last week a server asked my partner, son (a Hispanic young man) and I if we wanted three separate checks, thinking maybe we were buddies. While we took no offense, it was a reminder that to the general population we don’t look like a family unit.


    “We’ve found many of these interactions to be businesslike: ‘OK, so you’re the dads, this is your son, got it.’ Other conversations have been pleasant—affirming, even—such as when a U.S. customs agent informed us that we now only need to fill out one form for our household,” says Steve Brister of


    Odds are you’ve already had a conversation (or many!) with your family about why you are the same as -- but also different from -- other families. But, before leaving home, consider talking through questions or assumptions you may encounter in your travels.


    As H. Luiz Martinez explains in his article 8 Travel Tips for Gay Family Getaways for “When searching for amazing gay family getaways, it is important to understand that ‘gay friendly’ may differ from ‘gay-family friendly’. Some people may be okay with same-sex couples, but may be intolerant of LGBT couples with children.”


    Whether traveling abroad, or within our boarders, being a parent means finding places that offer activities and attractions appropriate for the entire family. For many, the adult-oriented nightlife scenes don’t have the same appeal as they did ‘pre-family’.


    Similarly, “…we’re no longer comfortable -- or in some cases, even allowed -- at many gay-focused accommodations we’ve enjoyed in the past, as they focus on gay singles and couples and sometimes allow clothing-optional sunbathing and alcohol-fueled partying. The same applies to some gay-owned restaurants, as we once left a popular hamburger joint when the drag queen brunch entertainer (we weren’t warned about that when we were seated) veered into explicit language and sexual innuendo that was completely inappropriate for our teenage son,” says Steve Brister.


    [make TIP: pop] TIP: Before you book, call ahead and have a conversation with the resort, hotel, or attraction.



    Whatever our family structures look like, our best vacations provide chances to unwind together, create lasting memories, and provide opportunities to experience new things.


    We look forward to the day when LGBT parents traveling with kids will be considered commonplace to the tourism industry, our fellow travelers, and international hosts. Until then, we encourage families to be thoughtful and confidant during vacation planning, but most importantly, to have fun together!



    Travel Gay Seattle
    US Department of State

  • CMI’s 20th Annual LGBT Tourism Study

    Key findings from Community Marketing, Inc.’s 20th Annual LGBT Tourism Study have been compiled. With over 3,000 qualified, community-representative respondents, the CMI study offers valuable insights about LGBT travelers and consumers.

    According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the travel and tourism industry in the United States generated more than $1.5 trillion in economic output in 2014. Based on this data and CMI sample demographics, the estimated annual economic impact of LGBT travelers is over $75 billion per year in the U.S. alone.

    Key Findings and Observations

    Hotels: With Marriott’s “Love Travels” campaign, the company has risen to the top hotel brand recognized for their LGBT outreach efforts. Of note is that four of the top five brands had better numbers in 2015, compared to 2014. Marriott ranked number five in 2009 and has risen to number one through their considerable focus in outreach to the LGBT community.

    Destinations: Based on LGBT travel to a destination and spending at least one night in a hotel, CMI’s annual LGBT travel destination rankings remain largely unchanged in 2015. New York is again the most popular LGBT destination across all categories, followed by Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Chicago, which are tightly grouped in 2nd place. This year’s rankings did see increases for Los Angeles as well as increases in Florida travel, with Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando; all being top-10 destinations.

    Seattle, as a leisure destination, ranked 12th with gay and bisexual men and 9th with lesbian and bisexual women. New York City and Los Angeles were ranked in the 1st and 2nd tiers respectively for business travel. Seattle and cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Denver, and Portland, were ranked in the 3rd tier.

    Activities: LGBT-specific activities while on vacation is not diminishing among LGBT Millennials. 60% of LGBT Millennials indicated having visited a gay bar while on vacation in the past year, and 56% visited an LGBT neighborhood while on vacation. These percentages were equal to or better than Generation X and Baby Boomer LGBTs. Attending a Pride event while on vacation was especially popular among Millennials, particularly when compared to Baby Boomers.

    Shared Economy: For the first time, the survey tested questions on shared economy accommodations. The report indicated that lesbians (21%) were more likely than gay men (17%) to have actually booked via a rental-by-owner or shared economy website in the past year (e.g., Airbnb). LGBTs primarily book shared economy accommodations for cheaper rates (59%) and to be in a specific neighborhood (56%). 20% of LGBTs who booked shared economy rooms in the past year did it just because they were curious.

