Skip to main content

California Public Utilities Commission Unanimously Votes to Approve Largest LGBT Economic Equality Measure in United States History

Media Contact: 
David Perry & Associates, Inc / David Perry / (415) 676-7007 /

California Public Utilities Commission Unanimously Votes to Approve Largest LGBT Economic Equality Measure in United States History

California’s Landmark General Order 156 now includes an aspirational goal of 1.5% for LGBT businesses in contracting with California-based Utility Companies, worth over $600 million per year in competitive contracts

7 APRIL 2022, San Francisco, CA: The California Public Utilities (CPUC) today, by unanimous vote, approved a historic measure that will set an aspirational goal of 1.5% for the inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) certified businesses in the competitive contracting process with California-based utilities like AT&T, PG&E and Southern California Edison Company. This development will be an update to the CPUC’s Utility Supplier Diversity Program, known as General Order 156, which was created by a 1983 law (Assembly Bill 3638), under the leadership of late Assemblywoman Gwen Moore, a prominent civil rights advocate. Ms. Moore served in the California Assembly from 1978 through 1994, representing the 47th District.  

“The modern-day LGBTQ economic equality movement started here in California in 1974 with the founding the Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA),” stated Paul Pendergast, President of BuildOUT California and a former president of the GGBA. “California is once again leading the way with the establishment of an aspirational goal for utilities to utilize qualified, cost effective, experienced LGBT owned/certified businesses. The Commission’s bold action today represents a defining moment statewide, nationally, and internationally when it comes to LGBT economic vitality” Pendergast added.

The CPUC’s approved Order adopts voluntary procurement goals for LGBT business enterprises over the next three years: 2022 of 0.5%, 2023 of 1.0% and 2024 of 1.5%. “Our directive balances the reliance on historical data with our objective of increasing procurement from LGBT business enterprise amidst unique barriers to entry” stated CPUC Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen in his February 9, 2022 Proposed Decision on the matter.

Members of BuildOUT California’s executive leadership team have been working on this issue since the roots of this historic development began nearly eight years ago (September 2014) when California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1678 (AB 1678), sponsored by then-Assemblymember Richard Gordon. This legislation required the CPUC to include LGBT-owned business enterprises in the Supplier Diversity Program under General Order 156.  The enactment of AB 1678 was an historic moment in the movement to extend equal rights to the LGBTQ community, which has suffered severe discrimination and hostility. 

The amount of business done by California utility companies under third-party contracts is enormous. In 2019, California utilities spent $38 billion.  In 2020, the total jumped to $43.5 billion.  But many of the utilities were bypassing LGBT-owned businesses in their contracting. So, when the CPUC in March 2021 launched a new “rulemaking” proceeding, BuildOUT California, represented by Frank Lindh,  the CPUC’s former General Counsel, intervened as a party. BuildOUT California urged the Commission to adopt an aspirational goal of 1.5% for LGBT-owned businesses. BuildOUT California’s proposal was opposed by the utility companies, who asked for a much lower goal of only 0.5%.  One year later, the CPUC, in response to the testimony and evidence presented by BuildOUT California, adopted a path to the 1.5% goal. The Commission’s action will result in over $600 million per year in competitive contracts with LGBT businesses in California. Using a conservative figure of 5 new jobs per $1M in spend from the energy sector, it is conceivable that had there been a 1.5% spend with LGBT businesses in 2020 there could have been 3,500 new, quality, sustainable jobs created.

In an April 12, 2022, letter to the CPUC’s Commissioners, California LGBTQ Caucus leaders Assemblymember Evan Low (Chair) and Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (Vice Chair) stated, “For decades, the LGBTQ community has faced discrimination, only to watch its government do nothing… these actions will address a loftier goal in the legislation’s intent: to establish some fairness for LGBTQ businesses that were previously excluded due to discrimination. We firmly believe that a 1.5% minimum is the first step to inclusion.”

Tony Hoang, the Executive Director of Equality California, the 900,000-member strong non-profit advocacy organization stated in his March 1, 2022, letter to CPUC Commissioner President, Alice Reynolds, “The implementation of this law has delayed progress as we have waited nearly eight years for an LGBTBE procurement goal. Unfortunately, biases within some industry sectors create barriers to entry… With this new aspirational goal, the walls impeding progress are being torn down, and we are one step closer to more inclusivity.”

About BuildOUT California

Founded in 2020, BuildOUT California is the world’s first LGBT Industry Association dedicated to the sustainable growth of LGBT owned & certified businesses, and our allies, in the fields of Architecture, Engineering, Construction Services, Real Estate Development, and Related Industries.

A digital archive of filings, data analysis and letters of support from elected officials relevant to the CPUC’s LGBT Goal Setting Process be found here.