A group of LGBTQ Google employees is lobbying San Francisco's Pride organizers to remove their company from the city’s Pride celebration.
In a letter published on Medium addressed to San Francisco Pride leadership, the Googlers called for the organization to remove Google as a Pride sponsor and to rescind its invitation to appear in Sunday's Pride parade.
The letter argues that Google-owned YouTube permits hate and discrimination and the company’s participation in Pride amounts to “a rainbow veneer of support.”
“We have spent countless hours advocating for our company to improve policies and practices regarding the treatment of LGBTQ+ persons, the depiction of LGBTQ+ persons, and harassment and hate speech directed at LGBTQ+ persons, on YouTube and other Google products,” the letter’s authors write.
Google drew ire from the LGBTQ community this month for its policy decisions on YouTube, particularly for its determination that conservative pundit Stephen Crowder did not violate the platform's rules in his repeated attacks on Vox host Carlos Maza. Maza is a frequent target for Crowder, who has called him “a lispy queer" among other insults targeting Maza's sexual orientation. “Every single video has included repeated, overt attacks on my sexual orientation and ethnicity,” Maza said of Crowder's actions.
YouTube made the call in early June that Crowder did not violate its policy against hate speech. “... While we found language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don’t violate our policies,” the company wrote in a tweet addressing the situation at the time.
Following an outcry against its decision, YouTube opted to demonetize Crowder's channel, first saying Crowder would be punished until he removed links to t-shirts he sells that say “Socialism Is For Fags” and then stating that his channel faced demonetization for “[harming] the broader community.”
The same day, YouTube announced changes to its hate speech rules to disallow videos “alleging that a group is superior” in order to justify discrimination against based sexual orientation, among other identifiers.
Internally, some Google employees planned to protest Google's record on LGBTQ issues while marching within the company's parade contingent, through t-shirts or signage.
But as The Verge reported earlier this week, Googlers were told that this behavior was forbidden. “Employees are free to make whatever statement they want personally, apart from our corporate sponsored float/contingent,” a Google inclusion leader told Google's internal “Gayglers” group. “But they are not permitted to leverage our platform to express a message contradictory to the one Google is expressing.” Inside Google, the Gaygler community is divided on the ongoing controversy.
At the time of writing, the letter calling for Google's removal from Pride festivities had around 100 signatures. While 100 employees within a company of more than 85,000 is a very small contingent, the group calling for change is indicative of broader tensions within the LGBTQ community, many of which surface during Pride Season.
As Pride events have become increasingly mainstream and commercial in recent years, a counter movement within the community has pushed for the celebrations to realign around Pride’s protest roots, center marginalized voices, and reject corporate overtures.
Aligning with this view, the group of Googlers in their Medium letter called on San Francisco Pride to honor the spirit of this year's theme, Generations of Resistance. “We ask you to join us in resisting LGBTQ+ oppression on the internet, and the subjugation of our right to equality in favor of calculated business concerns,” the letter states. “The first Pride was a protest, and so now must this Pride be one.”
“We do not make this request without serious consideration of the alternatives,” the letter, first reported by Bloomberg, stated. “Whenever we press for change, we are told only that the company will ‘take a hard look at these policies.’ But we are never given a commitment to improve, and when we ask when these improvements will be made, we are always told to be patient.”
A Google spokesperson told The Daily Beast, “Google has marched in the San Francisco Pride Parade for more than a decade and we are excited to continue the tradition this weekend. We are grateful for SF Pride’s partnership and leadership.”
The Daily Beast reached out to San Francisco Pride and will update this story if we receive comment.