LGBTQ+ business owners and activists are banding together to create the Southwest Florida Harmony Chamber of Commerce, reports Glenn Miller in the Charlotte County Florida Weekly.

The organization is designed to act as a comprehensive resource center for LGBTQ+ individuals, as well as to advocate for LGBTQ+ causes.

The Chamber’s president, Susan Christiano, hopes the organization will help people locate LGBTQ+ friendly businesses and services and avoid businesses that might make life difficult for LGBTQ+ patrons.

Southwest Florida
Harmony Chamber members Cut Ribbon: from left, Ollie Gentry, Scott Cornish, Mary Elizabeth Fletcher, President Susan Christiano, Co-founder Arlene Goldberg Image by John Davis, WGCU

Fort Myers attorney Mary Beth Fletcher, the first member to join the Chamber, stated, “I would get calls from people who were afraid they’d be judged.” She added, “this is exactly what we need.”

Another member, Dr. Clint Potter, said the organization could especially help LGBTQ+ patients seeking medical care, “to know there’s a gay-friendly place I can go and not be scared.”

Arlene Goldberg, an activist who was part of the lawsuit which allowed equal marriage in Florida, and now a founder of the Chamber, said, “It’s about the community. It’s about them feeling like they have a real resource to go to, that they don’t have to feel uncomfortable calling or asking us or telling us anything because we’re there.”

For now, the Chamber is exclusively an online resource. However, they hope to acquire office space as early as 2018, possibly in Fort Myers.

Read the Charlotte County Florida Weekly article here.