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At this protest, gay activists eat out but not at Chick-fil-A
QSanAntonio.com, January 7, 2011

San Antonio gay activists are planning a protest of Chick-fil-A, Inc. the chicken sandwich chain with 1,500 locations in 38 states. However, there will be no pickets because the event will be held at Luther's Cafe, where protesters say they would rather spend their money.

Activists are asking the community to stop patronizing Chick-fil-A and are challenging the company to join the San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

The protest of Chick-fil-A arises from the news this week that the company was sponsoring two marriage seminars associated with the right-wing, anti-gay marriage Pennsylvania Family Institute. Calls from activists to boycott the chain immediately went out across the country.

The furor spread on the internet and yesterday the Chick-fil-A name was removed from the web site for the seminars which are titled, "The Art of Marriage -- Getting to the heart of God's design."

"There will be an economic show of force and protest in San Antonio this Sunday, against the recent, bigoted actions of Chick-fil-A" says Darrell Parsons, one of the event organizers. "This protest is very simple: We will invade Luthers Cafe, a gay-owned restaurant and spend our money there to show the economic force that LGBT equality has behind it."

"Since Chick Fil A is closed on Sunday, all of their local store managers will be notified of this economic protest and will be invited to attend and address their company's actions," says Parsons. "Bring your money, eat, drink and be a part of a visible show of force for LGBT Equality."

Chick-fil-A Economic Protest, Sunday, January 9, 2011. At Luther's Cafe, 1425 N. Main from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Everyone who attends is asked to wear red. Any questions can be directed to to Darrell Parsons @ 210-324-4900

Chick-fil-A responds, but connections to anti-gay groups deepen
Change.org, January 7, 2011
It took Chick-fil-A more than two days to respond to the company's ties to an anti-gay group in Pennsylvania -- the Pennsylvania Family Institute -- but last night, the restaurant chain's corporate office finally released a lengthy statement on their Facebook page. The essence? Yes, a food donation is being made to support the Pennsylvania Family Institute's work to 'protect marriage' by a franchise as part of Chick-fil-A's community outreach efforts ... but please don't take that as anything anti-gay.

Chick-fil-A unveils biscuits & bigotry
Miami New Times, January 6, 2011
Executives at Chick-fil-A had these days circled on their calendars long ago: It was to be Spicy Chicken Biscuit Premiere Week, a public-relations-sparked rollout of the company's most exciting offering since last year's Spicy Chicken Sandwich.

Lesbian writer to headline LGBT Chamber awards dinner
QSanAntonio, June 9, 2010

Lesbian author and journalist Kathy Belge will be the keynote speaker at the San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards dinner that is scheduled for June 18 at the El Tropicano Hotel.

Belge is an expert on lesbian life and culture. She’s a political activist and journalist covering the LGBT community. She also has a history as a LGBT youth social worker.

A regular contributor to Curve magazine, Belge pens one-half of the popular lesbian advice column Lipstick & Dipstick. The column offers advice on lesbian relationships -- from finding a date to staying together, how to deal with exes, emotional baggage, and sexual dilemmas.

Belge is also the guide to all things lesbian on About.com where she offers relationship and coming out advice, facts and history about the LGBT community, insight into the politics of the day, including same-sex marriage and celebrity interviews. If it's about lesbian life, she writes about it.

She is co-author of Lipstick & Dipstick’s Essential Guide to Lesbian Relationships and is working on her second book, a guide for LGBT teens.

Born and raised on the East coast, Belge lives in Portland, Oregon with her partner of many years, their Alaskan malamutes and cats. When she’s not writing, she can be found hiking, biking or watching women’s basketball.

The Second Annual San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner -- Friday June 18, 2010 at the El Tropicano Hotel, 110 Lexington Avenue. Cocktails and silent auction at 6:30 p.m., dinner at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $75 available at SALGBTChamber.org.

LGBT Chamber partners with city to attract gay tourists
QSanAntonio.com, August 14, 2009

Speaking at a luncheon held on August 13, Darrell Parsons, President of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce said the organization has met with officials from the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau to discuss the development of a web site to attract gay tourism to San Antonio.

While many of the specific details of the partnership have yet to be ironed out, Parsons says he’s encouraged by the city’s interest in helping develop a source of information for GLBT travelers. Parson’s says the Chamber envisions web pages filled with information about local attractions, a calendar of GLBT events and contacts for gay-friendly businesses in San Antonio.

It is widely acknowledged by travel experts that the GLBT sector is the most robust in the industry and the least affected by the recent economic downturn.

Rodric Fitzgerald, Chairman of the Chamber’s Media Relations and Marketing Committee, is heading the project. Fitzgerald says he’s met twice with Convention and Visitors Bureau officials and expects progress on the project within the next few months.

