GSBA Vision & Mission

MISSION: To combine business development, leadership and social action to expand economic opportunities for the LGBT Community and those who support equality for all.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

GSBA Scholarship Founders' Breakfast

Recently we had the opportunity to gather a few of the visionary early members responsible for establishing the GSBA Scholarship Fund 25 years ago. The creators and benefactors of our Founders’ Scholarship, Bob Dlugosh and Don McKee, opened their lovely home for us on a Saturday morning. We heard stories of the first scholarships and talked about the vision and hopes for the future of the Fund. We heard from Rita Smith, who continues to volunteer as a scholarship interviewer, about the need for the scholarship at a time when it was highly risky for a young person to come out in high school. There were no available LGBT options for assistance in attending college and many of our early scholars faced the challenges of having zero support from family or community. Recognizing that need was the impetus to create the Scholarship Fund.

We heard how that continues to be a need today and the importance of the Fund in helping fill that need.  Michael Auch shared the significance of the first large bequest to the Fund from the estate of Richard C Rolfs. This was the first major gift of its kind locally and as such it “represented the LGBT community taking pride in itself in a way that had not happened before and therefore opened the door for more giving.”

Everyone spoke of their pride in having helped create something that they did not imagine could grow to give out its two-millionth dollar and to help support so many future leaders in such a significant way. Perhaps the most wonderful moment came when founder Dave Brown encouraged us all to “think about a time in the future when the Fund is $100 million.” Visionary then, and visionary now!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

CWU and GSBA Partnership Invests in the Education of LGBTQ and Allied Students

March 17, 2015

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Central Washington University and the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) have established a new waiver match agreement that invests in the education of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied students.

Under the new partnership, every GSBA Scholarship Fund recipient who enrolls at CWU will receive a tuition waiver match up to $2,500 from the university. The tuition waiver is renewable each year a student attends CWU and continues to receive scholarship support from GSBA.

“The partnership between CWU and GSBA is an important step in closing the opportunity gap in higher education for LGBTQ and allied students—a group who are all too often underserved by traditional support systems,” said Louise Chernin, GSBA President and CEO. “GSBA applauds CWU for taking a leadership role in breaking down barriers for LGBT and allied students to be able to attend college.”

CWU is among the top 50 LGBT-friendly universities in the nation as recognized by Campus Pride, a leading nonprofit that encourages safe campuses for LGBT students. And in 2014 CWU was a recipient of the INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award. The HEED Award recognizes colleges that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. Only 83 institutions were honored nationwide, and CWU is the only four-year university in Washington to receive the award.

GSBA scholarships support a diverse group of students who have the capacity and vision to be the next generation of leaders and create a better world. Over the past 24 years, the GSBA Scholarship Fund has awarded $1.9 million to more than 300 LGBTQ and allied students from Washington. The fund is poised to award its two millionth dollar and celebrate its 25th anniversary when it presents $350,000 to 44 students at its annual awards dinner in May.

GSBA scholarship applications are online in October and are due in January. A team of business and nonprofit leaders, former scholars and community members choose the award recipients.
GSBA is the largest business chamber of its kind in the United States. With more than 1,100 members, it has been advocating for equality in business for nearly 34 years.

Media contacts: Scott Wade, CWU VP for University Advancement, 509-963-1494,

Rachael Brister, GSBA VP of Marketing and Tourism, 206-363-9188,

Your Chamber Working for You: 2015 GSBA Endorsements

In keeping with our commitment to invest in transportation and tourism and remove barriers as well as increase access to employment, the GSBA Board of Directors, with input from Public Policy Task Force, has endorsed the following pieces of legislation recently passed or currently pending in Olympia:

Funding for High Capacity Transportation Service (SB 5128)
GSBA joins a wide spectrum of Puget Sound region business, nonprofits and citizens of all kinds in calling for the Legislature to give Sound Transit the authority to run a ballot measure to fund expansion of our regional transit system (referred to as Sound Transit 3). To support our rapidly growing population, we must ensure that our employees can get to their jobs, that our customers can reach our businesses and that our products can move efficiently throughout the region, supporting high capacity transportation is essential to our economy and our livelihoods.

While the Board endorsed SB 5128 specifically, the Sound Transit authorization may appear in modified form as part of other legislation during the negotiation process.

Long Term Funding of Statewide Tourism (HB 1938, SB 5916)
Washington is the only state without a tourism office, and our beautiful, vibrant home is missing out compared to our neighbors who recognize the incredible value of tourism marketing: $18.7 million in Alaska, $14.2 million in Montana, $13.7 million in Oregon, $8 million in Idaho, and a whopping $48.9 million in British Columbia. Zero in Washington.

With our Travel Gay Seattle initiative, increasing funding for LGBT tourism has been a GSBA priority for years. Even small investments in tourism marketing have returns well above what is spent.  This bill establishes a system to collect annual fees from businesses in five tourism industry sectors most impacted by tourism (lodging, food service, attractions, transportation and retail), which will be used to implement a long-term, sustainable statewide tourism marketing program. The tourism industry, led by the Washington Tourism Alliance, helped craft this system and we are proud to join our partners across the state to increase our investment and bring more visitors to our wonderful home.

