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Starbucks to become an LGBT 'safe place'

Starbucks is the latest, and largest, company to join Seattle's 'Safe Place' program.

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A barista reaches for a red paper cup as more line the top of an espresso machine at a Starbucks coffee shop in the Pike Place Market, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Seattle.

Elaine Thompson/AP

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Starbucks announced Wednesday that its Seattle stores are officially "Safe Places" for members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community.

Partnering with the Seattle Police Department’s “Safe Place” program, 97 of Starbucks’ stores in the Seattle area will finish specific employee training early next week on “how to respond to and engage with LGBT victims of violence and effectively report hate crimes to police."

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"Safe Place," started by openly gay Seattle Police Officer Jim Ritter, is a campaign against bias crimes. Since May, Officer Ritter has spoken with 650 businesses across Seattle, all of whom have supported the campaign, displaying rainbow-badge decals in their windows.

While the fight for LGBT rights remains in many cities an uphill battle, Seattle appears to be leading the nation in acceptance.

“I haven’t been turned down by a single business,” Ritter told the Seattle Times. “It is heartening and reinforces that people in Seattle get it and don’t support hate of any kind.”

Starbucks may serve as precedent for other large companies to support the initiative as well. With 2,000 extra pairs of eyes, Ritter is convinced the program will help “put bullies on notice that they can’t get away with victimizing people.”  

Starbucks has shown its support for the LGBT community in other ways recently, raising a gay pride flag at its Seattle headquarters and airing a commercial featuring contestants from "RuPaul's Drag Race," Bianca Del Rio and Adore Delano.

In general, American companies have been supportive of LGBT rights. Some 379 companies filed amicus curiae, or friend of the court, briefs in March supporting the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage. Tech companies stated that lack of support for LGBT rights inhibits them from hiring the best possible candidates.

“American corporate capitalism has...become one of the nation’s most powerful drivers of the social changes that have led to a mainstream acceptance of homosexuality,” reported The Christian Science Monitor's Harry Bruinius in March.

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Corporate consultant Farah Parker suggests that a shift in business audience has also affected companies open views on social issues.

“Businesses can no longer remain completely silent on social issues. As more corporations strive to create communities and not just consumers, the target audience now picks products based on quality and the company's cultural platforms,” she told the Monitor.