Several major cities, including Dallas and Ft. Lauderdale, have specialized web sites developed to attract gay visitors. "Tourism is one of San Antonio’s major industries," says Fitzgerald, "we need to have a resource for GLBT tourists who are in town for business or pleasure and are looking for gay-friendly places and events."

The luncheon, which was held at Bloomin’ Bistro, was the first networking event the Chamber has scheduled during the noon hour. About 40 Chamber members were present and each had a chance to make a quick presentation about their businesses. Guest speaker for the event was Bonnie Victor-Fried of the San Antonio Opera.

For more information about the San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce go to: SAGayChamber.com.

S.A. LGBT Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner, Emily Morgan Hotel, June 20, 2009

Chamber dinner celebrates milestone
QSanAntonio.com, June 25, 2009

The San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s first annual awards dinner on June 20 celebrated the group’s inaugural year with a salute to the power of the gay dollar in the Alamo City.

Now almost 100 strong, the Chamber begins it’s second year with an eye toward becoming an integral resource for San Antonio’s gay-friendly businesses.

"We have plans to make our Chamber a leading force in the GLBT community. We’ve added businesses from every segment of our community, including builders, bankers, hotels, restaurants, media outlets, non-profit agencies, performing arts groups, nightclubs and realtors; just to mention a few," says Chamber president Darrell Parsons.

The Chamber has also been recognized and accepted as an affiliate member of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC).

Parson’s says that in the coming year, the Chamber will work to attract more gay tourism and national GLBT meetings and conventions to the city by partnering with the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"Another major accomplishment of the Chamber has been the creation of the long-awaited, GLBT Community Calendar," says Parsons. "For years, GLBT groups have discussed the idea of having a single community calendar, where individuals could view all the events being hosted by local groups and organizations in San Antonio. The Chamber decided to take on this project for their web site and it is now fully operational and quite impressive."

Having recently returned from the NGLCC’s national convention in Seattle, Parson’s explains there’s a lot to be gained by being a gay-friendly business. "The national GLBT market is staggering -- estimated to be $800 billion this year alone. With San Antonio ranking as one of the strongest economies in the nation, I can guarantee you that some of those billions are being spent right here."

Awards honor Chamber supporters
Awards were bestowed on the night of the dinner that was held at the Emily Morgan Hotel.

Elected Politician -- State Rep. Mike Villarreal
Corporate Award -- Luther’s Cafe
Non-Profit Award -- Metropolitan Community Church of San Antonio
Business Award -- Randy Cuniff, owner of the Heat, the Saint and Luthers
Media Award -- Sam Sanchez, Publisher of QSanAntonio.com
Volunteer Awards -- Roderick Fitzgerald and Grace Leslie

Chamber Founder Cristina Martinez presented Darrell Parsons the Founder’s Award and Parsons, in turn, presented her with the President’s Award.

Parsons says that building the organization from the ground up has proved challenging. "In the beginning, we met often and we disagreed often. But we laid out a plan, created bylaws, filed legal documents, opened a bank account, created a Web site, developed membership levels, and started having events.

"I am pleased that in only nine short months of opening up membership to the community, we are very near the 100-member mark. I strongly encourage our community to go to our web site (sagaychamber.com) and check out the list of Chamber members before shopping for services and goods."

LGBT Chamber reaches one-year milestone
Online chat with Darrell Parsons, QSanAntonio, March 20, 2009

Members of the San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce are celebrating the organization's first year anniversary. To mark the milestone, QSanAntonio went online with Chamber President Darrell Parsons to ask about the group's inaugural year and what its plans are for the future.

Darrell congratulations on the Chamber's first anniversary. How many members does the chamber now have?

Since accepting memberships in October, we have rapidly grown to 49 paying members, with an average of 5 new members joining each month.

The growth of the organization came very quickly, didn't it?

Since opening membership to the public, we have excelled rapidly with an every growing roster of businesses. We realize that the phenomenal success we have and the work that lies before us cannon be accomplished with our current nine Directors. That is why we recently added two more Directors to help with the workload. We also developed a very dynamic marketing team who has created what will be the crown jewel of our Chamber -- an interactive web site to further promote not only the Chamber but individual businesses as well.

Have you had any particular challenges in getting the Chamber organized?

A little over 10 months ago a group of 16 diverse and dedicated individuals gathered to create a Chamber of Commerce. If you have ever tried to build an organization from the ground up with no blueprint to rely upon, you can only imagine how difficult and strenuous our task was. Let there be no mistake, there were many trying and difficult moments; moments where many of us probably wanted to run away, but we didn’t. We remained and worked things out as a unified team. We had many in the community doubt that we would even get off the ground, let alone see a one-year anniversary. But what kept us together was our vision and hope for our community. We had a vision to give it all we had. Yes, we have had our growing pains and will probably have more growing pains. At least I hope so-- because the key word here is "growth."

