This City Sold The Naming Rights To Its Pride Parade To A Corporation—And People Are Pissed

Critics complain marginalized groups are being exploited "by corporations and organizations that do not have our best interests in mind."

Pittsburgh Pride is facing outrage as organizers have agreed to rename the parade after a corporate sponsor—one with a questionable record on LGBT rights and other progressive issues.

In January the Delta Foundation, which has organized Pittsburgh Pride for the last nine years, announced the June 11 Pittsburgh Pride Parade would be renamed the “EQT Equality March.” The new title is in honor of the event’s largest corporate sponsor, Equitable Gas (EQT), a local petroleum and natural gas company that’s been criticized by environmentalists for its fracking practices.

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 23:  Hundreds protest a Trump administration announcement this week that rescinds an Obama-era order allowing transgender students to use school bathrooms matching their gender identities, at the Stonewall Inn on February 23, 2017 in New York City. Activists and members of the transgender community gathered outside the historic LGTB bar to denounce the new policy.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Corporate sponsorship of Pride is nothing new, but actually putting the sponsor’s name in the parade is a new twist. Critics are especially outraged, given that EQT has given considerable campaign donations to anti-LGBT legislators. Last year, the company donated $10,000 to Republican state representative Bill Shuster, who said he was “disappointed” when the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, blaming “a handful of activist judges.”

In 2016, EQT gave $7,500 to Republican Congressman Tim Murphy, who voted against barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees.

In response to EQT’s takeover, another local LGBT organization, Sisters PGH, is launching a protest march on the same day, dubbed “the People’s Pride.”

“Pride has historically been about resisting,” Ciora Thomas told the Pittsburgh City Paper. “It’s about bringing visibility to a marginalized community. That’s the history of Pride. We’re trying to carry on that legacy.”

The Delta Foundation is no stranger to conflict: In 2015, the organization booked Iggy Azalea as a headliner, despite allegations she made racist and homophobic comments in the past. Opponents were also outraged Azalea was being paid more than the Delta Foundation had ever donated to community LGBT organizations.(Azalea was eventually dropped in favor of Nick Jonas.)

The complaints in 2015 are similar to the ones levied against renaming this year’s parade: That Pride shouldn’t just be an expensive party that mainly benefits the PR departments of large corporations. With events in D.C., L.A. and elsewhere being recalibrated into resistance marches many see the move as especially tone-deaf. (The theme at Pittsburgh Pride this year is actually “Rise Up.”)

“The people we serve are still suffering,” Sister PGH wrote on the Pittsburgh People’s Pride Facebook page, “[They’re] looking for a permanent solution to oppression and hardship, only to be exploited time and time again by corporations and organizations that do not have our best interests in mind and that do not put their profits back into the communities they harm.”

In 2014 environmental regulators levied a record $4.5 million fine against EQT for damages caused by the release of fracking fluids from a gas drilling site in Tioga County, causing a “major pollution incident.”

People’s Pride is scheduled to take place immediately following the EQT Equality March on June 11, so that local nonprofits that have already paid to participate in the official event can participate in both without losing money. Next year, Sisters PGH says it intends to hold another independent march, and donate all proceeds to local LGBT community organizations.

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