Some S.F. Pride Sponsors Are in Bed with Anti-Gay Politicians

While SF Pride rolls out the rainbow carpet for big-bucks corporate sponsors, some of these corporations give millions to anti-LBGTQ Republicans.

Corporate America has slathered its logos with rainbow colors this month, in their annual June attempt to paint themselves as wonderful supporters of LGBTQ equality. This is especially conspicuous at SF Pride, the largest annual Pride celebration in the country, at which a collection of more than 50 corporate sponsors are keen to be seen at the biggest queer culture party in America.

These corporations talk the talk of “diversity and inclusion,” or being “champions for LGBTQ rights.” But do they walk the walk of supporting gay and trans rights while they walk the parade in their corporate branded rainbow apparel?

Google certainly doesn’t. Even though they’re an “associate” level sponsor of SF Pride, the search engine giant is in hot water this week because its subsidiary YouTube has refused to remove homophobic and racist videos directed at gay journalist Carlos Maza. YouTube has defended leaving the harassment on its platform by saying, “while we found language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don’t violate our policies.”

The SF Pride board of directors actually considered yanking Google’s parade float, but as of press time, that float is still scheduled to roll Sunday — despite protests from Google employees themselves. SF Pride’s spokesperson Fred Lopez said in a statement that “the board are monitoring this story as it develops, listening to the concerns of the community, and have raised these concerns with Pride’s contacts at Google.”

What has not been covered in that controversy is the fact that in the 2016, 2018, and even the already-underway 2020 election cycle, Google’s parent company Alphabet donated $875,000 to anti-LGBTQ candidates who actively oppose discrimination protections against gay and trans people.

Several other high-level SF Pride sponsors have also been exposed as being in bed with some of the most homophobic right-wing politicians. The website Popular Information ran a deeply researched exposé on corporations that tout their rainbow-colored credentials while giving millions to the most anti-gay legislators in Congress.

Comcast has a float in Sunday’s parade, and their subsidiary Xfinity is listed as a “Major Sponsor” of SF Pride. But Popular Information found that Comcast has donated over $2 million to more than 150 anti-gay politicians over the last two years, including $10,000 to Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) — who referred to the 1998 murder and torture of gay Wyoming student Matthew Shepard as “a hoax.”

Verizon made this list of shame, too, having donated more than $1 million to anti-gay elected officials in 2017 and 2018. But its subsidiary Oath, which now runs Yahoo and AOL, is listed as an associate-level sponsor of SF Pride.

An SF Weekly review of federal elections disclosures found that while most other SF Pride sponsors may have not donated millions to anti-gay politicians, they’ve been pretty generous to some of the most homophobic causes and elected officials in the country.

For instance, Bud Light has been one of SF Pride’s most ubiquitous sponsors for years, but parent company Anheuser-Busch skews very, very conservative.

In the 2018 election cycle, the international beverage giant gave more than $800,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee. The vast majority of the incumbent candidates those committees supported received a 0 score on the Human Rights Campaign Congressional Scorecard, meaning they voted against same-sex couples getting benefits, against discrimination protections, and against trans rights every single time.

You might think a company like Anheuser-Busch just throws money at both Democrats and Republicans equally. Not so. According to campaign finance data we reviewed from the Center for Responsive Politics, Anheuser-Busch gave just $47,000 to counterpart Democratic congressional committees.

Facebook almost got their float banned from SF Pride in 2015 over the “real names” controversy, but the social network is currently an SF Pride sponsor. Still, last year Facebook was guilty of donating nearly $10,000 to Republican congressional representatives who’ve voted in support of so-called gay conversion therapy. The social media company also made donations between $2,000 and $5,000 to nearly 40 congresspeople who voted to deny medical benefits to trans veterans and soldiers.

Uber is listed as an associate-level sponsor of SF Pride, and its political donations certainly skew toward the Democrats. But Uber gave $1,288 to Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who is currently sponsoring a bill to legalize discrimination against same-sex couples.

Even Gilead Sciences, the “Grand Sponsor” of SF Pride — and maker of Truvada, a medication that can help prevent HIV transmission — gave $37,500 last year to Bakersfield Republican Representative (and House Minority Leader) Kevin McCarthy, who has consistently voted against LGBTQ non-discrimination bills.

We should note that the majority of these donations didn’t technically come from the corporations themselves, but instead their political action committees (PACs) with names like Facebook Inc. PAC or the Comcast Corporation PAC. But the corporations do facilitate the transactions, and PAC donations are not subject to the same scrutiny and reporting obligations.

Many of these corporations do give equally to both Democrats and Republicans, and as such, you’d expect them to give money to a few Republicans. But they can avoid giving money to the most bigoted and anti-gay voices in the Republican party. And if they do, let’s float an idea — maybe those companies shouldn’t get a Pride float.

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