By Mike Ciriaco
"I think businesses ought to treat their customers right. Even their gay customers," said Sean Penn's titular character in the film Milk. In the never-ending battle for LGBT rights, economic equality is synonymous with social equality, and in a capitalistic society, every purchase is like casting a ballot. Gay consumers make a political statement anytime they decide which airline to fly, on which fast food to chow down and which hotels to patronize.
This necessity for queer-friendly accommodations inspired San Francisco-based Community Marketing, Inc to create the TAG Approved Program. Founded in 1997, the TAG recognizes “LGBT-welcoming” hotels, resorts and B&Bs that meet acceptance standards by adding them to a directory—a cost-effective way to reach gay and lesbian consumers throughout North America. Although a boon to gay travelers, TAG's primary motivation was to benefit 'out' hotel employees.
Seek out the following TAG-approved hotels, located in these Los Angeles regions: Downtown, Hollywood, West Hollywood, LAX, Westside, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, San Fernando Valley and Pasadena.
Find out more about the TAG Approved Program and view a map of TAG-approved hotels after the jump.
"When TAG started back in the 1990s, few hotel groups had supportive LGBT employment policies," explains David Paisley, Senior Projects Manager of Community Marketing, Inc. "Back then it was started largely to encourage domestic partner benefits to be added for hotel employees. We'd like to think we have had influence through the years, to the point today that nearly every major hotel group has near-perfect LGBT employee policies and procedures. Nearly every hotel group has a 100 percent Human Rights Campaign score."
For a hotel to qualify for TAG, it must meet six 'gay-welcoming' qualifications:
- Non-discrimination Policy. TAG members must have a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Equal Administration of Personnel Benefits. TAG members must treat heterosexual married couples and same-sex marriages, domestic partners and/or civil unions equally in their personnel policies.
- Diversity Training. All TAG members must provide LGBT-specific diversity training to their employees. TAG provides regular webinars on how to develop diversity training in hotels.
- Community Support Policy. TAG-approved hotels must support local communities through cash, gift certificate or in-kind support to local nonprofits. TAG strongly recommends including organizations that support the LGBT, AIDS/HIV or women’s communities.
- TAG as a Watchdog. By becoming a TAG-approved accommodation, property management acknowledges that both their customers and employees may become “watchdogs” of their business practices. TAG encourages both hotel employees and customers to contact TAG to report if the property does not follow required policies. It is policy for TAG to follow up on all complaints, and if it determines that the complaint is not being adequately addressed, or that the property does not meet TAG’s best practices qualifications, the property will be terminated as a TAG member.
- Significant Harm Policy. Situations can occur where a hotel meets the above qualifications, but an individual connected to the hotel does significant harm to LGBT equality. TAG reserves the right to terminate membership should these situations occur and the hotel does not adequately address the concern.
Most often, a hotel will be terminated not because it doesn't have gay-friendly policies but because it refuses to enforce them. "It is one thing to have standards in place; it is another to have successfully trained all your employees to follow those standards,” said Paisley.
Some might assume that violations of TAG policies occur in the larger, corporate-run hotels. Surprisingly, it's the smaller, independent ones that are more likely to infringe on gay comfort.
"Often these hotels don't have HR departments and have inconsistent training," says Paisley. "Another issue with small hotels is that they have very limited benefits, often not offering health coverage. In this case, we look for the equality of benefits. In many cases these hotels actually can become TAG-approved because they do in fact treat their employees equally."
Paisley believes the program has been a positive influence on not only the tourist industry but in all areas cornering LGBT consumerism.
"TAG was one of the groups working within the tourism industry that really tried to make tourism the leader in LGBT personnel policies and outreach. Tourism was really the first industry segment to step up to the plate for LGBT rights. It is gratifying to see that spread now to many segments, from retail to financial services to even car companies."