In 1981, nine gay business owners, including attorneys, insurance agents, and bar and bathhouse owners, got together and recognized that in order to support each other, they needed to identify other gay-owned businesses. Hence, they founded the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA).
With time, GSBA evolved from a networking group to a chamber of business leaders using their economic position to address the rampant discrimination and harassment faced by the LGBT community, most especially in public agencies, such as the fire and police departments.
Having met its initial charge, GSBA focused on strengthening the LGBT community economically and is now a strong, vibrant and diverse association of influential business leaders. Today, GSBA is the largest and most active LGBT business chamber in North America, with over 1,100 members.
Recognizing the lack of support for LGBT students, GSBA members founded the first LGBT Scholarship Fund in the United States, to provide support, encouragement and financial resources to the next generation of leaders. To date, the fund has awarded over $2 million in educational support to hundreds of outstanding students who, even today, may receive no traditional means of support.
The advocacy side of the organization continues to grow, with GSBA actively engaged in public policy work and sponsoring the LGBT community’s annual candidate forum. GSBA is proud of the leading role it had in advocating for same-sex domestic partnerships laws, which led to the historic passage of Washington State’s marriage equality law.
With over 120 events per year, GSBA’s provides a wide variety of business development, networking, and social opportunities, including its three gala dinners: the TASTE of GSBA, a fundraising dinner and auction for the GSBA Scholarship Fund; the Business and Humanitarian Awards Dinner, which celebrates excellence and the philanthropy of our business leaders; and the Scholarship Awards Dinner, at which GSBA presents its scholarships.
GSBA is a unique business chamber, in that in addition to promoting business, it advocates for equality and diversity in the workforce, continuing its commitment to combine business development, leadership and social action to expand economic opportunities for the LGBT community and those who support equality for all.
This dedicated list of individuals has helped shape GSBA into the organization it is today.
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Past Business & Humanitarian Award Recipients
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1981 GSBA is incorporated for the purposes of visibility and to create a unified voice for the lesbian and gay business community. The Board of Directors is composed of nine men and Stan Hill is elected the first president by the general membership.
1982 The Standard of Ethics & Conduct is adopted. GSBA joins with 18 other lesbian and gay business organizations in the National Association of Business Councils. Membership grows fivefold to 150 and Harley Broe becomes the first lesbian to join the GSBA Board. GSBA organizes the annual Pride Parade and moves it to Broadway on Capitol Hill.
1984 The first Business & Humanitarian Awards dinner is held, honoring individuals, companies and organizations for their overall success and outstanding contributions.
1985 GSBA members are instrumental in establishing the Pride Foundation.
1986 Mary Kay Wright becomes GSBA’s first female President.
1987 Dennis O’Mohundro, a GSBA founder, is elected President of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Democratic Clubs.
1988 Membership surpasses 300.
1990 GSBA establishes the nation’s first LGBT and allied scholarship fund.
1992 The Western Business Alliance, a network of LGBT business organizations, is formed in partnership with the Greater San Diego Business Association and the Camelback Business Association of Phoenix.
The Pride Foundation partners with GSBA to launch a complementary scholarship fund.
1995 Gov. Mike Lowry appoints GSBA founder Tim Bradbury to the King County Supreme Court, making him the first openly gay judge in state history
1997 The first TASTE of GSBA is held to raise scholarship fund and to showcase member restaurants and caterers. The Western Business Alliance unites 21 organizations from Vancouver B.C. to Tijuana, Mexico, connecting over 12,000 LGBT and allied business owners and professionals in three countries.
1998 Richard C. Rolfs, a Wenatchee native and 20-year activist, bequeaths $200,000 to fund the scholarship endowment named for him.
1999 The first GSBA Scholarship Awards Dinner is held.
2002 The GSBA Guide cover proudly includes bisexual and transgender.
2003 The GSBA Guide becomes the most widely distributed LGBT guide in the United States with a circulation of over 30,000. Membership surpasses 800.
2004 GSBA sponsors one of the first gay wedding shows in the country, garnering international attention. GSBA becomes a founding member of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), with Executive Director Louise Chernin appointed to chair NGLCC’s Council on Chambers and Business Organizations (CCBO). GSBA hires a communications director.
Capitol Hill’s Broadway is lined with banners celebrating GSBA’s 25th anniversary.
2006 The Washington Legislature passes the Anderson-Murray Antidiscrimination Bill, banning discrimination against LGBT people in employment, insurance and housing. The Guide circulation tops 35,000 and membership surpasses 1,000. The Scholarship Fund surpasses $550,000 in total awards.
2007 GSBA moves into its first independent office. Washington enacts domestic partnerships registry.
2008 GSBA is named NGLCC’s Chamber of the Year.
2009 Washington State passes Referendum 71, expanding the rights and obligations of registered domestic partnerships, marking the first time that voters approve a state-wide ballot measure extending LGBT relationship rights.
2010 The Travel Gay Seattle initiative is launched
2012 Washington State passes Referendum 74, becoming the first state to approve marriage equality at the ballot box. GSBA is named 2012 Outstanding Philanthropic Organization by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Long-time GSBA member Ed Murray is elected as the first openly gay mayor of Seattle.
2014 GSBA hires its tenth full-time staff member.
The GSBA Scholarship Fund celebrates its 25th anniversary and surpasses $2 million in scholarships awarded.