    Economic Impact: 60% of LGBT participants who spent a night in a shared economy accommodation, if unavailable would have just stayed in a hotel/motel in the area instead. However, 40% indicated that the option of a shared economy accommodation encouraged them to either stay at a destination longer or stay in a paid accommodation instead of a family/friend stay.

    LGBT-Dedicated Communications: Some tourism bureaus offer specific information for LGBT travelers on their website. In the survey, 90% of LGBT participants indicated that the existence of LGBT information on tourism bureau websites makes them feel that the tourism bureau is LGBT-friendly, 86% indicated that a tourism website should offer a specific LGBT page of information and some same-sex imagery throughout the website.

    LGBT Families: Among most LGBT parents, “family-friendly” is more important than “LGBT-friendly.” When asked which is more important, a child-friendly destination or an LGBT-friendly destination, 68% choose child-friendly. Similarly, 64% choose a child-friendly hotel over an LGBT-friendly hotel. This percentage has slowly increased each year. LGBT-friendly priority dropped 10% for destinations and 5% for hotels over the three-year period.

    LGBT Grandparents: The survey discovered the long overlooked group, LGBT grandparents. 56% of LGBT parents with a child over age 18 have grandchildren, and 28% indicated going on a vacation with their grandchildren in the past year. Multi-generational trips is an emerging market for many destinations, and LGBT will finally be included in this discussion.

  • GSBA Endorses I-1491

    | May 18, 2016
    GSBA is proud to support Initiative 1491, to help prevent gun violence tragedies in our community. Past violence is the best indicator of future violence. I-1491 will give families and law enforcement an important tool to break that chain by allowing them to petition a court for an “Extreme Risk Protection Order,” which temporarily restricts a person’s access to firearms if the court finds that they are a danger to themselves or others. More than half of mass shooters and 80% of suicide victims show signs of dangerous behavioral changes before acting. Family members and law enforcement are the best-placed to see these signs and take action, preventing a crisis from becoming a tragic statistic. 

    GSBA is committed to building a safe, prosperous state for the LGBT community and those who support equality for all. Passing I-1491 into law will help to do just that for small business owners, our families, children, friends, and neighbors. 

    For more information, visit:

    Full text of I-1491

  • GSBA Staff Appointed to Mayor's Affordability Committee

    | May 06, 2016

    GSBA Public Policy & Communications Manager Matt Landers has been appointed to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s Commercial Affordability Advisory Committee. This committee will make recommendations on addressing the rising cost of commercial space for small businesses, develop opportunities to activate public spaces for entrepreneurs, and identify strategies to expand economic development throughout Seattle.

    “Small businesses are essential to the economy our city,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Many of Seattle’s greatest companies got their start in small, affordable storefronts, garages, food trucks, or as simple coffee shops. We will work with the small business community to encourage affordable spaces for existing businesses and develop new opportunities for those ready to launch their dream.”

    During the current period of economic growth, new commercial space in Seattle often is dedicated for larger tenants, real estate values have increased commercial rents, and existing commercial properties have been redeveloped, displacing smaller businesses. The committee will review existing City policies and recommend steps to encourage development and preservation of commercial spaces. Recommendations will be made to the Mayor by September of this year.

    “We have a business climate that is the envy of cities around the world,” said Brian Surratt, Director of the Office of Economic Development. “We cannot take today’s economic success for granted. By ensuring that the entrepreneurs of tomorrow have affordable options today to start businesses, we can be a city of opportunities and a world-class startup hub for all.”

    The group will consider a broad range of solutions to commercial affordability, including incentivizing the construction of smaller commercial spaces, further activation of public spaces to the benefit of food trucks and other small businesses, and inclusion of affordable commercial storefronts in more affordable housing projects.

    The committee includes business owners, commercial real estate stakeholders, and business development advocates. Members include:

    • Liz Dunn, Dunn & Hobbes
    • Maiko Winkler-Chin, Seattle Chinatown International District PDA
    • Sam Farrazaino, Equinox Development Unlimited
    • John Chelico, JSH Properties
    • Don Blakeney, Downtown Seattle Association
    • Frank Gross, Thunder Road Guitars
    • Solomon Dubie, Café Avole
    • Susanna Tran, West Coast Commercial Realty
    • Dennis Comer, Brown Sugar Baking
    • Mariela Fletcher, MANILA MANILA Asian Retail Store and Food to Go
    • Mark Morel, Morel Industries
    • Tam Nguyen, Tamarind Tree and Long Provincial
    • Karen True, Alliance for Pioneer Square
    • Shanti Breznau, independent retail recruitment consultant
    • Megan Jasper, Sup Pop Records
    • Matt Landers, Greater Seattle Business Association

  • Discrimination Is Not a Washington Value

    | Apr 29, 2016

    Discrimination is not a Washington value.

