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Alibaba, China's Answer To eBay and Amazon, Throws Its Weight Behind Marriage Equality

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Alibaba is China’s answer to the West’s eBay and Amazon. The online commerce company made headlines last year after as it entered into the New York Stock Exchange with an IPO valued at $25 billion, the largest in world history. Incidentally, it's also pretty much the only investment that has maintained Yahoo's status as an economically viable business for the last few years. Suffice it to say that Alibaba is an economic force to be reckoned with. The company’s PR move in support of same sex marriage, however, makes it clear that it’s just as intent on winning over the public’s hearts as it is its wallets.

This Valentine’s Day TaoBao, one of Alibaba’s online shopping subsidiaries, is sponsoring massive ad campaign-cum travel context for 10 lucky same-sex couples who will receive trips to foreign countries where gay marriages are legal and recognize by local governments.

The contest, called We Do, is being backed by a number of big-name name Chinese businesses. Blued, China’s most successful geolocation-based social network, is signed on as a partner along with Bliss, a popular textile manufacturing company. As much of a goodwill gesture the campaign is, TechCrunch points out, it’s very much a well thought out attempt at tapping into the economic potential attached to China’s LGBT population.

All the same, We Do is one of the first and largest instances of a Chinese company openly showing support for LGBT rights in such a bold and stated way. TaoBao has invited its users to vote on a collection of gay couples to decide which 10 will travel to countries where they just might be able to tie the knot including the France, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the U.S.

While it’s almost certain that TaoBao and Alibaba’s intentions with We Do are primarily economic in nature, there’s something to be said for the companies’ unabashed support of marriage equality. Regardless of their intentions, the impact of the contest (and the implicit messaging behind it) could be invaluable in shifting the conversation about queer rights in China.

    


Gay Couple Evicted From Uber Cab For 'Kissing And Cuddling': VIDEO

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A gay couple in London, England say they were thrown out of an Uber cab for kissing and cuddling, reports ITV.com.

O-UBER-facebookJordan Sloan claims that on New Year’s Day, the cab driver “pulled over and told us to get out.”

After evicting Sloan and his partner Corey Watts, the driver allegedly said "I take gays but they don't normally do this."

Toronto native Sloan said:

"I've never had any homophobic stuff happen to me so I was caught off guard. You don't expect it to happen in one of the world's biggest cities. I wanted to understand what he was thinking so I asked the driver: 'Would you do the same thing if it was a guy and a girl?'"

In a statement, an Uber spokesperson said:

“Uber does not tolerate any form of discrimination either by our partner drivers or towards our partner drivers.

"We opened an investigation from the moment we learned of this unacceptable incident and have been in contact with the rider to extended our sincere apologies and get further information."

The couple were charged for their journey but later refunded.  

The cab driver has been suspended while the incident is under investigation.

Although Watts has received mostly messages of support on Twitter, some of the feedback - including Uber driver @PhDCab - was less than enlightened.

Last April, an Uber drive in Paris, France was fired for refusing to pick up two gay customers.

In July, Uber provided 8 lucky couples spontaneous weddings in San Francisco in celebration of the city's Pride event and marriage equality. 

Watch a video of Uber's San Francisco wedding celebration, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe Launches LGBT Tourism Task Force - VIDEO

6a01a3fd2097df970b01bb07addc44970d-250wiVirginia has announced the formation of the state’s first LGBT Tourism Task Force, reports Loudon Times.

Made public during the Virginia-1 Tourism Summit in Reston yesterday by Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, the task force aims to showcase Virginia as a gay-friendly state for both residents and visitors.

According to state tourism officials, the task force is the second of its kind in the nation and the first in the South.

Secretary of Commerce Maurice Jones will head up the panel comprised of “industry stakeholders, LGBT community members and business leaders,” said McAuliffe.

McAuliffe’s address focused on the broad impact the $21.5 billion tourism industry has on state's economy:

“Tourism plays an important role in attaining that goal, building communities, and helping drive the new Virginia economy.” We have an opportunity to build upon the progress Virginia made this year in achieving marriage equality and ensure that visitors across the globe know that the commonwealth is open and welcoming to all.”

Jones added:

“Tourism has consistently proven to be a sound investment for Virginia. It is an instant revenue generator, channeling millions of dollars into the Commonwealth’s coffers and into the revenue stream to local governments.”