What do you see for the coming year?

We will continue to host our highly successful monthly Mix and Mingles. We will be hosting our very first Community Awards Banquet and Silent Auction on Saturday, June 20 at the Emily Morgan Hotel. We also are participating in a joint Pride Event with the Human Rights Campaign, the Stonewall Democrats and Gay Pride San Antonio.

Our goals are to continue to grow; to address and correct any issues of concern with our membership; to build alliances with other GLBT organizations; to foster and promote unity and pride within our community. Most importantly, we want to give that GLBT person out there-- who has ever felt less than another person, felt hopeless or ashamed of being who they are -- an organization where they can come be and a proud member of the community.

LGBT Chamber’s November mixer
Photos by Antonia Padilla, QSanAntonio.com, November 22

The San Antonio Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Chamber of Commerce had their monthly mixer on November 21 at the Radius Building on Auditorium Circle. Some of those in attendance included members of the Texas Gay Rodeo Association and singers from the Alamo City Men’s Chorale who also performed for the gathering.

GLBT Chamber monthly mixer
Photos by Antonia Padilla, September 26
Members of the San Antonio Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce held their first monthly mixer at the Fairmont Hotel on September 26. Special guest at the event was State Representative Joe Farias (top row, photo left in gray suit). Founder Cristina Martinez (top row, right photo) gave a brief address.

Viewpoint: Diversity is the key to success in business
By Cristina Martinez, Q San Antonio, August 16

There is a change ahead for all businesses, change that is shaped by demographics and markets. That change is the challenge of embracing not only diversity of race, gender, religion and political affiliation, but of sexual orientation as well. Any business hoping to survive and thrive in the future should be listening and acting now.

Not long ago, the gay market in the U.S. was largely undocumented. None of the Fortune 500 companies or major corporations had yet discovered the value of the gay and lesbian consumer. Today, market research is clearly defining and validating the GLBT market. For the first time in history, marketing executives and mainstream Americans are recognizing the financial clout of the gay community.

Gay and lesbian consumers account for over $660 billion of worth of spending power annually. By 2011 that figure will rise to $835 billion.* Businesses are finding that in order to survive and compete they must move into this market.

We live in an age when flexibility and creativity are the keys to competitiveness. Yet too often we operate from old stereotypes and fears. Part of the human condition, reflected in business, is the desire to cling to traditional and safe patterns. We find solace in those whose appearance and outlook reflects our own. However, what is needed is expansion and inclusiveness, working with new ideas and new people.

Diversity is the richest resource we have. It is the source of all creativity and innovation. No matter what the business, recognizing diversity benefits the individual, the organization and society as a whole.

Workplace diversity is no longer wishful thinking. It is an essential component of every successful business. The world is changing. Attitudes are changing. Gay and lesbian Americans finding acceptance in politics, media and in the boardroom.

Today, more than 80 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 now ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Over 50 percent of the Fortune 500 offer health and other benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees.**

As acceptance grows, companies, corporations and small businesses are reaching out to gay and lesbian consumers by expanding their marketing toward this very important market niche. And by doing so, they are finding success reflected in their bottom line.

Cristina Martinez is President and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Rainbow Pages and founder of the San Antonio Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

* Statistics cited from "The Gay and Lesbian Market in the U .S." (January 2007), a report published by market research firm Packaged Facts, in collaboration with gay and lesbian PR and marketing firm Witeck-Combs Communications Inc.

**Fortune Magazine, April 26, 2006, "Corporate America backs gay rights" by Marc Gunther. (http://money.cnn.com/2006/04/25/magazines/fortune/pluggedin_fortune/)

Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and Rainbow Pages Kickoff Party
Luther's Cafe, July 10, 2008

S.A.GLBT Chamber and Rainbow Pages celebrate kickoff
QSanAntonio, July 11

Over 300 people came to Luther’s Cafe on July 10 for a double celebration of two new community institutions. The big party marked the distribution of the inaugural edition of the Gay and Lesbian Rainbow Pages and the introduction of the Board of Directors and Advisory Board of San Antonio’s new Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

The driving force behind the festivities is Cristina Martinez, the Houston-based founder and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Rainbow Pages. Besides publishing a local edition of her directory in San Antonio, Martinez also was instrumental in the creation of the new Chamber of Commerce.

On April 5 of this year, Martinez brought together local GLBT business people and activists for the first organizing meeting. In three short months Martinez, with the help of San Antonian Robert Vargas, brought the new organization into existence.

