SALT LAKE CITY — In between muscular men in speedos gyrating to thumping dance music and drag queens decked out in formal gowns, Salt Lake City’s gay pride parade also featured a few, more conventional participants: Some of America’s most well-known companies.
From Starbucks to eBay to Macy’s, the increasing visibility of corporations at the parade in Utah and at others across the country in recent years comes as same-sex marriage bans fall in the courts and polls show greater public acceptance of gay marriage.
In that climate, companies are finding that the benefits of sponsorship outweigh the risks of staying away, giving them a chance to make a statement in support of diversity and use it to help recruit and retain top talent who want to work for a business that supports LGBT rights.
“We understand there are people who might have different points of view on that,” said spokesman Michael Palese at Chrysler, which has been a sponsor of the Motor City Pride Festival and Parade in Detroit, Michigan, for years and became a primary backer this spring.
“We respect their point of view as long as they respect ours,” Palese said.
At many companies, support for pride parades and festivals is being fueled by internal Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender councils who are given small budgets and freedom to spend that money where they choose.
The continued transformation of the parades from small, defiant, sexually daring protests to family-friendly, mainstream celebrations has been on full display this summer as new companies join businesses that have been supporting the cause for years.