[Click here to learn more from the Washington Tourism Alliance]

Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP) Bill (HB 1553)
Many Washingtonians who have criminal records and have paid their debt to society face tremendous barriers in reentering the workforce. They are legally prevented from getting a professional license in Washington State and face automatic rejection from many employers. Without work, they cannot afford to provide for themselves and their families and face a greater likelihood of recidivism. At some point, we have to open the door to opportunity and allow people to move on with their lives so they can contribute fully to our community and economy.

The Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP) bill is intended to remove barriers to occupational licenses for qualified applicants with a criminal history. An individual has the ability to go to a judge, show that they have complied with all the terms of their sentence (incarceration, counseling, anger management, etc) and that they have led a law-abiding life and are in good standing for a certain number of year. The judge can sign the certificate attesting to the individual’s rehabilitation and then they cannot be denied an application for an occupational licensed based on their criminal history alone provided they are otherwise qualified and suitable for the license.

GSBA first supported this bill last year, and we continue to support this bill because it deals with employment and has a particular resonance for the LGBT community, with our disproportionate LGBT youth homeless population. Those who have fully completed their sentencing must be allowed the opportunity to move on and reenter society rather than be forever ostracized.

[Click here to learn more about CROP from Columbia Legal Services]

Youth Equality and Reintegration (YEAR) Act
The YEAR Act builds on 2014’s Youth Opportunities Act which allows juvenile court records to beouseHouse sealed for those who have completed requirements of sentencing and probation and have paid all legal fees and restitution. Washington remains one of only a few states that does not automatically seal juvenile records. The YEAR Act gives former juvenile offenders with limited financial resources the ability to have their records seal just like those who can afford to pay the penalties and fees. Judges will have the discretion to determine the appropriate course of action regarding financial obligations, such as substituting a monetary penalty for community service. Class A felonies, violent crimes and sexual crimes are not eligible for sealing.

GSBA voted to support this bill for similar reasons as the CROP bill. With LGBT youth disproportionately represented among the homeless population, our community should be particularly concerned with juvenile justice system. Homeless youth are unlikely to have the financial resources to pay the financial obligations in full, whereas many middle class juvenile offenders can have the costs covered by their families. They often face charges for crimes of survival and need to be able to pay their debts and be offered a second chance.

[Click here to learn more about the YEAR Act]

Friday, March 6, 2015

Press Release: GSBA and Over 50 Members Urge Supreme Court to Affirm Marriage Equality

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            

Media Contact:

Matt Landers
206.363.9188 |

GSBA and Over 50 Members Urge Supreme Court to Affirm Marriage Equality
Seattle businesses lead the nation in speaking up for equality

SEATTLE – March 5 – The Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) added its name to a friend-of-the-court brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, which was filed today, in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. GSBA is joined by 378 organizations and businesses, including 53 GSBA members and 18 fellow LGBT chambers. The Court announced today that it will hear the case on April 28.

The brief (text can be found here) explains to the Supreme Court how employers are burdened by the inability of certain employees to marry the spouse of their choice, and by the current patchwork of state laws applicable to same-sex marriage. Those burdens include:
·         Recruiting/retention challenges in those jurisdictions that do not have marriage equality;
·         Corporate administrative and financial burdens;
·         Lack of certainty and business uniformity; and
·         Requiring employers and human resources departments to implement government-mandated regulations that undermine the corporate mission.

The Court will likely decide definitively whether states must allow same-sex couples to marry, and whether states must recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who wed elsewhere. The Court has stated that it will be addressing the questions of whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and if the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully performed out-of-state.

GSBA has been working on marriage equality and building the business case for equality for many years through signing onto court briefs, legislative advocacy and referenda advocacy. In addition, GSBA is a recognized leader in educating legislators at all levels of government about and advocating for equal rights with tax and immigration laws. Hundreds of businesses filed a pro-marriage equality brief in the 2013 Windsor v. U.S. and Perry v. Hollingsworth cases. Over twenty percent of signatories to those briefs were GSBA members based in the Puget Sound region.

As an LGBT and allied chamber working to achieve equality in business for over 34 years, GSBA President & CEO Louise Chernin stated “we couldn’t be more proud than being able to take an early lead and reach out to our business members and other LGBT chambers around the country, encouraging them to join GSBA and sign the amicus brief. For businesses to be successful in today’s competitive economy, it is essential that employers be able to have an inclusive work environment in which all employees are treated respectfully and fairly.”
The architects of the amicus brief (Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP) also requested that GSBA once again reach out to its members and other LGBT chambers around the United States. The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) also signed on as an amici and worked with its qualifying affiliate chambers to join the amicus brief.

