June is Pride Month, first declared official by President Bill Clinton in 1999. “So what? Doesn’t apply to me.” you might say if you’re not part of the LGBTQ community or know someone who is. But au contraire, Pride Month matters to local business — or it should! I’ll give you 3 good reasons why.
A little history first though! The gay liberation movement was born out of the Stonewall Riots in Manhattan in the 1960’s, back in a time when very few businesses were friendly to openly gay patrons. The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village welcomed these marginalized souls but like other establishments of its kind, it was often subject to police raids. On one early morning raid in June, 1969 the LGBT community took a violent stand and defended their rights… basic human rights to Be themselves in public without fear of being arrested.
Just to be clear, the Stonewall Inn was not a model business! Owned by the mob, it was likely behind a lot of shady dealings, but the gay liberation movement that grew beyond its walls is what made history.
Equal protection under the law?
Remember those signs that said “no shirt, no shoes, no service”? In the not too distant past, signs like these or ones that said “we reserve the right to deny service to anyone” were commonplace. Have you ever seen the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld? Google it if you haven’t! It’s hilarious to watch him brusquely say “No soup for you!” just because he doesn’t like the way someone orders. All jokes aside, people have been denied equal treatment and service for all kinds of reasons throughout history like being the wrong color, female, gay or all three.
Believe it or not, federal law and the majority of states still do not recognize sexual orientation and gender identity as protected civil rights. 😮 In Michigan, discrimination against the LGBTQ community has only become illegal as of 2018 under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The change upset many conservatives because I guess it sucks to not be able to spread hateful bigotry.
Politics aside, the fact is that in Michigan and 20 or so other states, businesses may no longer discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity and this is reason #1 to pay attention.
Lead the way in business
Pride Month further matters to local business because owners have the unique opportunity to be leaders in our communities. We can set the tone and lead the way by treating all people fairly, employees and customers alike. This is reason #2. Small business owners need to consider what kind of leaders they want to be and realize the impact — positive or negative — they can have on their communities.
At Espresso Elevado we have always been intentional about being a safe, welcoming, comfortable space for all people, including LGBTQ peeps. One of our guiding values is to strive to be Connected with coworkers, customers and our surrounding community. We believe in kindness and leading by example. It’s a rare occurrence for someone to be unwelcome; it’s always when they are intentionally being disrespectful or disturbing others.
The privilege to serve all
Customer service is a huge privilege! By welcoming the opportunity to serve all —staff and customers alike, we gain much more than we give. At my shop, it shows in the quality of staff we attract, which makes going to work a joy. The kindness our customers show to us and each other inspires us each day. And the wonderful feedback we get from our community constantly reaffirms that we are making a positive impact.
We serve people of all colors, sizes, backgrounds, religions, and orientations. This leads me to reason #3 that Pride Month matters to local business. By serving and working with many different people, life is enriched. Pride Month reminds us about diversity and the benefits that can be had by being exposed to people from all walks of life. It comes down to simple human connection, lasting way beyond the month of June.