Watch McAuliffe speak at the conference, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Hate Group Leader Tony Perkins Attacks Tim Cook, Hints At Apple Boycott - LISTEN

6a00d8341c730253ef01a73d7033c4970d-200wiHomophobe Tony Perkins, the leader of listed hate group Family Research Council has taken umbrage with Apple CEO Tim Cook’s decision to come out, reports Good As You.

Last month, Perkins claimed that gay rights are part of a wider "anti-life" agenda to end humanity as we know it.  In February he attacked Disney for featuring a same-sex couple on ‘Good Luck Charlie.’

Although it goes without saying that Perkins and co. will jump on any anti-gay bandwagon, he is less than happy when business leaders take a pro-equality stance. Back in April for example, and with a complete lack of insight, Perkins weighed in on the Chick-Fil-A controversy by claiming that “tolerance is a one-way street for [people who seek equal rights]. What they want to do is force the rest of America not to just to tolerate but to celebrate what they're doing.”

With his finger firmly on the pulse, Perkins says that Cook's announcement has "upset the apple cart" and hints at a potential boycott:

"When companies get involved in cultural battles, every consumer is forced to take part. As conservatives we aren’t looking for businesses to take our side - we just want them to be neutral. Of course, Tim Cook has the right to express his views but consumers have rights too, including the right to respond. As Christians we’re called to be good stewards of god’s money...and apps like 2nd Vote and Faith-Driven Consumer help shoppers do exactly that. Let’s face it, money talks and corporate America is listening.”

Who wouldn't love to see Family Research Council boycott Apple for Christmas?

Listen, AFTER THE JUMP...

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California Governor Jerry Brown Extends Minority Provisions To LGBT Business Owners

BrownCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a historic bill that will result in new opportunities for certified businesses owned by LGBT people, reports SDGLN.com.

Brown is known for his pro-LGBT advocacy. Last week, he outlawed the "gay panic" defense in court. In August, he signed a bill that will provide unprecedented protections for transgender students in California.

The new law means that starting in 2015, public utilities in the state will be required to extend to LGBT certified business owners existing provisions already granted to those owned by ethnic minorities, women, and disabled veterans.

The law - which came about through testimony and advocacy by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) - is believed to be the first bill of its kind in the United States. It defines an “LGBT business enterprise” as one that is at least 51% owned by an LGBT person or persons, or, in the case of any publicly owned company, at least 51% of the stock is to be owned by a LGBT individual or individuals.

Justin Nelson, NGLCC co-founder and president of NGLCC, said:

"Gov. Brown has further added to his impressive record on economic development and LGBT issues with his signing of this bill into law. We are very proud of the hard work of our team, all seven of our California Local Affiliate Chambers, our certified LGBT business owners, the California Small Business Association and other allied organizations that made this law not only our priority, but also their priority. We also are grateful for the wide support of this law from diverse business communities and the unwavering and consistent support from AT&T and Southern California Edison.”

NGLCC co-founder and CEO Chance Mitchell added:

“The LGBT business community owes a huge debt of gratitude to [lead sponsors] Assemblyman Gordon and Sen. Leno for their hard work in passing this bill that will have real impact on the lives of LGBT California business owners and the many Californians employed by them.”


VentureOut Fund Seeks To Invest in LGBT-led Startups

VentureOut-Logo-with-text-300x200Launch Angels, a Boston area venture capital firm, is looking to breathe life into fledgling startups helmed by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender founders with its VentureOut Fund. Much of the innovation that comes out of Silicon Valley is a direct result of angel investing, VC funding, and mentorship within startup incubators. Currently in the process of raising $2 Million from some 15-20 investors, VentureOut hopes to connect with 15-20 startups currently in their seed stage.

Affinity funding, the idea of investors partnering together around a central idea or purpose, has been Launch Angels CEO Shereen Shermak’s primary focus in guiding the firm. Currently Launch Angels has focused primarily on mobile and consumer companies, but it’s looking to diversify its portfolio.

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“So many more folks are out of the closet in the business world than were even five years ago,” Said Greg Wiles, the managing director of the VentureOut Fund. According to Wiles, funds like VentureOut would have languished in the recent past, considering that the world of venture capitalist is composed of primarily straight, white men.

VentureOut, says Wiles, wants to set its fund apart by reaching out to those founders who might have an amazing idea, but perhaps not as much experience with the startup world. Moreover, the fund sees the potential in tapping into the closely-knit, grassroots-y social networks that are often the driving force behind social causes spearheaded by LGBT organizations.


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