Martinez says that she envisions that the Chamber will organize monthly mixers at member organizations, create networking opportunities and special events to foster business relationships, and grow commerce within the GLBT community. The Chamber would also promote San Antonio to national GLBT communities with a goal of bringing more business and people to the city.

The Chamber’s Board of Directors introduced on June10 includes: Darrell E. Parsons, President (psychotherapist); Tracye D. Hall, President Elect (club owner); Phillip G. Barcena, Vice President (President, Gay Pride S.A.); Gary Tapp, Treasurer (Wood Realty); Lisa Teshirogi, Secretary (Bank Of America); Rudy Lozano (Re/Max Fidelity); Nelda Hernandez (Liberty Mutual Insurance); Rodric E. Fitzgerald (Cobalt Group); and Grace Leslie (community activist).

The Chamber also announced the names of its Advisory Board: Cristina E. Martinez, Founder and President of Advisory Board, (owner of Gay & Lesbian Rainbow Pages); Elena Guajardo, Vice President Advisory Board (first openly gay City Council woman); Randy Cuniff (owner Heat Bar & Luther’s Cafe); Nancy Russell (realtor); Roberto Candelaria (community activist); and Dee Smith (ex-military and community activist).

The new San Antonio edition of the Gay and Lesbian Rainbow pages will be distributed free throughout San Antonio. For a list of distribution sites or to order a copy by mail go to RainbowPages.net.

For more information about the San Antonio GLBT Chamber of Commerce call Robert Vargas at 210-212-4700.

Taco Cabana backs out of catering for GLBT Chamber meeting
QSanAntonio, April 8

Organizers for the inaugural meeting for the San Antonio GLBT Chamber of Commerce revealed that Taco Cabana backed out of catering lunch for the April 5th event after the employee handling the order learned that it was a gay gathering.

Cristina Martinez, the main organizer for the event, told QSanAntonio that she called Taco Cabana’s catering department on April 3 to make arrangements with them to provide lunch for the 40 people who were planning to attend. Martinez says she spoke to a Taco Cabana employee who told her to call back the next day to finalize the arrangements and pay for the catering with her credit card.

On Friday, April 4, an article appeared in the business section of the San Antonio Express-News describing the upcoming GLBT Chamber meeting. When Martinez called back to pay for the catering, the Taco Cabana employee asked Martinez if the event was the one that appeared in the Express-News article. Martinez says that when she replied that it was, the Taco Cabana employee told her that he had gotten a lot of pre-paid orders and was too busy to cater the Chamber luncheon.

"He claimed that after we had spoken on April 3, he received many calls for catering and that they paid him and he accepted them," Martinez told QSanAntonio. "I reminded him that I offered to give him my credit card for the $492.58 but that he had told me to call back."

Martinez arranged for another caterer, however she contacted Taco Cabana again after the Chamber meeting. "I wanted the company to be aware that I had shared my experience with everyone at the meeting and that many individuals decided not to go back to Taco Cabana."

Martinez says that the Taco Cabana manager she spoke to offered his sincere apologies for what had transpired. "He said that if the Chamber had any other events that needed catering, Taco Cabana would be happy to do it."

In addition to the snub from Taco Cabana, Martinez says that Chamber organizers received seven anti-gay "hate" calls saying, among other things, that homosexuality is a sin, that Chamber organizers were going to Hell, that if the GLBT Chamber came into being there would be a backlash. "All I could say to them was that they were entitled to their own opinion," says Martinez. "Then, I just hung up."

Meeting addresses creation of S.A. GLBT Chamber of Commerce
QSanAntonio, April 8, 2008

Cristina Martinez, publisher of the Gay & Lesbian Rainbow Pages, welcomed over 40 people on April 5 to a roundtable discussion aimed at creating a San Antonio GLBT Chamber of Commerce.

In her address to attendees, Martinez explained that the purpose of establishing a GLBT Chamber of Commerce is to empower, support and promote the economic and cultural development of GLBT businesses, GLBT-allied and supportive businesses, non-profits and individuals in the San Antonio and surrounding areas.

Martinez also outlined the steps she envisioned in creating the new organization. The first order of business was the creation of a Steering/Advisory Committee whose members who would identify and nominate members with the necessary skills to serve on the first Board of Directors.

Steering/Advisory committee members will meet on a biweekly basis until which time all duties can be turned over to an established Board. Steering Committee members can self-nominate or be nominated for the first Board. Board nominations are due on April 30 and Board members will be elected on May 15.

Individuals who volunteered to be on the first Steering Committee were: Charles "Chad" Rembacki, Rodolfo "Rudy" Lozano, Antonia Padilla, Anel Flores, Nelda Hernandez
Dee Smith, Gary Tapp, Cristina Martinez, Roberto Candelaria, and Javier A. Flores.