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A gay pride and an American flag hang from a shoulder bag during a demonstration outside of the Phillip Burton Federal Building on June 13, 2011 in San Francisco.
Earlier this week the California assembly voted to require the state to ask contractors whether or not their owners are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender when handing out contracts. If the bill passes the Senate, and it most likely will, California could become the first state in the nation to gather sexual orientation data on state contractors.
Proponents of the bill say the information will only be gathered for statistical and reporting purposes, however, the bill’s author, state assemblyman Roger Dickinson, says AB 1960 is “dedicated to the advancement of LGBT-owned businesses. That may be what some lawmakers are worried about.
"If you’re in San Francisco and you’re going after a government contract it would benefit you financially to be identified as a gay or lesbian contractor.," said Mike Spence, President of Conservative Republicans of California. "And we all know that, intuitively, and you’re absolutely right. There’s no committee that’s gonna find out and check whether you are and if they did it would be a big intrusion of privacy and a violation of our freedom and that’s exactly what this bill does."
According to the Sacramento Bee, assemblyman Chris Norby, a republican in Fullerton, is worried that the bill is the beginning of a slippery slope towards giving special privileges to gay and lesbian owned companies. State law in California prohibits quotas or giving minority owned businesses priority. That being said, some agencies like the California Public Utilities Commission do try to ensure diversity within their suppliers by having “goals” of using minority-owned firms.
Is gathering this information the first step towards giving preference to gay-owned businesses? Or is this just way to value the contributions of members of the business community who identify as LGBT? As a group that may have been marginalized in the past, do LGBT businesses deserve special treatment?
Benjamin Phillips-Lesanana, Board of Directors Member, Sacramento Rainbow Chamber of Commerce. An LGBT business group that sponsored AB 1960
Mike Spence, President, Conservative Republicans of California