Statewide LGBT business disparities to be addressed at public meeting

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is conducting a first-ever disparity study on businesses owned by marginalized communities, including LGBT people.

The state’s Department of General Services is leading the study on small diverse businesses, which includes minorities, veterans, disabled veterans, individuals with disabilities, women and LGBT people. 

Interested individuals can learn more about the study at a public meeting 1-5 p.m. Oct. 25 at Philadelphia City Council Chambers, 1400 John F. Kennedy Blvd. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about the study and offer testimony about experiences working in the local marketplace. Gov. Tom Wolf and members of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Congressional Black Caucus will attend. 

“People need to have their voice heard,” said Troy Thompson, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of General Services. “It’s not an issue that we can just walk away from. We have people who don’t believe these disparity issues exist and it’s unfortunate. Gov. Wolf has taken a step to have this study commissioned. He has charged Secretary [Curt] Topper and Deputy Secretary Kerry Kirkland to show that these are issues that are real. These are issues that will not go away unless they are addressed head on.” 

The study will examine participation of small diverse businesses in public contracting, measure the availability of these businesses for public contracts and assess the local marketplace conditions for these businesses. 

Thompson said the office is aware that small, diverse businesses face difficulties and disparities but the study aims to “fully understand the extent to which [they] face discrimination in state contracting processes.”

“We’re hoping to better understand what our small, diverse businesses are facing and then we will use the results of this study to help us determine what measures — whether they’re race, gender, disabled, LGBT or veteran-conscious measures — should be used to remedy the issues raised by the study.” 

Thompson added that the department will document concrete evidence about these disparities upon the study’s conclusion.

“We will institute whatever socially conscious measures or policy-conscious measures are necessary to remedy the issue to get us to where we need to be,” he said. “Under Gov. Wolf’s leadership, we are very excited to be able to have this study commissioned. It’s the first one that takes a statewide look at government contracting, and any biases that may be involved that prevent everyone from having a fair shot at a contracting opportunity with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”