Timeline: Starbucks history of LGBTQIA2+ inclusion
For more than three decades, Starbucks has been committed to building a culture where everyone is welcome. We stand as an ally to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community – affirming every way people may choose to identify. Here’s a look at the company’s LGBTQIA2+ support and advocacy.
Starbucks History of LGBTQIA2+ Inclusion
Advocating for Federal Recognition of Marriage Equality
In December 2022, the U.S. reached an important milestone when the Respect for Marriage Act was signed into law, reflecting broad support for same-sex and interracial marriages. Starbucks chief global public policy counsel Zulima Espinel shared Starbucks ongoing commitment to advance inclusion and equity for all in a letter to partners.
In July, Starbucks joined more than 170 organizations and the Human Rights Campaign in urging the U.S. Senate to pass the Respect for Marriage Act. As we continue to stand up for our partners and their families, this statement reaffirms our support for marriage equality and our long history of advancing inclusion and equity for all.
Awarding grants for nonprofits
Between June 2021 and May 2022, The Starbucks Foundation has provided more than 300 grants to non-profit organizations supporting LGBTQIA2+ communities, totaling more than $700,000. Many of these organizations were nominated by partners based on neighborhood partnerships they have developed in service of their local communities.
Supporting causes important to partners
Starbucks makes $50,000 donation to the National Center for Transgender Equality, which advocates for policies that increase understanding and acceptance of transgender people.
Protecting the Rights of LGBTQIA2+ partners and communities
Starbucks joined over 170 companies and the Human Rights Campaign in an advocacy statement to address and oppose policy actions or legislation that discriminate against the LGBTQIA2+ community. The statement reiterates our position that every person deserves consistent protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Supporting vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community
Starbucks donates $50,000 to the Lavender Rights Project to support providing low-cost legal services for transgender and queer low-income people and other marginalized communities in Washington state and $50,000 to the National Center for Transgender Equality to increase understanding and acceptance of trans people across the United States.
Dennis Brockman named chief inclusion & diversity officer
Starbucks appoints the Dennis Brockman as chief inclusion and diversity officer, now reporting directly to the company’s chief executive officer. Brockman, a 13-year partner, is dedicated to ensuring inclusive perspectives are represented at the company’s highest levels.
Recognition for workplace equality
Starbucks receives a 100 percent score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index based on corporate policies and practices for LGBTQ equality for the 11th year.
Awarding grants for local LGBTQ+ nonprofits
The Starbucks Foundation awards 88 grants during the calendar year to nonprofit organizations supporting LGBTQ+ communities, totaling more than $150,000. Many of these organizations were nominated by partners based on neighborhood partnerships they have developed in service of their local communities.
Help during COVID-19
Donates a combined $100,000 to the Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Transgender Equality in honor of Pride Month to aid in their support for vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community due to the impacts of COVID-19.
Awarding grants for local LGBTQ+ nonprofits
The Starbucks Foundation announces it has awarded 100 grants to nonprofit organizations supporting LGBTQ+ communities, totaling more than $300,000. Many of these organizations were nominated by partners based on neighborhood partnerships they have developed in service of their local communities.
Recognition for workplace equality
Starbucks receives a 100 percent score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index based on corporate policies and practices for LGBTQ+ equality for the tenth year.
Starbucks UK launches #whatsyourname campaign to celebrate the significant act for some transgender and gender diverse people as they use their new name in public. As part of this campaign, £100,000 was raised for the charity Mermaids to support a helpline for young trans people and their families.
Amending names on transgender partners’ birth certificates
In support of Brazil’s National Trans Day of Visibility on January 29, Starbucks in Brazil, launched the “I Am” (“Eu Sou”) annual project to offer free legal support for transgender partners seeking to amend their names and genders on their birth certificates. With permission from participants, the emotional journey was documented and the video won the Grand Prix at the 2021 Cannes Lions Festival and an Effie Award.
Building a culture of inclusion and diversity
Starbucks appoints the company’s first chief inclusion and diversity officer, responsible for the company’s global inclusion and diversity strategy.
Helping partners expand their families
Expands fertility benefits beyond adoption expenses in an effort to assist partners whose needs may not be met by their health care insurance company, such as same-gender couples looking to become parents or individuals seeking fertility services. The Family Expansion Reimbursement Program covers up to $10,000 for adoption, surrogacy or intrauterine insemination, up to a lifetime maximum of $30,000. The company also increases lifetime maximums for fertility benefits under all Starbucks medical plans to $25,000 for fertility services and $10,000 for prescription drugs.
In collaboration with Arizona State University, Starbucks releases its To Be Welcoming curriculum with 15 free courses available to the public online designed to address bias through understanding the human experience, including the intersectional courses Welcoming Dialogue on Sexuality Bias and Welcoming Dialogue on Gender Bias.
Teaming up with Born This Way Foundation
Starbucks and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation come together to help make the world a more compassionate and welcoming place for the LGBTQ community. During Pride Month (June 1-30), The Starbucks Foundation is matching donations to Born This Way, up to $250,000, to make a kinder, braver world.
New and current partners can now choose to self-identify with the company as LGBTQ – similar to other identifications, such as disability, refugee, veteran and military spouse. The option was the result of efforts by the Pride Alliance partner network to create another way to build upon the company’s commitment to the inclusion and diversity of all partners.