    For more than 10 years our laws have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But now, signature gatherers are gathering voter signatures on I-1515, a ballot initiative to repeal Washington's legal protections for our transgender neighbors, family and friends.

    Under no circumstances can we let a discriminatory, anti-LGBT initiative like I-1515 undermine the values that make Washington such a great place to live, work, and raise a family. 

    That's why, today, GSBA is proud to help launch Washington Won't Discriminate-the broad-based coalition of law enforcement officers, clergy, sexual assault prevention groups, businesses and many others in opposing I-1515 and protecting freedom, equality, and respect for everyone. 
    If you agree that discrimination has no place in Washington, add your name now to stand with the the No On I-1515 campaign.

    Opponents of LGBT rights are spinning the same tired lies that have been peddled elsewhere-from North Carolina to Mississippi-that non-discrimination laws threaten privacy and safety, but the truth is I-1515 will do nothing to make us safer. We've protected gay and transgender people from discrimination in Washington for 10 years, with no increase in public safety incidents as a result. 

    Unfortunately, I-1515 could make things worse for everyone by encouraging strangers to confront and challenge each other in public facilities, increasing safety and privacy violations.

    WWD LogoWhile their claims may be baseless, if opponents of transgender rights can wrangle 246,372 valid petition signatures by July 8th, then the discriminatory I-1515 will be sent to the November ballot for a public vote.

    That's why we've got to mobilize a groundswell of grassroots supporters-and fast-to keep discrimination off of Washington's ballot. And that's why we need you to stand up and join this campaign today.

    INDIVIDUALS: Click here to add your name to Washington Won't Discriminate's campaign to stop I-1515 before opponents can put it on the ballot this November!

    BUSINESSES: Click here to show that Washington businesses will not discriminate!

    In 2016, LGBT rights should be non-negotiable. Thanks for standing with Washington Won't Discriminate.

    Let's keep Washington a great place for everyone.

    For more information on how your business can take action, contact Matt Landers, GSBA Public Policy & Communications Manager.
  • State Tourism Funding: Steps in the Right Direction

    | Apr 29, 2016
    by Louise Stanton-Masten, Executive Director, Washington Tourism Alliance

    Since its founding four years ago, the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) has focused on maintaining vital tourism initiatives on behalf of our members and the industry while also laying the groundwork for a transformative long-term, statewide tourism funding plan. 

    As legislators continue to work toward a new budget and grapple with many competing priorities, the importance of tourism to our economy cannot be overstated. Annually, visitors to Washington State spend $19 billion, generate $1.1 billion in local and state tax revenues and support more than 163,400 jobs.

    Robust worldwide travel, combined with the individual tourism marketing investments of the state’s major cities, port districts and private sector companies, have helped buoy our industry since the state tourism office closed. 

    However, Washington remains the only state in the U.S. without a state-funded tourism office and our current returns cannot be assumed on a competitive landscape where Oregon, Idaho, California, British Columbia, Alaska are investing millions of dollars in destination marketing.

    The WTA is grateful for some interim funding from the legislature for two years which went to enhance the tourism website,, provide postage for mailing the Washington State Visitors’ Guide, fund the operation of a call center and support international tourism marketing. 

    This biennium the WTA requested additional interim funding to support these efforts. Currently, $198,000 is in the House version of the 2015-17 supplemental budget for further enhancement of the website. As of press time for this article, the House and Senate continue budget negotiations and we remain hopeful that the two parties will agree to include this funding in the final state budget. It represents an important statement about the value of the tourism industry.

    Compared to competing state tourism budgets, the WTA is an underdog. We’re doing a lot with a little. And as we continue to work toward a long-term, industry led and funded tourism marketing program, our current marketing and visitor service programs must continue. 

    In addition to our destination website, the Washington State Visitors’ Guide (a partnership with the Washington Lodging Association and Saga City Media) is distributed to 375,000 visitors and potential visitors. Other vital programs keep Washington State in baseline domestic and international marketing arenas, LGBTQ destination promotion and working in tandem with statewide destination marketing organizations, port districts and private sector tourism businesses for the benefit of all. 

