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.

Monday, March 19, 2012

GSBA Letter Regarding the Actions of the LGBT Commission

Below is a letter sent by the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) to the LGBT Commission, the Office for Civil Rights, Mayor McGinn and the Seattle City Council in response to the serious lapse in judgment of the Seattle LGBT Commission when they cancelled an invitation for a Welcome Reception to be held at City Hall for a delegation of LGBT Israeli Civil Rights leaders.  The delegation from Israel represented several LGBT nonprofits, including the Israeli Pflag, a youth group and an education group here for the purpose of exchanging information and building bridges with the Seattle LGBT Community.  Instead welcoming the opportunity to meet with internationally recognized LGBT leaders from Israel, our LGBT Commission gave in to pressure from a small vocal group of Anti-Israeli activists and cancelled the Public Reception with the visiting LGBT delegation.  This decision by a Commission whose Mission is to ensure that Seattle addresses fairly the concerns of lesbians, gays and other sexual minorities individually and as a protected class under City ordinance and other applicable laws; and is charged with encouraging understanding between the lesbian, gay and sexual minority communities and the larger Seattle community instead silenced an exchange of ideas which has serious repercussions for Seattle and the LGBT community, locally and abroad.  This error in judgment by our LGBT Commission is a serious violation of our very own anti-discrimination policy by the agency charged with recommending policies for fair and equal treatment of the LGBT community.

March 19, 2012

Seattle LGBT Commission
Office of the Civil Rights
8210 Third Avenue, Suite 750
Seattle, Washington 98104-1627

Dear Commissioners:

On behalf of the Board of the Greater Seattle Business Association, the largest LGBT chamber of commerce in the United States with over 1000 members, we write to express our utter disappointment in your decision to silence LGBT voices by cancelling the City Hall event with a delegation of Israeli LGBT civil rights leaders.  Succumbing to demands and lacking the courage to facilitate dialog with those who are our brethren in the LGBT equality movement will have far reaching consequences not only for the Commission but for the City of Seattle and its elected leaders.

As Seattleites, we are proud to be part of a City that has progressive values and is open, inclusive, engaged and a leader in equality. Thursday’s actions by the Commission have tarnished our image. The Commission was goaded into having the City take a position that is viewed by many as anti-equality, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.  It has been manipulated into placing the City squarely in the middle of an age-old political controversy between Arabs and Jews, a position which we are confident that the Mayor and City Council do not share and did not intend for the City of Seattle.

Israel, regardless of its governmental policies, which some of us may or may not support, provides more protection for LGBT citizens than any other nation in the Middle East - and that protection is for all LGBT citizens, regardless of whether the person is Jewish, Christian or Muslim.  We are living in a time in which the LGBT Community is facing life-threatening acts of violence against their existence in Iran, Iraq, and other countries in that region of the world and there is barely an outcry. However, the one Middle East country that actually has laws in place extending equal benefits and protections to its LGBT citizens has its motives questioned. The Commission's response to withdraw its invitation to meet and talk raises serious questions not only about the motivations of those who lobbied for cancelling the City's event, but also about the Commission's abilities and effectiveness as a civil rights entity.

In our view, you have turned an opportunity to engage in open dialogue and education into the silencing of voices, violating the very tenants of our democracy - the freedom of speech and right to assemble. The message sent by the Commission to the world is out of step with our City values and with the Commission's mission. Further, your actions are contrary to the views held by the leading LGBT organizations in our City.

It is difficult to undo the damage done by the LGBT Commission. We believe our City leaders will take necessary corrective action.  The Commission and the Office for Civil Rights must also look to make amends for its actions and restore the lost confidence of the greater LGBT community.  A public apology to the Israeli delegation, LGBT community and the citizens of Seattle, which should come from the Seattle LGBT Commission, Office for Civil Rights, City Council and Mayor, is a critical first step.  Another way to start the rebuilding process is for each commissioner to reflect upon his or her actions and consider whether resigning his or her commission will foster renewed confidence, strength and leadership.

In the next couple of weeks, the GSBA will formally request meetings with the Office for Civil Rights, City Council members and the Mayor to discuss the actions of the Commission, accountability of the Office for Civil Rights and address how an advisory commission is given authority to have decision-making powers with considerable and far reaching consequences for the City.

Very truly yours,

Louise Chernin                                                                                     Mark Rosén
President & CEO                                                                                  Board Chair

Mona Smith
Chair, Public Affairs

Cc:     Julie Nelson, Office of Civil Rights
          Mayor Mike McGinn
          Council President Sally Clark
          Councilmember Richard Conlin
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw
Councilmember Jean Godden
Councilmember Mike O’Brien
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen
Councilmember Bruce Harrell
Councilmember Nick Licata
Councilmember Tim Burgess
City Attorney Pete Holmes


ajc said...

Awesome letter -- just change "tenants" to tenets.

Anonymous said...

GSBA, your use of "Seattle citizens" in your demand for an apology is extremely ironic, considering many Palestinians have been kicked out of their homes and land by Israel's continued growth via occupation. These Palestinians are routinely denied citizenship anywhere. Please be thoughtful about your language and do some research- LGBT issues should not be used to cover up human rights abuses.

Anonymous said...

I support the decision of the LGBT Commission and am disappointed the GSBA response, which only reflects one perspective in our Seattle community.

Teri Burnett said...

Seems to me this should also be sent to the leaders of the Isreali delegation. They need to know that the decison by the Commission is not representative of out community.

Michael A. Schemm said...

Excellant letter!
Michael A. Schemm

Anonymous said...

Thank you, GSBA! It's disappointing when groups who demand tolerance fail the test in this way. This was not the time or the place to protest the policies of the Israeli government.

Janice Van Cleve said...

As a former member of the Seattle LGBT Commission, I am also dismayed that the current members snubbed the Israeli delegation. It is a case of wandering outside the scope of their mission. They have not the facts, the expertise, nor the mandate to dabble in foreign policy. I have seen many good LGBT agencies in this city collapse in failure because they did not stick to their own business and to the mission for which they were established.