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A New York Bill Aims to Help LGBTQ Businesses Thrive

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Backers say the legislation would assure that businesses owned by LGBTQ people, veterans, and disabled people have a chance to bid on state contracts.

New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman has reintroduced legislation that would promote state contracting opportunities among businesses owned by LGBTQ people, veterans, and people with disabilities.

The New York State Supplier Diversity Actwas reintroduced last week in the new session of the Senate led by Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the first African-American woman to be Senate president. While the bill didn't make it to the governor when it was first introduced in 2016, legislators are confident it will pass this time around under the leadership of Stewart-Cousins.

This is the first time in a decade that the New York State Senate has a Democratic majority.

The proposed bill would establish a Division of Supplier Diversity within the Office of General Services. The new division would be responsible for identifying businesses that are majority owned by LGBTQ people, veterans, and people with disabilities; providing a directory of these companies to officials who purchase goods and services for the state, and assisting such businesses in applying for state contracts.

This is similar to the state's program that encourages contracting with businesses owned by women and members of racial minorities.

California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania already have such inclusion laws. A similar bill was recently passed in the New Jersey State Assembly, and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senate President Steve Sweeney are seeking to advance it to a vote in that chamber. Last year, a bill like this passed both houses but did not make it to the governor in time to be signed into law.

If passed, the New York bill would add to wins for Hoylman, an out gay man who alongside Assembly Members Richard Gottfried and Harry Bronson sponsored GENDA, the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act, which bans discrimination based on gender identity. LGBTQ advocates and allies also championed another bill that prohibits the use of conversion therapy on minors in the state.

Both houses of the state legislature passed GENDA and the conversion therapy ban this week, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign both.

For Hoylman, it's the beginning of a new kind of rainbow wave. LGBTQ people, veterans, and those with disabilities cut across all ethnic and gender lines, so the legislation would benefit a wide variety of people and the U.S. economy, supporters say. According to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, America's 1.4 million LGBTQ business owners add $1.7 trillion to the economy every year, creating tens of thousands of jobs.


Pictured: N.Y. State Sen. Brad Hoylman speaking at the state capitol in Albany about GENDA.

The NGLCC collaborated with Hoylman in crafting the New York and New Jersey bills, both of which have been supported by corporations including Accenture, Merck, Microsoft, and Walmart. In 2012, the Human Rights Campaign made LGBTQ supplier diversity a component of its Corporate Equality Index, which rates companies' policies on LGBTQ issues..

Inspired by the National Minority Supplier Development Council and the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, the nation's largest certifying bodies for minority- and women-owned businesses, the NGLCC decided to partner with colleagues at Disability:IN, a nonprofit that focuses on business opportunities for people with disabilities, in developing the bills.

"The success of our state's Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise program has demonstrated that our state has an opportunity and responsibility to leverage those tremendous resources to ensure a seat at the table for those who remain underrepresented in state contracting or the business world," Hoylman said in a statement. "The Supplier Diversity Act will make New York a true engine of economic development, creating jobs and opportunities for the LGBT, disability, and veteran communities."

NGLCC cofounder and president Justin Nelson and cofounder and CEO Chance Mitchell added the following statement: "Nothing says 'Ever Upward' like New York leading the way in equality by creating greater access to the American Dream. By offering New Yorkers who are LGBT, veterans, or with disabilities an equal seat at the table, the New York State Supplier Diversity Act has the power to economically advance diverse communities."

The advocacy group has promoted inclusive economic policies in California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, across federal agencies, and in over one-third of the Fortune 500.

Jonathan Lovitz, senior vice president of the NGLCC, helped lead efforts for the bills. He says they reflect not only an economic issue but also a social one.

"LGBT business owners pay taxes and create jobs in the same way that all small businesses do," Lovitz told The Advocate. "They should have access to every opportunity to grow their enterprises, including contracting and procurement opportunities with their cities and states. ... The strongest economies are the ones that include and engage everyone."

Lovitz noted that greater competition lowers bid prices, which results in millions of dollars in taxpayer savings across the state that can be reinvested in those diverse communities.

"[LGBTQ people] deserve the fair and equal chance to put their diversity to work for them and win those contracts outright," Lovitz said. "Opening them up to our communities is simply a matter of fairness and will cement states like New York and New Jersey as national leaders in economic opportunity, expanding contracting opportunities and allowing all diverse communities in the region to thrive."

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