    Yet another step was taken towards long term funding during this session. Four legislators – one from each caucus – wrote to their legislative leadership to indicate they will be working on a solution for long term tourism funding. These include Sens. Sharon Brown and Dean Takko and Reps. Cindy Ryu and Cary Condotta.

    All are particularly well situated to help solve this problem. Sen. Brown is the chair of the Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee, the committee that will consider proposed legislation. Rep. Ryu is the chair of the House Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee. This is the House committee that will consider proposed legislation. Sen. Takko represents one of the most tourism-dependent legislative districts and Rep. Condotta is the author of legislation offering a different funding mechanism for tourism.

    In their letter, these members said “It is imperative that we find a solution so that Washington State will not be the only state in the nation without a robust statewide tourism marketing program. We see the impacts of closing the state tourism office in 2011, particularly in the rural areas of our state. We have so much to offer in Washington State that it is a tragedy we cannot let the rest of the nation and the world know why they should come visit.”

    As soon as the legislature ends, these members will be working with WTA and representatives from its member organizations to forge a solution to the funding issue. 

    We look forward to continuing to work with each of you as well as we work toward long-term, sustainable tourism funding in Washington State. GSBA member response to our calls to action were critical in getting our message to the legislature about the importance of supporting tourism funding both now and in the future.
  • An Enduring Commitment to Leadership

    The 31 highly-driven scholars that were sitting in the room at Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences are no strangers to being the first at things.

    On April 9, 2016, the GSBA Scholarship Fund launched a leadership workshop, bringing together 2015-2016 scholarship recipients for an all-day conversation. Scholars attending schools all over the state came together for the opportunity to build valuable connections, learn ways to collaboratively address shared interest in social and political issues, and provide insight for further developing this leadership initiative for future cohorts.

    The GSBA Scholars Leadership Initiative and the day’s workshop were a collaborative development, led by Ron Walters, an independent strategic planning consultant and friend of GSBA, with direction from current scholars, alumni, and GSBA staff.

    PHOTO_SCHOLARS_5During the first half of the day, Ron took the scholars on a challenging individual and group journey of prioritizing major issues (like race in America, transgender rights, income inequality) to taking on Wicked Problems through a Design Thinking framework. Scholar Zane Rapiñan said it was "great to talk about big issues with scholars, it was a diverse group where each person had our own personal intersectional fights, strengths and experience. Put us together in a room, suddenly there is a simultaneously broad and specific ability to come up with ideas to solve these 'wicked problems'".

    After lunch, the students were treated to a brief overview of the GSBA by President and CEO Louise Chernin, followed by the ever-inspiring Danni Askini, Executive Director of Gender Justice League and candidate for State Representative of the 43rd Legislative District. Danni shared her story, which has included over 15 years of activism in both Maine and Washington State, and answered questions from the scholars, ranging from how to access local healthcare resources to furthering activism on their own campuses. 

    Scholars ended the day by engaging in a shared interest mapping activity, discovering overlapping interests and, in some cases, discussing intersections of these interests where they least expected. Scholar Mara Rae noted that "because of this workshop specifically, I was able to make several important connections with other GSBA scholars, which will directly help in the work that we are doing".

    While the day seemed to end with more questions than it began, the Scholars left with an energy of possibility, new friendships, and a successful introduction to GSBA's Leadership Initiative.

  • Building for the Future, Honoring the Past

    by Mark Rosén, Director of Programs and Fund Development
    | Feb 24, 2016

    Leslie GiblettWhether she is running a half marathon or attending a celebration at the Governor’s mansion, Leslie Giblett seldom stands still. Her energy and passion around making the world a better place are nonstop. Coming from a family of five children, with three of the five being LGBT, she knows better than many the struggles faced by young people whe

    n a parent is non-accepting. After her parents divorced she saw her brother incarcerated by their own mother, simply because he was gay. Luckily Leslie had the support of her father and Aunt Elo, (for whom she has created an endowed Professorship at the University of Washington), and was able to attend college. Her other family members were not able to find their way, and succumbed to various life altering situations which ended their lives at an early age. However, they all found comfort and family in the LGBT community. As the only surviving gay sibling, it was Leslie’s wish to honor her brother and sisters by creating the Giblett Family Endowment through the GSBA Scholarship Fund.  With this gift, Leslie is helping others on their paths to success and joining with the GSBA community to create that welcoming family of support that is so crucial to those who must overcome hardship to have a chance at achieving their dreams.

