Internal protests could ban Google from next SF Pride march

Google is unable to escape internal criticism for practices that appear to discriminate against LGBT communities.


Amp Somers and Celso Dulay (r) are suing Google for discriminatory practices. They were petitioning for a ban on Google marching.

Several Google engineers and activists petitioned the board of the San Francisco Pride March -- the largest Pride celebration in the US -- to ban Google from future marches, accusing it of discriminatory practices towards LGBT communities.

Two legal plaintiffs that are part of a lawsuit against Google: Amp Somers and Celso Dulay (above) also attended the meeting, saying that YouTube had banned their LGBT-oriented channels while allowing other channels to broadcast hate speech aimed at their communities.  

The San Francisco Pride march has millions of viewers and has become a key platform for large corporations that are eager to showcase the diversity of their employees and their inclusive culture. It is a key part of recruitment drives.

Google engineers in June had tried to persuade the board to ban Google from the 50th anniversary of Pride and presented an open letter of support signed by more than 140 Google staff.

SEE: Transgender employees in tech: Why this "progressive" industry has more work to do to achieve true gender inclusivity (TechRepublic cover story)

The board had rejected their demands but offered a process to hear their grievances. However, at the most recent meeting, the board was severely criticized for ignoring emails and other forms of communication and for leaving just a few minutes at the end of the meeting for input from more than 20 members.

Some of the members speaking at the meeting were critical of the large number of corporate contingents marching in the parade, and of the large number of police in attendance. They pointed to the origins of the Pride in the Stonewall riots of 1969 as a way of protesting discrimination and injustice and also police brutality. And that the corporate nature of the event had alienated local San Francisco neighborhood restaurants and clubs from taking part.

The board of San Francisco Pride faces an election in mid-September, which could result in a more radical leadership that is willing to listen and act on LGBT issues and hold corporations accountable to their diversity policies -- and ban those that continue with discriminatory practices.

A ban on marching in San Francisco Pride would be highly embarrassing for Google. Its HQ is nearby.

The tech giant has had to deal with much higher activism among its staff over the past two years. Thousands took part in walkouts to protest Google's lax efforts around sexual harassment at work and paying exiting executives tens of millions of dollars.

Google created a special doodle slideshow for this year's Pride celebration.

Before this year's Pride 2019, Google warned staff that they are not allowed to protest the company if they choose to walk with the official Google contingent. (Below is a short clip of the 2019 Google marchers 00 one of them has a placard "Hate Speech is Violence.)