Members of San Francisco Pride (SF Pride), the organization behind the city’s famous pride parade and festival, voted last week to remove Google and YouTube as sponsors and participants in future celebrations, citing what some voting members of the organization perceived to be inadequate protection from homophobia, racism, and harassment on Google’s platforms, particularly YouTube.
“Companies are no longer scared to be seen as pro-LGBTQ; in fact, their participation is a great opportunity for them. We believe companies should earn that opportunity by proving that they really do stand with our community,” read a statement given to the SFGATE about the decision from Laurence Berland and Tyler Breisacher, two SF Pride members. Berland, now one of the members helming the current efforts to ban Google, is also a former Google employee.
In the face of mounting techlash, it might seem like fairly standard fare. But it gets more complicated.
At the Jan. 15 meeting in which the resolution was passed, only around a dozen of SF Pride’s over 300 members were present for the vote, Fred Lopez, the organization’s interim executive director, told Recode. Of the dozen or so members present, seven voted in favor of the recommended ban.
Now, the resolution awaits consideration from the organization’s board. While it remains to be seen if the resolutions are legally binding without board approval, it is possible the board of directors might pass the motions, according to Berland and Breisacher’s statement about the decision. If that’s the case, the statement notes that “there seems to be broad agreement that motions like these passed by both membership and board votes would be binding.”
Mashable reached out to Berland and Breisacher via Twitter for a response and will update when we receive comments.
Lopez wrote in a statement to Mashable: “One small group raised concerns about Google as a corporate sponsor … As we get ready to celebrate our 50th parade, our goal remains the same as it was for our first — to be inclusive and reflect the diversity of our communities.”
He told Mashable that SF Pride’s legal team expects an update about the legal implications of the vote by the end of this week. Lopez also notes that the organization’s board of directors will meet on Feb. 5 to determine its next steps.
Alongside several other former Google employees, Berland has alleged that the company terminated the employment of employees, including himself, for workplace organizing, according to Vox. (Google said instead that the employees violated data security and code of conduct policies.)
The push to drop Google from sponsoring and participating in SF Pride started over six months ago, in anticipation of 2019’s pride parade. That was spurred by policies regarding harassment and hate speech directed at LGBTQ+ individuals on YouTube and other Google products, according to an open letter signed by more than 140 Google employees.
The letter asked for support in “resisting LGBTQ+ oppression on the internet,” and also said that “Whenever we press for change, we are told only that the company will ‘take a hard look at these policies.’ But we are never given a commitment to improve, and when we ask when these improvements will be made, we are always told to be patient. We are told to wait. For a large company, perhaps waiting is prudent, but for those whose very right to exist is threatened, we say there is no time to waste, and we have waited too long, already. We are no longer content to wait.”
Ultimately, Google and YouTube’s participation in last year’s march was confirmed. A Google spokesperson maintained, in an email to Mashable, that the company advocates for policies and laws that support the LGBTQ+ community, and supports its employees with same-sex health benefits.
Addressing SF Pride’s latest vote, the Google spokesperson told Mashable: “Google has been a proud supporter of San Francisco Pride for over a decade. We’re saddened that seven members, including a recently fired employee, decided to recommend banning Google, YouTube, and our employees from supporting this important community organization. SF Pride has over 300 members and a separate Board that makes the ultimate decision on participation; we’ll continue to work with the San Francisco Pride Board and its broader membership on the next steps.”