    We asked Leslie what her motivation was in creating this endowment and she shared that her primary goal was to provide hope for the future. “There are many potential scholarship recipients who have lost that feeling. From a personal point of view, if my siblings had had hope for the future, they may not have all passed away so early. I would like our scholarship recipients to know that it's possible to overcome hardship, and live a more enhanced life by getting an education.”

    “Creating a legacy is important to me from a personal level, as I saw in my own family, it's not always possible to 'see the other side' and know that if you persevere, you can make a difference.” She wants to ensure that those who have a lack of parental support are able to overcome it with the help of the Scholarship Fund. Now with the help of the Giblett Family Endowment, the GSBA Scholarship Fund has a new way of helping those who need it. Thank you Leslie Giblett -- marathon runner, community leader, fashionista, and philanthropist – for working so hard for our community and always looking fabulous while doing it.

  • Transgender in the Workplace

    | Feb 24, 2016

    ElayneWylie_large_flipcropBy Elayne Wylie, Gender Justice League


    Transgender people in Washington State are facing the biggest battle our community has seen in a long time.  While there are protections for transgender people to use public accommodations already on the books, and despite the fact that the state Human Rights Commission has offered up rules clarifications on those protections, both lawmakers and extreme right-wing groups in the state are seeking to roll back protections for transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms in Washington State. The newly-launched Washington SAFE Alliance (Safety & Access For Everyone) seeks to educate lawmakers and state residents alike in why those protections exist in the first place, and how everyone can be safe.


    What does that mean for workplace equality? How do current provisions in state law, as well as federal law, affect the rights and freedoms of transgender people?


    As the media has offered up numerous times in 2015, the decision to transition and live authentically in the gender of one’s true self is not an easy process. Nevertheless, more than 700,000 people in the United States identify as transgender, and a new generation of young people have access to new channels for learning, new language and new understanding about themselves, and are coming out at younger and younger ages. Workers in Seattle, Washington are among those in 200 cities and 17 states in the U.S. that enjoy specific protections for transgender people. So why do many transgender people in this region complain that they were fired, passed over for promotion or opportunity at work, or simply unable to find equitable work at their experience level?


    However, there exists a lack of institutional structure, both at the federal level and at state and municipal levels, that contributes significantly to the disparity in employment equality for transgender people. This void also undermines the social structural inequalities that LGBTQ people have faced. This is evident in the 2015 finalization of a 3-year rules clarification process for the 2006 Anderson-Murray Anti-Discrimination law for Washington State.


    In short, transgender people should be protected by law and by practice from prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory actions from coworkers and employers, but they are often not.  A staggering 90% of transgender people report, in a 2008 nationwide survey by the National Center for Trans Equality, experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job, or felt forced to take actions to hide their identity from coworkers to avoid negative behaviors from others. Nearly half of all transgender people report being fired, not hired or denied a promotion due to them identifying as openly trans. And specific protections in Washington State often fall far short of extending any real protection for workers.


    The Human Rights Commission publishes the corporate equality index, which charts companies on the Fortune 1000 on the depth and breadth of their non-discrimination policies, as well as pro-employee measures and inclusive benefits. To receive a 100 score, companies must annually demonstrate a commitment to and the implementation of seven major criteria, some of which is of specific relevance to transgender workers. A frequent problem, however, is how many companies choose to put a queer veneer on their diversity efforts without providing realistic and practical methodologies in-house to diversity solutions that actually work. Such corporate healthcare policies contain enough inclusive language to garner a good score on the Index, but fall short in meeting transgender people where they are at, often leaving employees paying hefty fees for essential but non-covered services, or forcing them to pay up front and be reimbursed. This often leaves those employees on the outside of a glass door, able to see inside, but unable to gain access. Some employees are often terminated for their status as a transgender person, despite the company’s Index score, and even public outcry against such actions aren’t a guarantee that those people have legal recourse, or even to be rehired.


    More importantly for small and medium-sized companies in Washington, human resources employees are facing the same questions as their bigger corporate counterparts, but likely without the resources to devote to solving those issues. How do we train our employees to understand key concepts that relate to both transgender employees and transgender customers? Do we have structures in place to address a new hire who is transgender, or to accommodate an existing employee as they choose to transition?


