Human Rights Campaign, SHOWTIME® Announce Queer to Stay: An LGBTQ+ Business Preservation Initiative

by Viet Tran

This initiative will support minority-focused LGBTQ+ businesses and community spaces affected by COVID-19.

Today, the Human Rights Campaign and SHOWTIME® announce “Queer to Stay: An LGBTQ+ Business Preservation Initiative” to support and preserve businesses that serve the LGBTQ+ community with a focus on LGBTQ+ people of color, women and the transgender community.

The initiative will celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ community by identifying and donating to a number of businesses, selected based on the communities they serve and how COVID-19 has affected them. As COVID-19 continues to impact businesses nationwide, LGBTQ+-serving spaces experienced significant revenue loss in June, when patrons are more likely to frequent LGBTQ+ businesses for Pride Month. By directing funds to these businesses, “Queer to Stay” demonstrates a continued commitment from HRC and SHOWTIME® to support and advocate for the diverse members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Queer to Stay” is accepting applications now and until 11:59 P.M. ET on Friday, August 14th. Eligible businesses can apply at hrc.im/QueerToStayApplication. Recipients will be notified and announced later this summer.

“We know that businesses like bars, restaurants and coffee shops often serve as affirming and welcoming spaces for LGBTQ+ people – including young people who may not have supportive families or communities at home,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “With a global pandemic and its economic impact threatening to shut down queer spaces, it’s important that we support and preserve those that have provided a place for LGBTQ+ people to express ourselves freely, find community and be our authentic selves. We are grateful to collaborate with SHOWTIME® on this initiative to protect and preserve LGBTQ+-serving spaces.”

“We are proud to continue our long-standing relationship with HRC this year by bringing aid to beloved and crucial LGBTQ+ locations,” said Michael Engleman, Chief Marketing Officer, Showtime Networks Inc. “SHOWTIME® has a history of telling diverse, complicated, authentic stories – with a marked emphasis on LGBTQ+ creators, characters and storylines. Our sincere hope is that this step marks only the beginning of a focus on spaces that are key to both the history and current lifeblood of the LGBTQ+ community.”

SHOWTIME® parent corporation, ViacomCBS Inc., received a perfect score of 100 on HRC Foundation’s 2020 Corporate Equality Index, the national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertaining to LGBTQ+ employees.

Amid the global pandemic, LGBTQ+-serving spaces are facing financial challenges and at risk of closures. LGBTQ+ bars, centers and businesses often serve as safe and affirming places for large portions of the community, especially for young queer and trans people and communities of color. Studies have shown that since the 1980s there has been a decline in LGBTQ+ bars across America because of assimilation, gentrification and the rise of dating apps. With some cities seeing the return of mandatory business closures due to the pandemic, LGBTQ+-serving spaces are among those that are at risk of high impact. People of color have also faced challenges and discrimination in sustaining their small businesses. According to a study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Black applicants who applied for Paycheck Protection Program loans were treated poorly or unfairly compared to their white counterparts. As the nation continues to navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is uncertainty as to when businesses, including LGBTQ+-serving establishments, will return to usual.

HRC also published a research brief outlining the particular health and economic risks faced by the LGBTQ+ community during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Key findings have shown that many LGBTQ+ people may lack the resources to effectively combat COVID-19, lack access to paid sick leave or live without health coverage and are more likely to work in an industry that has been most affected by the pandemic, putting them in greater economic jeopardy or increasing their exposure to the virus. HRC research has also shown that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be unemployed and to have lost work hours compared to the general population, with transgender people and people of color most at risk.