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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — As a Mexican-American woman who started her personal consulting firm in Los Angeles, accountant Sonia Luna has taken advantage of applications aimed at assisting minority- and women-owned companies compete for government and corporate contracts. But increasingly, the fact that Luna also is a lesbian entrepreneur hasn't hurt either.

Federal agencies, organizations such as the National Football League and more than 1-third of Fortune 500 corporations are now attempting to expand their vendor pools by explicitly encouraging bids from gay, lesbian and transgender contractors.

The tiny-known outreach efforts mirror extended-standing "supplier diversity" initiatives aimed at producing financial opportunities for corporations owned by racial minorities, women and disabled veterans.

"It makes it possible for me to be even prouder of who I am," mentioned Luna, who hopes her firm, Aviva Spectrum, will benefit from a new California law requiring massive utility firms to report how a lot they commit with LGBT contractors. "And it permits the marketplace to acknowledge a class that has been denied recognition as a minority group."

The trend has not been with no controversy.

While running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in California this year, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly let his supporters know he voted against the groundbreaking utility contract law that took impact Jan 1.

"Government-mandated discrimination in favor of some market participants and against other people is the extremely antithesis of equal opportunity, fair play and free competitors," Donnelly mentioned.

Public agencies are prohibited under California law from using race, sex or ethnicity in the awarding of contracts, and the new law does not develop any preferences or set-asides for LGBT-owned enterprises. As an alternative, state regulators will soon contemplate whether to set voluntary percentage targets for utilities such as Verizon, Pacific Gas & Electric and AT&T to meet.

To be certified as LGBT-owned, companies qualify via a procedure overseen by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, a 12-year-old advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. Applicants will have to submit documents proving ownership and prove their lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual status via individual references or other evidence.

Over 700 organizations have completed the approach in the last decade while the LGBT chamber has worked with corporations — and, because President Barack Obama took office, with the U.S. Smaller Business enterprise Administration — to recruit those firms as potential suppliers.

A growing quantity of businesses — like IBM, PepsiCo, ConAgra Foods, Marriott International and American Airlines — have not too long ago started tracking how significantly they invest with LGBT contractors.

Denise Naguib, Marriott's vice president of sustainability and supplier diversity, said about 1 percent of the hotel giant's $450 million "diverse spend" last year was with gay-owned enterprises that supplied everything from technologies and furniture to translation services and flowers.

When it comes to winning a piece of the $500 billion worth of goods and solutions the U.S. government buys from private businesses each year, federal law does not recognize gay-owned enterprises as it does firms owned by veterans, girls, African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, and Asian Indians.

LGBT chamber President Justin Nelson stated that is unlikely to modify below the existing Congress. Nelson said he hopes to persuade Obama to problem an executive order equivalent to one particular Bill Clinton signed that directed government departments to create plans for awarding five percent of their procurement dollars to females-owned providers.

The SBA has for the last 3 years participated in a contracting fair hosted by the LGBT chamber to give gay organization owners access to federal procurement officers from much more than a dozen departments. Final year, the agency also co-sponsored an financial empowerment tour that was designed to attain organization persons who had been both gay and members of racial minority groups.

Deputy Associate Administrator Eugene Cornelius Jr. mentioned the agency's involvement stemmed from a June 2009 memo Obama issued instructing his department heads to make certain their policies and programs did not discriminate against LGBT persons as far as federal law would allow. But the SBA also sees targeting LGBT firms as consistent with its mandate to serve other underrepresented groups, Cornelius said.

"What we can do is educate the federal government and regional government that this community makes up the very communities they are trying to attain," he said.

In California, the NFL created history in November when the league and the nonprofit committee responsible for producing the 2016 Super Bowl invited gay-owned providers for the 1st time to a series of workshops where smaller suppliers heard about how they might money in on the action. The game is scheduled to be played at the San Francisco 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara, California.

The outreach already has paid off in a smaller way for San Francisco photographer Christopher Dydyk, who heard about the Super Bowl contracting fairs from the Golden Gate Organization Association, a single of the nation's 70 or so gay chambers of commerce.

He met a representative from the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee at a single of the events and was hired to document the launch of the committee's charitable arm this month.

Dydyk mentioned he by no means would have thought to seek perform in the Super Bowl, let alone that his getting gay would open any doors.

"It's like when they are going via bids — this a single is lady-owned and this a single is minority-owned — it aids you stand out a tiny bit a lot more," he said, "like putting perfume on a resume."