    Another key breakdown is how businesses and organizations view cultural competency training with regard to the transgender community. Despite the legal and fiscal ramifications of how transgender employees and customers are engaged with in the workplace, training on these issues is typically given so little regard that training and consulting is often requested without a line item in the budget, and thus is regarded as a low priority.  Employees receive, on average, two hours of instruction in a group setting, with little or no follow-up measures, skill building, or accountability for the knowledge received.


    Gender Justice League, one organization that provides workplace competency training, fields questions from both individuals and organizations about workplace best practices regarding employees and customers, and has been adapting existing educational modules for use in providing in-depth workplace training, with a provision for long-term workplace competency. Many calls that come in seek to schedule trainers for one to two hours at most, with no follow-up or more in-depth work.


    The stakes have never been higher. Despite state laws being on the books for more than nine years, recent proposals from conservative, anti-transgender organizations are spurring lawmakers to revisit critical protections for transgender people. The Washington SAFE Alliance offers hope and accurate information to prevent those protections from being removed.  Public accommodations, essentially all of the spaces outside our front door, are under attack. By recognizing now the dangers in rolling back those protections, we may be able to make a difference for not only the transgender people in our community, but for everyone in the state.

  • President's Award: Kent Thoelke

    | Feb 17, 2016

    THOELKEKent Thoelke is a passionate crusader for all he believes in and the GSBA has been blessed that he believes whole heartedly in the mission of the Scholarship Fund. When Kent first learned about the Scholarship Fund, it quickly became a family project for him, along with his husband Kevin Gaspari, his parents, Rich and Shay, and sister Richelle. Both of Kent’s parents became interviewers and when Rich passed away, Kent and family created the Rich Thoelke memorial scholarship. Kent’s involvement has been at every level from volunteer, to co-chair of TASTE.

    Kent is a tireless ambassador for the Scholarship and in his role as co-chair helped raise the bar for the event to record high levels of participation and fundraising resulting in over $775,000 raised in 2015. With a work schedule that has him traveling over 260 days a year, Kent’s dedication to the cause is a testament to his belief in the power of the Scholarship Fund to change lives. Traveling around the globe, Kent never hesitates to share the story of GSBA and has truly become an international spokesperson for the work of GSBA. Kent is the perfect example of the power of belief and dedication to change the world and make it a better place.

  • Business Leader of the Year: Mona Smith

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Mona Smith
    has served her community in monumental ways and has had an outsized impact on some of our communities’ major issues. Inspired by John F. Kennedy, her community involvement started at a very early age and she has never stopped. Mona has been a steadfast advocate for LGBT civil rights, taking key roles in the effort to gain marriage equality in both Washington and nationally. In numerous leadership positions with GSBA, including two-term President and Public Policy Task Force Chair, she oversaw key policy work that strengthened the sustainability of GSBA and the GSBA Scholarship Fund, while expanding the role of GSBA in advocating for both civil rights and business issues.

    One cannot talk of GSBA and Public Affairs without talking about the role Mona has played in the past decade in leading our policy efforts. GSBA now has both a seat and a voice at the table. As the National Chair of the Victory Fund Campaign Board, Mona leads efforts to elect LGBT people to public office across the country. She actively supports many local organizations including Legal Voice and Q Law, and is tireless in her support of GSBA (Bronze Sponsor) and the GSBA Scholarship Fund (Emerald Jewel Club). All of this, while she takes care of her personal clients and enjoys family life with her wife Natalie and their dog Cocoa. Integrating philanthropy and social justice into her business, Mona is a true business and community leader.

  • Business of the Year: Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes Catering and Events
    has been in operation in Seattle since 1986. Their name reflects the range of services they offer, from elegant formal affairs to casual events. Founder David Haggerty was joined by David Meckstroth in 1989 as co-owner and partner in the business. Together they have run the Hall at Fauntleroy in West Seattle for 20 years and are the exclusive catering partners with ACT Theatre, Cornish Playhouse, and Benaroya Hall in addition to running the restaurant and café at Benaroya. They attribute much of their success to their entire team of amazing people. Their love of supporting the community is clearly evident.

    Like many catering companies, Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes gets constant requests for donations and support for causes. They are committed to organizations focusing on LGBT youth, kids and education and cancer research and have supported a myriad of organizations including West Seattle Helpline, Lambda Legal, Fred Hutch Obliteride, Harborview/UW Medicine, YouthCare, the Trevor Project and the Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus. Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes is also a regular caterer at GSBA networking events and joins us every year at the TASTE. They host an annual Thanksgiving community meal for 400 people, open to anyone in need. Not content to rest on their laurels, they continue to grow and are forming a new brand – D2 – launching in 2016.