Advocating for Civil Rights Protection
Starbucks joined over 200 companies to file a joint amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of LGBTQ rights. The landmark briefing argues that existing federal civil rights law should protect LGTBQ people from discrimination in contexts ranging from employment to housing, healthcare and education. To file the brief the company worked with prominent civil rights groups the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, Out & Equal, Out Leadership, and Freedom for All Americans.
Starbucks also joined the Human Rights Campaign’s Business Coalition in support of the Equality Act, a bill that would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, the workplace, public accommodations, and other settings under federal law. The Equality Act has since passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.
20 years of Pride
Two decades after Starbucks partners marched in its first Pride Parade in Seattle, hundreds of Starbucks Pride Alliance partners, friends and family join Pride events in London (above) and around the world.
Expanded benefits for transgender partners
Starbucks broadens its health insurance options for transgender partners to not only include gender reassignment surgery (which had been covered since 2013), but also a host of procedures that were previously considered cosmetic, such as breast reduction or augmentation surgery, facial feminization, hair transplants and more. “Starbucks is taking a stand and standing up for trans people and saying that our procedures aren’t just cosmetic – they are lifesaving. They’re affirming,” said Ron Crawford, vice president of benefits at Starbucks.
Supporting local LGBTQ+ communities in Brazil
Starting in 2018, Starbucks in Brazil has worked with local advocacy groups, such as Casa 1 (Sao Paulo) and Grupo Arco-Iris (Rio de Janeiro), among others, to support LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts through the donation of Starbucks product sales such as the Pride Frappuccino® and t-shirts, to help those in vulnerable situations due to their sexual orientation.
The Starbucks Foundation contributes $50,000 to the OneOrlando Fund to help people and families impacted by the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla.
Calling for equal treatment
Starbucks joins with more than 200 other business leaders to urge equal treatment for the LGBTQ community. Lucy Helm, then general counsel and now chief partner officer, shares a letter to partners underscoring Starbucks commitment to inclusion. “From our very earliest days, we have strived to create a company and culture that treats everyone – partners and customers alike – with respect and dignity,” Helm wrote. “We will continue to champion these values and to stand for our partners, our customers and our communities.”
A perfect score
Starbucks earns 100 out of 100 for the first time on the 2015 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), an initiative administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation on corporate policies and practices as a top employer for LGBTQ workplace equality.
Say my name
In order to help partners in self-identification, Starbucks updates its technology systems to ensure that documentation in stores reflect a partner’s “known as” name or nickname that is consistent with their gender identity or expression. This is an especially meaningful move for transgender partners, who now see their preferred name each time they log in for a shift.
Creating safe spaces
Seattle Police Department Safe Place program rolls out to Starbucks stores in Seattle, with special designation as secure places for victims of anti-LGBTQ-related crimes and harassment. More than 2,000 store partners receive SPD Safe Place training and window clings identify the 100 participating company-owned stores in the greater Seattle area.
Marriage equality becomes the law of the land in the United States thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling. Earlier in the year, Starbucks had signed on to The People’s Brief in favor of the decision.
Starbucks flies the Pride flag atop its Seattle headquarters for the first time. “Given our public stance on diversity and inclusion of all people, particularly on this issue, it makes sense to raise the flag in celebration,” said Lucy Helm, then-general counsel who is now chief partner officer for Starbucks. “Being open, inclusive and forward-thinking is at the core of what Starbucks is about.”
A vocal statement
Starbucks chairman and chief executive officer Howard Schultz makes a vocal statement on diversity and equality during a spontaneous exchange at the 2013 Starbucks Annual Meeting of Shareholders. In response to a stockholder who voiced his view that the company had lost customers because of its support for marriage equality, Schultz said. “Not every decision is an economic decision. The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people.”
Expanding transgender partner support
Starbucks supports transgender partners by adding coverage of gender reassignment surgery to the company’s health benefits.
Promoting marriage equality
Starbucks files an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. The year before, the company had joined with other Pacific Northwest employers in supporting marriage equality legislation in Washington state.
Starbucks joins (RED)™ to help invest in AIDS programs in Africa through the Global Fund.
Starbucks Pride partner affinity group officially becomes the Starbucks Pride Alliance Network.
A culture of belonging
Starbucks issues Workplace Gender Transition Guidelines to support partners who are transgender or considering transitioning to promote understanding of fair and equitable treatment of transgender and gender-diverse partners.
‘The Way I See It’
Starbucks includes a quote from author Armistead Maupin on its cups as part of its “The Way I See It” series, a collection of thoughts and expressions printed on the back of Starbucks cups to inspire conversation.
The Human Rights Campaign’s first Corporate Equality Index includes Starbucks in its national benchmarking tool on LGBTQ corporate policies and practices with a score of 86.
LGBTQ partners meet informally at Seattle area bars which eventually becomes Starbucks LGBTQ partner affinity group. The group goes on to become the Starbucks Pride Partner Network and grows to include thousands of partners around the world.
Starbucks creates a new healthcare policy for employees with terminal illnesses to bridge the gap between the time they can no longer work until they become eligible for government insurance. The policy was inspired by Jim Kerrigan, a longtime partner who found he was unable to work due to the advanced stages of AIDS. Kerrigan died a year later, but hundreds of partners would continue to march in his memory to support AIDS research and programs.
Starbucks offers full health benefits to eligible full- and part-time employees, including coverage for same-sex domestic partnerships.