LGBT 

Advocacy and commerce

A new Polson-based online marketplace aims to profit off the homosexual agenda.

LGBTprosper.com, launched last September, features an array of goods for sale, including rainbow bracelets, vintage suitcases repurposed to serve as dog beds and T-shirts that say "God Accepts You" (with the letters G, A and Y standing out in pink cursive against lowercase white script).

"One of our main thrusts is advocacy and commerce meeting together," says Marianne Forrest, one of four company cofounders.

Forrest, Karen McMullen, Bob Marsenich and Mark Nelson aim to catch the eye—and disposable income—of LGBT people. Researchers from the federally funded National Survey of Family Growth estimate there are at least 8.8 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people nationally. Others believe the number to be much higher. But one thing is certain: Gay people spend a significant amount of money. In fact, Washington D.C.-based marketing company Witeck-Combs Communications approximates that the collective buying power of the LGBT population last year totaled more than $700 billion.

Forrest and her colleagues hope they can glean some of that green. And kitschy rainbow paraphernalia aren't their only selling point. Three percent of all proceeds generated through LGBTprosper.com are donated to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Workplace Project, advocating pro-LGBT employment policies. Each vender or service provider listed on the website signs a non-discrimination contract and an agreement promising to support LGBT equality.

"We feel like we're offering a matrix that allows people to support the community and create prosperous community at the same time," Forrest says.

The site also provides space for equality-minded nonprofit organizations to list advertisements and events. Forrest says she and her partners dream of growing the site into a gay Amazon.com of sorts.

"The site will have an enormous amount of impact as far as an individual's ability to connect with other like-minded people," Forrest says.

By doing so, McMullen hopes LGBTprosper.com will enable LGBT people to advance their social, economic and political agenda.

"If you're going to buy something, buy from LGBT-friendly folks," McMullen says. "It's not just LGBT individuals, it's all people who support LGBT rights and social justice for all."

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