The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce rescinded Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s invitation to a gala where he would have been recognized for his leadership, organization officials said.
The group withdrew Baker’s invitation to the Best-of-the-Best awards dinner on Thursday. The dinner will take place April 26 to recognize those who promote diversity and inclusion, according to a statement from NGLCC President Justin Nelson and CEO Chance Mitchell.
“Our gala was to serve as an opportunity to recognize the Governor for that leadership, and to connect him with other honorees and policymakers focused on increasing opportunities for every American,” Nelson and Mitchell said in a joint statement.
Nelson and Mitchell said in the statement that when the NGLCC noticed Baker’s name on the roster of a GOP event in Las Vegas, they expressed disapproval to his staff. Baker, however, did not agree to avoid the event.
“His inclusion on the roster of the event in Las Vegas, coupled with his unwillingness to remove himself from the lineup after we brought our concerns to the attention of his staff, left us with no choice but the decision we made,” Nelson and Mitchell said in the statement.
The honorary invitation was in response to an executive order Baker passed in collaboration with the NGLCC, the statement said. Baker passed an executive order in November to include LGBT business owners in the commonwealth’s supplier diversity program, which requires equal access to state property bids.
“NGLCC will continue to push Governor Baker to bring the same level of proactive leadership he brought to the precedent-setting diverse business Inclusion Executive Order we championed together,” Nelson and Mitchell said in the statement.
In a statement, Baker expressed disappointment in the NGLCC’s decision.
“As the only governor in the country to recognize gay and lesbian owned businesses and as the only sitting Republican governor in the nation to sign the US Supreme Court amicus brief endorsing marriage equality, I am disappointed that some are putting partisan politics ahead of the sound public policy of treating gay and lesbian business owners with dignity and respect,” Baker said in the statement.
Baker said he still intends to support legislation designed to eradicate discrimination based on gender and sexuality.
“I continue to believe no one should be discriminated against based on gender identity, which is why I supported the transgender protections enacted in 2011 and look forward to reviewing further proposals should they reach my desk,” Baker said in the statement.
Jennifer Turner, a mentor program coordinator at the Boston Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services, said she was surprised Baker did not step away from the GOP event.
“Ultimately, he made the decision that he thought would generate more public approval,” Turner said. “It’s sad that he chose the GOP event over the NGLCC.”
Given Baker’s history as a supporter of LBGT rights, Turner said this decision might cause people to question the governor’s dedication to the cause.
“It definitely creates a little skepticism surrounding his general support for the LGBT community, and it’s unfortunate that political image matters more than taking a stand for something that you support,” Turner said.
Boston residents expressed mixed views about the actions of both Baker and the NGLCC.
Anthony Forde, 35, of Brighton, said he supports the NGLCC’s decision to retract its honor.
“The NGLCC was justified,” he said. “The GOP has been against gay rights for a long time, so it’s understandable that this organization would decide against honoring Baker after his association with them.”
Luis Gonzalez, 35, of Jamaica Plain, said he understands Baker’s commitment to the GOP event.
“I’m not familiar with Baker’s policies, but just because someone is a Republican doesn’t mean they don’t support gay rights,” he said.
Keisha Ward, 26, of Brighton, also said the NGLCC was wrong to criticize Baker for speaking at the GOP event.
“The GOP event seems completely unrelated to the award,” she said.