  • Voice for Social Justice: Ana Mari Cauce

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Ana Mari Cauce
    is the first woman, Latina, and lesbian to serve as permanent President of the University of Washington. Born in Cuba, where her father was the Minister of Education, Cauce’s family escaped the political turmoil there by moving to Miami when she was three years old. To support the family, her parents took jobs in shoe factories. They instilled in their children the importance of education, which has been in Ana Mari’s DNA ever since.

    She joined the University of Washington faculty in 1986 as an assistant professor of psychology, researching mental-health interventions for at-risk youth. She has held numerous leadership positions at the University of Washington, including heading multiple departments, Provost, and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. She has received numerous awards for her scholarship, teaching and activism, including the much-prized Distinguished Teaching Award. As interim President, Ana Mari launched the Race & Equity Initiative, bringing together faculty, staff, and students to address issues around inequity and social justice. She has spoken publicly about her own experiences with prejudice as an immigrant and a lesbian. Her devotion to fighting social inequity runs deep, she says, in part because her older brother Cesar, a civil-rights activist, was killed in 1979 by members of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina.

    She has also come out of the closet in another way: she is a proud member of the tribe of “nerds and geeks.” As she says, “Geek is the new chic.” Whether geeks or students of color, young women, LGBTQ, or all of the above, the students at the UW can count on President Cauce encouraging them to reach for their dreams and making them proud they all belong to the tribe of Purple and Gold.


  • Nonprofit of the Year: Ventures

    | Feb 17, 2016


    empowers aspiring entrepreneurs with limited resources and unlimited potential to improve their lives through small business ownership. Their focus is empowering "unbankable" individuals, often experiencing generational poverty, to start their own businesses. They partner with organizations such as Entre Hermanos to provide culturally appropriate training to immigrant communities. Their particular focus on low-income individuals means that their success rate has that much more power - lifting up entire communities with the success of each small business. An astounding 80% of Ventures clients are still in business and making a profit after 2 years. Through their retail incubator in Pike Place market and their rentable food truck, Ventures has a visible presence in our city and a way for the general public to discover the great new businesses fostered though their programs. GSBA members who have gotten their feet on the ground thanks to Ventures include Repair Revolution, our 2013 New Business of the Year, and Sal Floral Design, now one of the top florists in Seattle.

    When Executive Director Beto Yarce started his own small business in Seattle he didn’t have all the support he needed to navigate the system. Experiencing these challenges firsthand gave him the unique perspective to understand the hurdles faced by Ventures’ clients. He has overseen the tremendous growth of the organization, including receiving a major grant from the Small Business Administration to expand its services. Beto is passionate and inspired by Ventures’ mission and the opportunity to support other entrepreneurs by helping them realize their business visions.

  • Corporate Leader of the Year: Kevin Baldwin

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Under the leadership of Kevin Baldwin since 2001, PwC’s Pacific Northwest office has grown from 400 employees to over 700 and doubled its revenues. Kevin believes strongly in building diversity at all levels, from PwC’s leadership team to new recruits fresh out of college. Kevin wants to make sure their employees are a reflection of the entire community PwC serves. He is the Partner Champion for PwC’s LGBT Open Affinity Group, and has pushed the company on LGBT inclusion issues. PwC has become a sponsor of the Seattle Pride Parade and contributes a large contingent every year. In part due to his efforts, PwC was one of Diversity Inc.’s top ten companies for LGBT employees in 2015 and top three in overall diversity. They have had a 100% corporate equality index rating from HRC every year since 2006, and won the 2009 Point Inspiration Award for LGBT inclusion, for being a company that champions respect and includes LGBTQ people at every level.

    Kevin helped bring PwC on as GSBA’s first Ruby Jewel Sponsor, committed to investing significantly in both the Chamber and the Scholarship Fund. He sits on the GSBA Corporate Advisory Board, the Executive Committee of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and is a board member of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association. Currently he is co-chairing former Governor Gregoire's Challenge Seattle Partnership to work with government and business to improve our region's transportation, education and affordable housing and to tell Seattle’s success stories around the world.

