SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco Pride preparations are in full swing as the city gets ready for celebrations in June and the Pride Parade that draws people from around the world.
"It feels like this Pride is more important than ever," said Suzanne Ford, executive director of San Francisco Pride which organizes the events. "This Pride is going to be the most important Pride in many, many years."
Ford says that's because this year LGBTQ+ people across the nation have been at the center of a societal and political battle over rights and recognition.
"We have to show the country and the world that we are not just tolerated, but celebrated," Ford said.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures since the start of the year.
The ACLU also says as many as 17 states have passed laws that restrict or ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth.
Companies are also at the center of the battle, facing cultural divides among customers.
Target said it would relocate Pride month displays and remove some products after it said people destroyed displays and threatened employees. Misleading videos posted online falsely claimed Target was selling bathing suits for trans children to conceal private parts.
The Target controversy comes as other companies are embroiled in LGBTQ+ issues.
Disney is battling Florida over LGBTQ+ inclusion. Bud Light faced backlash over a trans spokesperson. Even the LA Dodgers were caught up when it swung from including, to excluding and then re-including the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to their pride night after Catholic groups opposed the trans group that dresses in nun costumes.
"The backlash in this particular moment in time is lasting a lot longer than it has historically," said Kellie McElhaney, a professor at the UC Berkeley Haas Business School. "Historically you've seen backlashes from companies taking a socially active view, [such as] Dick's Sporting Goods deciding not to sell guns in their stores. But it's been a blip. It's been short backlash with negligible impact on the company. So times have really changed."
McElhaney says corporate executives face higher risks in taking a stand on social issues, and she says companies need to be very clear about the reasons for taking up social causes, so they can stand by their actions.
"It's important...now more than ever for a company to look inward around what is their why...on the front end, why are we standing in allyship or in support," McElhany said.
The San Francisco LGBT Center says it is trying to help by partnering with 9 LGBTQ+ centers in other states where their rights are under attack.
"Alabama, North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Kansas and Arkansas, and Oklahoma," said Miguel Bagsit, communications manager for the SF LGBT Center. "We see it as a responsibility to be able to connect with some of the states that are experiencing some of the hardest challenges right now."