Metro Weekly

Corporations drop sponsorships of “Person of the Year” gala to protest Bolsonaro’s anti-LGBTQ record

Delta Airlines becomes latest company to withdraw support for event honoring Brazilian president as "Person of the Year"

Jair Bolsonaro – Photo: Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil.

At least three large corporations have dropped their sponsorships for an event in New York honoring Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro due to his history of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and various stances opposing LGBTQ equality.

The event in question is the “Person of the Year” gala, organized by the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce, which is scheduled for May 14 at the New York Marriott Marquis, located in Times Square. Bolsonaro was reportedly awarded the titular honor for, among other reasons, emphasizing “the importance of Christian values and family.”

Since taking office, Bolsonaro has systematically tried to erase any recognition of LGBTQ families and, as his first order upon taking office, demanded that Brazil’s human rights ministry not concern itself with any complaints alleging anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

He opposes same-sex adoption, even going so far as to slander same-sex couples by accusing them of wanting to recruit children for sex and insisting that gay parents sexually abuse their children. He has also made comments that he’d prefer his son to die in an accident or be a drug addict than be gay, has threatened violence against gay men if he saw them kissing, and suggested that parents beat sons who act effeminately.

As a result of his anti-gay stances, Bolsonaro has garnered much criticism, particularly from LGBTQ advocates. GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, and New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), who represents the district that is home to the Marriott Marquis, have been urging companies that are sponsoring the “Person of the Year” gala to pull their support.

Already, The Financial Times, consulting firm Bain & Company, and Delta Airlines have dropped their sponsorships for the event. The event was also forced to move to the Marriott Marquis after the original site, the American Natural History Museum, pulled out following outcry over its implicit support of Bolsonaro.

Actor and LGBTQ advocate Debra Messing subsequently blasted the Marriott Marquis after it booked the event, tweeting: “@Marriott I will never stay in one of your hotels again. Hosting this monster is a statement that you approve of his actions. #boycott.”

Despite the withdrawals, the “Person of the Year” event has a couple dozen other sponsors, most notably Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Forbes, JP Morgan, United Health Group, Credit Suisse, Citi, and Morgan Stanley.

“It’s imperative that the companies and organizations associated with this event understand the egregious anti-LGBTQ record and rhetoric of the Brazilian President and stand by LGBTQ people in Brazil and everywhere by withdrawing their support,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement. “His brand of anti-LGBTQ activism is actively harming LGBTQ Brazilians and companies that host or participate in this celebration of him need to take a stand.”

“Celebrating a man who embraces an agenda of open homophobia, misogyny, and racism is a slap in the face to the LGBTQ community. The only award President Bolsonaro has earned is ‘Bigot of the Year,'” Hoylman added. “Given President Bolsonaro’s sordid record of public comments, I’m appalled that a business in my district would host an event in support of him, and that other businesses would provide sponsorship.

“I urge Marriott and all of this event’s sponsors to withdraw their support for the event immediately. As the only openly LGBTQ member of the State Senate, this is personal for me — and it is especially hurtful that we are fighting against an honor for a notorious homophobe as we approach the 50th anniversary of Stonewall,” added Hoylman. “It’s time for these businesses to decide: do they truly stand for LGBTQ New Yorkers, or are they willing to trade equality for one night of business?”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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