  • New Business of the Year: Bulk FR8

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Bulk FR8
    is a business on the move in every way. As a domestic leader in liquid bulk logistics and freight management, Bulk FR8 provides safe and innovative freight brokerage solutions for chemical companies across the United States and Canada. Wayne Levinson’s vision to fill an industry need and create a dynamic and diverse team is what has created the incredibly rapid success of his company. In just a few short years, Bulk FR8 is now a $20 million enterprise. The have built their company around their values of communication excellence, integrity, breakthrough market knowledge, and steadfast dependability.

    A yoga master, snowboarder, and ardent traveler, Wayne has relied on strong professional and mentoring networks to help him with the best advice before making key decisions. He took this to heart and has devoted himself to doing the same for others. Wayne mentors a group of young entrepreneurs ranging in age from 13-25. Stressing the importance of education, Bulk FR8 offers their team of smart, motivated and passionate people the opportunity to continue their industry knowledge by encouraging and covering the costs for them to seek degrees and industry certifications. Wayne himself is currently in his master’s program in civil engineering at the University of Washington. When Bulk FR8 first joined GSBA, they were asked why a trucking company wanted to join our chamber. The answer they gave was simple – “We wanted folks to know that there are gay truckers out there.”

  • Community Leaders of the Year: Tamara Murphy & Linda Di Lello Morton

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Tamara Murphy and Linda Di Lello Morton say that when they open the doors of their restaurant, Terra Plata, they are welcoming the community to their dinner table. The truth of this is borne out by the sheer number of fundraisers they have hosted for local nonprofits such as Mary’s Place, Legal Voice, Seattle Culinary Academy, Country Doctor, Fare Start, LifeLong, and GSBA. Linda and Tamara’s generosity is not limited to within the walls of their restaurant. Linda has scaled the highest peaks of the Cascades and raised over $250,000 in support of the Breast Cancer Fund. One of Tamara’s first community support efforts involved cooking meals for Babes with AIDS at Fort Worden.

    Both Linda and Tamara are ardent believers in teaching the importance of sustainability. They have created some of our region’s defining culinary events to fund their favorite organizations - Burning Beast (in support of the educational work of the Rubicon Foundation) and the Incredible Feast for the Good Farmer Fund (helping local farmers with unexpected expenses such as last summer’s drought). Other nonprofits they support include Big Table which exists to see the lives of those working in the restaurant industry transformed by building relationships around shared meals and caring for those in crisis, transition or falling through the cracks. They say that “Success comes from being an active participant in our community.” Linda and Tamara understand the value of civic activism, and for being a small business voice working hard to make our home a better place for all.

  • Your Voice in Olympia: Youth & Economic Opportunities

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Olympia CampusAddressing the homeless youth crisis in our region, which has a disproportionate impact on the LGBT community, has long been a stated priority of GSBA. As our community’s business organization, we have focused our efforts on economic approaches such as last year’s Youth Equality and Reinvestment (YEAR) Act. There are several bills in Olympia that seek to make it easier for homeless youth to receive critical services and for those exiting the criminal justice system to successfully reintegrate into society.

    For the third year running, GSBA reiterates its support for the Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP) bill, which could allow persons who have committed certain non-violence offenses to appeal to a judge for a certificate stating that they have paid all their debts to society. This lowers the barriers for employment for people with criminal records, giving them a greater chance of successfully reentering society. GSBA joined with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to encourage state senators to support the CROP bill.

    New in 2016, the GSBA Board of Directors has unanimously endorsed the Supporting Opportunities & Rehabilitation (SOAR) act, which seeks to provided increased rehabilitation measures for juvenile offenders. Proposed items include: adding rehabilitation as an express intent of Juvenile Justice, mandating deferred disposition for qualifying juveniles, eliminating mandatory minimums for juvenile automobile crimes, providing more discretion around specific kinds of domestic violence cases and eliminating mandatory arrest for offenses between minor child and parent/step/grandparent, and removing license revocation for non-driving drug/alcohol/firearm offenses. Additionally, our friend and partner Rep. Joan McBride has proposed HB 2396, a bill that would allow a school nurse or guidance counselor to provide informed consent for health care decisions for a minor in the case that a student is homeless and without a legal parent or guardian.

    Finally, with our Travel Gay Seattle initiative, GSBA is also committed to building Washington State’s tourism industry. As the only state without a dedicated tourism bureau, Washington is missing out on an obvious engine of economic vitality and revenue growth. Fully supportive of the Washington Tourism Alliance’s goals of a self-assessed state tourism fund, GSBA advocates in the meantime for bridge funding of the group as it continues to bring inbound tourism dollars into our state.