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April 7, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 14
 
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GSBA marks a quarter century
GSBA marks a quarter century
by Liz Meyer - SGN Contributing Writer

The Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), the nation's largest LGBT and Allied chamber of commerce, celebrated its 25th anniversary at a recent awards dinner at Seattle's Grand Hyatt Hotel.

The GSBA is perhaps best known for its annual guide, called the "Gay Bible" by some locals for its extensive coverage of LGBT and Allied businesses. To state that the organization's influence is limited to the pages of the well-known guide, however, would be a gross inaccuracy.

"The GSBA is not just about business," said Louise Chernin, Executive Director of the GSBA. "It's a community that is very values driven. Our members are very civically involved."

Indeed, since its inception, the GSBA has been instrumental in advancing LGBT causes in the Seattle metropolitan area. The group began in 1981 when a handful of Gay men collaborated to establish what Chernin calls a "visible economic block that could work to eliminate discrimination." Since then, the GSBA has grown to around 1,000 members and has become a significant factor in Seattle's business, cultural and political climate.

"Business in Washington State played a vital and pivotal political role in the Gay Civil Rights Bill's success," explains Brad Davis, Communications Director of GSBA.

Additionally, many GSBA members have been active in recent efforts to block Tim Eyman's proposed referendum to overturn the afore-mentioned statewide Gay rights measure.

Perhaps the GSBA's most impressive statistic, however, is this: by the end of the year, the organization will have awarded over half a million dollars in scholarships to LGBT and Allied Youth.

"The scholarship program is really the 'soul' of the GSBA," said Chernin. "It develops the next generation of LGBT leaders."

Several long-time members of the GSBA spoke of the group's significance at the awards dinner.

"I've always felt the most important thing about the Gay movement was to be proud of who you are and to be out," said Peter Hiatt, one the GSBA's earliest members. "Even now our image of people is driven by some of the most notorious things versus being business owners and members of the community. GSBA is a professional, visible statement of the Gay community."

Another early member of the GSBA, Marlis Korber, described the organization's role in more personal terms.

"I remember having an enormous sense of pride when politicians would show up and court us," said Korber. "To go from being 'I hated myself for being homosexual' to having this sense of posture and respect was a very empowering evolution."

In addition to observing its 25 years in service, the GSBA also announced the recipients of its annual Business and Humanitarian Awards at the dinner.

"Recipients are peer-nominated, successful businesspeople," Chernin said. "In addition, they are philanthropic. They have to stand for the values of GSBA."
GSBA Business and Humanitarian Award winners


o New Business of the Year: Emma Jean's Consignments and Antiques, Thomas Grant

o Business of the Year: Etherea Salon & Spa, Mark Rose'n

o Business Woman of the Year: Elaine DuCharme, Attorney at Law

o Business Man of the Year: Steve Crandall, ProMotion Arts

o Nonprofit of the Year: Residence XII

o Community Leadership Award: Trish Millines Dziko, Technology Access Foundation

o President's Award: Neil McDevitt, RBC Dain Rauscher

o Collaboration for Social Change Award: Representative Ed Murray; Representative Joe McDermott; Representative Jim Moeller; Representative Dave Upthegrove: Equal Rights Washington

o Special Recognition: Charles Brydon

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