Members who signed on include:

1st Security Bank
206 Inc.
Alaska Airlines
Avanade Inc.
Bank of America
Bigelow Villa LLC
BrandQuery LLC
Captain Wendells Marine Services LLC
Central Physical Therapy & Fitness, PSC
City Catering Company
City Light Neon, Inc.
CMIT Solutions of Seattle Downtown
Columbia FunMap, Inc.
Crazy Misfits Pet Services
Cupcake Royale
David Kosar Insurance Agency
Eldercare Consulting
Express Movers Inc.
Flanery CPA
Google Inc.
Group Health Cooperative
Homeward Pet Adoption Center
Integrity Law Group
Jagod Deisgns
Jennifer Brown Consulting
Jonathan L. Bowman, Attorney at Law, PS photography
Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, LLC
Kollmar Sheet Metal Works, Inc.
Larson Marketing & Communications LLC
Law Office of Lisa E. Schuchman
Law Office of Susan K. Fuller, PLLC
Mona Smith PLLC
Morgan Stanley
New York Life Insurance Company
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
Outerwall Inc.
The Seattle Lesbian
Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
Skellenger Bender, PS
Spectra Law PS
Spry Vision, Inc.
Starbucks Corporation
Stuffed Cakes, LLC
Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria
Wells Fargo & Company

Fellow LGBT chamber joining us include:
Austin Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
Charlotte Business Guild
Desert Business Association, Palm Springs
Greater Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
Greater San Diego Business Association
Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce of Nevada
Independence Business Association, Philadelphia
Inland Northwest Business Association
Lambda Business Association, Las Vegas
Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce
National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce
Plexus LGBT and Allied Chamber of Commerce, Northeast Ohio
Portland Area Business Association
Rainbow Chamber of Commerce, Silicon Valley
Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce


Please contact Matt Landers at or 206.363.9188 for more information as for interview requests.

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About the Greater Seattle Business Association
Established in 1981, the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) is the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and allied chamber of commerce in North America.  GSBA is widely known for its work on business development, connecting community through business, advocacy on behalf of civil rights and businesses and promoting LGBT tourism through its Travel Gay Seattle initiative.  GSBA invests in the next generation of leaders by sponsoring a Scholarship Fund which will give out is two-millionth dollar in scholarships in 2015. For more information about GSBA, visit

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rachael Recommends - February Finds

by Rachael Brister, GSBA Vice President, Tourism & Marketing

Scouring the digital marketing blogosphere….so you don’t have to.

I subscribe to a lot of blogs and newsfeeds from experts in various aspects of the digital marketing field.  This is my roundup of articles, tips, how-to’s and best practices for social media, apps, marketing, pr and some technology thrown in for good measure. If there is a particular subject or social media platform you want to learn more about, please let me knowCheck out my comments before the links. Now onto this month’s roundup…short, just like the month, but no less important.

Hashtags seem to be firmly rooted in our digital vocabulary, but I have noticed many still ask about them or don’t fully understand their usage. This article does a great job at demystifying hashtags and how they should be used on different social media platforms:

Short Form Video
Video is a versatile, easy and fun way to market your product, promote your brand or show your audience how to do something. And now it is even easier to integrate short videos into many social media platforms. You probably have noticed the growing number of videos that show up in your facebook newsfeed. But Instagram and Twitter also make it very easy to share video via their platforms. The article below has some great ideas on how to use short form video and includes 10 handy tools to create and edit those videos.

General Social Media
This article is a great refresher course for those who have been doing the “social media thing” for a while and also answers some newbie questions.

Hearing the Concerns of Small Business

Senator Patty Murray's staff recently visited three GSBA small businesses to hear about their successes and concerns. Richard de Sam Lazaro, Senator Murray's Seattle Metropolitan Director, and Scott Cheney, Policy Director of Workforce & Economic Development in the Senate's HELP Committee, reached out to GSBA to make the connection.

During the day they visited Repair Revolution in SoDo, SugarPill on Capitol Hill, and Hilliard's Beer in Ballard to hear about the diverse situations faced by each of these businesses.

Karyn Schwartz of SugarPill talked about the big changes occuring in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and the particular impact on small independent businesses which are too often being squeezed out by rent increases, loss of small retail and commercial space, and the everyday disruptions of rampant construction in every direction. She asked that small businesses like SugarPill receive an even playing field - that elected officials pay just as much attention to the majority of establishments that dominate our city's streetscape as they do to a small number of very large corporations and special interests. All levels of government should be actively supporting  "We shouldn't have to be bigger, places that are human sized should be celebrated."

At Hilliard's Beer, Ryan Hilliard and Adam Merkl talked about a very different set of issues - the West Coast port slowdown over a labor dispute. Hilliard's has begun distribution in Sweden and their shipments have been delayed.

GSBA is regularly contacted by our elected representatives asking to meet with some of our members and hear their concerns. If you would ever be interested in connecting with local, state and national policymakers, contact Matt Landers, our Public Policy & Communications Manager.