Global Conversations: Jonathan Lovitz, Senior Vice President, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce

Jonathan Lovitz has served as the Senior Vice President of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce since 2016, where he oversees all external affairs including media and communications, public policy, and partnerships and alliances. Prior to this, he toured nationally with two Broadway shows, as well as worked as a news anchor for Logo TV. Lovitz has become a regular commentator on MSNBC, CNBC, and NPR and is an outspoken supporter of The Trevor Project, GLSEN, and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

What does the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) do?

NGLCC’s primary function is to serve as a certifying body – it’s the exclusive certifier for LGBT-owned companies in the U.S. Corporations and governments specifically seek out diverse-owned companies, whether they’re women-owned, African-American-owned, disability-owned, LGBT-owned, etc. They want to make sure that those folks have the same opportunities as other businesses despite some of the economic and social disadvantages they might have had. Nationally, we have a network of about 50 affiliate chambers across the United States. Globally, we have 15 affiliates all over the world and more on the way. Just last week, we opened India’s diverse chamber, which is amazing when you consider that homosexuality was a crime there two years ago, and now they’re starting this massive business network. 

How has working with the NGLCC helped you to reach a global audience?

I am perpetually astonished by the hardworking incredible advocates that I meet from all over the world. [The NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference], which was here in Philadelphia a year ago, had the largest global contingent we’d ever had with nearly 20 countries represented. We had the first ever Canadian LGBT trade mission ever held. They came and brought several of their business representatives looking for trade right here in the United States and Philly, knowing that we were going to bring the world to Philly. It was incredible to see so many folks from India, from Jamaica, from South Africa, who all said, “I’ve heard of Philadelphia but I never thought I’d ever see it,” and were just astonished to see what a great city it was and took those lessons home about how cities can really grow and transform. 

The global work is so important because one of the problems that America faces is something called victory blindness: that after the issue that directly affects you is over, you tend to forget that other people are struggling. But zoom out and look out at the world and there are still over 80 countries where being LGBTQ is a crime and over a dozen where you can still be put to death. 

We, as success stories in America and people who are fighting and succeeding in the business sphere to overcome adversity, have the power to empower others and one of the strongest ways to do this is economically. It’s why the NGLCC exists at the intersection of economic issues and human rights, because it’s significantly harder to oppress a community when they have dollars in their hands. They’re job creators, they’re employers, they’re part of the economic success of that country. And employees vote, so a strong LGBT business community all over the world means a strong LGBT advocacy for human rights and civil rights all over the world. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in helping the global LGBT community?

Time. People. Resources. Money. Sometimes the instability of some nations makes it really hard for us to assist, so we have to do more remotely or over the internet. But, at the same time, that opens up some great opportunities for us to use technology. While the challenge is identifying where we need to be and the problems that exist there, the solution is continuing to innovate, and those solutions themselves are so powerful in this fight. Technology and the ability to instantly share resources has fundamentally changed how we do global human rights, business, and development work.

What are your long-term economic/business goals for the global LGBT community?

The long-term goal everywhere is to create an ecosystem of fairness and level opportunity for all. We know that there’s always going to be cultural and societal differences depending on where you are in the world. But if there is one thing that I think that we and our partners hope to see, it’s a fair shot for everyone. That who you were born as, who you love, who you identify as should never be a barrier to what you’re allowed to contribute to your community and society. It’s continuing to be proved true here in the United States and we want to make sure that people around the world know that it’s true as well. 

The other big thing is that dollars are in many ways as powerful as votes at the ballot box. Our goal is to educate people to use their money wisely to help their community, whether it’s here or around the world. And it’s simple things like checking the HRC Corporate Equality Index, which ranks corporations based on how LGBT-friendly and supportive they are (such as hotels, restaurants, and airlines). Ask yourself, “Do these corporations have my back?” Dollars always make a difference.

In what ways has the global LGBT community supported you?

They give me hope every single day. I’m really privileged that I get to travel a lot and speak on NGLCC’s behalf to represent the company and meet these global leaders in person, over email, and through Skype. It forces me to want to throw my legs over the side of the bed every morning and get back in the fight. 

Even with the problems and difficulties we may be having in our country at the moment, it’s nothing compared to what some of our brothers and sisters face in around the world. But that perspective is so important. I recently spoke to a friend of mine who’s doing LGBT research in Israel, who had to go to a private underground meeting to talk to closeted Muslim Palestinians about what their lives are like. And it’s incredible that, despite it all, they’re still fighting and loving and starting businesses and trying to help their fellow man because they know that, eventually, it will get better and that they can be a small part of that just by being themselves. 

From a business perspective, how can we as Philadelphians support the global LGBT community?

Right here at home, we have a local affiliate chamber of the NGLCC, the Independence Business Alliance (IBA). They do monthly programs focused on networking businesses, having these important development workshops and access to capital programs.

Something that’s happening here in Philly that’s a role model for programs all over the country is their intersections program, making sure that we’re building strong coalitions between the LGBT community, as well as the black business community, the Asian business community, the Hispanic business community, etc. 

In a city like Philadelphia that is majority minority, we have to be leading with these diversity conversations. So I encourage everybody in Philadelphia who wants to make that immediate impact on their community to work with the IBA to get their business certified nationally because that also lets them start working with our global trading partners and adding to the work.


Interview conducted by Ameilia Winger on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association