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Gay becomes the new green 

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Though I'm partial to Magic Brownies, Half Baked and Phish Food, this month I'm getting my Ben and Jerry's fix through a personally heretofore unexplored flavor: "Chubby Hubby."

Or "Hubby Hubby," as it has been called in Vermont this month.

In keeping with its quirky corporate culture and commitment to social justice, Ben and Jerry's has temporarily changed the name of its legendary "Chubby Hubby" ice cream to honor the legalization of gay marriage in the company's home state of Vermont, where the change went into effect Sept. 1.

This clever promotion joins other corporations rushing to drink from the LGBT water spout. Businesses are defining themselves as gay-friendly with the energy and enthusiasm once reserved for embracing the labels "environmentally friendly" and "eco-conscious." Apparently, gay is the new green.

Earlier this summer, Orbitz made waves with the subtle detail of a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) logo stitched onto the polo shirt of a male character in a TV commercial. HRC is the nation's leading LGBT advocacy group (despite the conspicuous, and perplexing, absence of "gay" in its name).

Stepping further out of the closet, Progressive Insurance has launched a major ad campaign targeting gays, complete with catchy slogans ("Living up to your name, now that's progressive" and "Being ahead of your time is never easy") plus a Facebook page (Faces of Pride).

Levi Strauss & Co., the quintessential American jean company, last May adorned store mannequins with "White Knots," a trendy gay-marriage support symbol that's been sported by the likes of actress Anne Hathaway, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and comedienne Kathy Griffin.

Perhaps nothing, however, is more indicative of an emerging national movement than when the trendiest of trendsetters — Google — jumps on the bandwagon. And indeed it has, creating a rainbow-colored divider that topped all gay-related searches during Pride season this year.

Here in Colorado Springs, we're following suit, contrary to our anti-gay reputation. As in the past few years, July's PrideFest saw another tangible outpouring of support. The list of sponsors and advertisers has been a virtual "who's who" of the local scene: Heuberger Subaru, Bristol Brewing Co., Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. and the Melting Pot, among others.

Phantom Canyon's advertisement, repeated from last year, in particular was worthy of a double-take: a large full-color ad for its third-floor event room, featuring a fuzzy picture of ... wait for it ... two brides exchanging vows.

In the backyard of Focus on the Family, New Life Church and the military-industrial complex? That takes guts. (Dear Phantom Canyon marketing director: You have my undying loyalty. Railyard Ale on me next time.)

The national trend makes sense. The LGBT community is an attractive demographic group for advertisers; conservative estimates put the value of our consumer dollars at more than $700 billion. Further, consumer loyalty is stronger among marginalized groups like gays. We don't see ourselves validated or reflected in most mainstream ads, so when a company does try to market to us, we feel a deep commitment to support their efforts.

What's really refreshing, though, is when a company backs it up with policies and benefits that ensure equal treatment for LGBT employees. This is where companies like Ben and Jerry's (owned by Unilever), Subaru, Orbitz, Progressive, Levi's, Google and yes, even MillerCoors, deserve recognition. These companies are a handful of only 305 businesses to earn a perfect score in the HRC's most recent Corporate Equality Index, which annually measures U.S. employers on their treatment of and policies toward gays.

As much as I'd like to believe these companies want equal rights for everyone (many hopefully do), the plain truth is that the bottom line is profit; cash is king, and capitalism is indeed alive and well. (The perfect example is Coors, whose founding family is well-known for staunch conservatism.)

These companies are reading the tea leaves. They understand the battle for equal rights and diversity is a generational struggle. And they are shrewdly positioning themselves for the time when the leaf patterns spell fortune even beyond the $700 billion out there right now.

In the meantime, when I get married, I'm holding the ceremony at Phantom Canyon's third-floor banquet room.

Kristin Lynch is a local writer. Visit her site, springstoaster.com, for local gay news and podcasts.

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