Yelp listings that typically indicate whether businesses accept credit cards or offer Wi-Fi will now display a new designation for businesses that declare themselves “Open to all” by taking an online anti-discrimination pledge. Starting today, more than 1,000 small businesses like Ritual Coffee Roasters and larger employers like Levi’s and Airbnb are already declaring that they will “maintain a welcoming and safe environment for people — including employees, visitors, customers, vendors and clients — regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion or disability” according to the language of the pledge.
In return for their online word, those businesses will receive a special Yelp designation alongside their hours and location listing, plus a physical sticker to display at their business — a circular badge along the lines of the ubiquitous “People Love Us on Yelp” signs.
“No matter their identity, people should be able to live with dignity and feel free to eat, shop, and gather in public spaces without fear of being turned away because of who they are,” Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc, said in a press call for the Open to All initiative.
Yelp is just a partner, not the creator, of the Open to All initiative — a coalition of more than 175 businesses and organizations that was developed by the Movement Advancement Project, or MAP, a think tank promoting LGBT rights. It’s in large part a response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a narrow ruling in favor of a baker that refused to make a cake for the wedding of a same-sex couple. The initiative also comes in response to high-profile incidents of racial bias at businesses like Starbucks.
Of course, there’s a substantial difference between displaying a welcoming sign to customers and actually practicing nondiscrimination. “What if an Open to All business doesn’t appear to be open to all?,” reads a FAQ on the Open to All website. The answer: “If a business has mistreated a customer, client, vendor or employee in violation of state or federal nondiscrimination laws, it might be appropriate to approach one of the legal organizations who are part of the Open to All coalition to discuss the matter further.”
That could help, assuming legal recourse against LGBT discrimination is possible in the state where it occurs. 60 percent of states still lack express protections for LGBT people according to an ACLU representative. One major goal of the Open to All initiative: Expanding those protections through public engagement.