Look Past the Rainbow

Each year on June 1, corporations festoon their social media accounts with rainbowed logos, products, and statements of support for the LGBTQ+ community. But how many of them practice what they preach?

To answer that question, we have to follow the money.

Some companies have faced backlash as a result of inconsistencies between their public statements and their political spending.

Take Anheuser-Busch. The St. Louis-based beer company, despite publicly touting its support for the LGBTQ+ community and partnerships with organizations like GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign, has donated over $35,000 to 29 anti-LGBTQ+ legislators. In response, New York’s famous Stonewall Inn, the site of a 1969 uprising long considered the first Pride celebration, decided to boycott Anheuser-Busch-affiliated beers starting this past weekend (Pride Weekend in New York City).

Anheuser-Busch rainbow Pride banner
Anheuser-Busch’s Pride graphics don’t tell the whole story.

“We were horrified when we found out that [Anheuser-Busch] were in one breath saying they support the community, and in the next donating to anti-LGBTQ legislators across the country,” said Stacy Lentz, co-owner of Stonewall Inn. “You can’t have it both ways. If you really want to support us, you need to not support those who make and vote laws against us.”

The concept of “Rainbow Capitalism”

Anheuser-Busch is not alone. Some of America’s largest corporations, from Comcast and AT&T to Amazon and Coca-Cola, publicly declare that “love is love” while bankrolling politicians who vote against the LGBTQ+ community. At least 25 corporations have been found to participate in Pride events while contributing over $10 million to lawmakers supporting anti-LGBTQ+ policies in the last two years, according to Popular Information.

The practice has become known as “rainbow capitalism”: corporations pandering to LGBTQ+ consumers with rainbow merchandise and freebies at Pride celebrations, without making a genuine effort to support the LGBTQ+ community.

Amazon at the San Francisco Pride Parade in 2018
(Source: Dennis Sylvester Hurd)

“[These companies] have taken that corporate presence to the nth degree, to the point that it overshadows the members of the community and overshadows the fact that we are still fighting for our rights,” said Jay Walker, an activist with the Reclaim Pride Coalition, in an interview with CBS News this month.

“Businesses have to put their money where their mouth is,” added GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “And that means speaking up against the over 200 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been proposed.”

Pride Month is ending. What can I do?

Make your voice heard! Pride may be publicly celebrated on a large scale in June, but it’s a year-round movement. Urge your Members of Congress to support the Equality Act to create clear, widespread anti-discrimination policies for LGBTQ+ people in employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.

And make your money talk, too!