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A Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce webpage listing the sponsors for its 2019 Person of the Year gala is no longer available amid the controversy over the group awarding the honor to anti-LGBTQ Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
The government of Brazil announced late on Friday that Bolsonaro was cancelling his trip to New York. The Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce said in a statement on Friday night that the event would go on as planned, but it did not provide an explanation for the sponsorship page no longer being available.
Another page on Chamber's website profiling the event and its history and soliciting sponsorships is still up. It says: "The choice of President Bolsonaro is a recognition of his strongly stated intention of fostering closer commercial and diplomatic ties between Brazil and the United States and his firm commitment to building a strong and durable partnership between the two nations."
Many corporate sponsors remained attached to the event as of the last time the sponsorship page was available on Thursday, including Wall Street banks Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America. Marriott International's New York City Marriott Marquis is the event venue. The American Museum of Natural History pulled out as host in April after outcry from politicians, celebrities and LGBTQ Americans and allies — including state Sen. Brad Hoylman and actor Debra Messing.
"The Brazilian-American Chamber's choice to remove this webpage is an indication that they understand they are on the wrong side of this situation," said Zeke Stokes, chief programs officer for GLAAD. "The chamber cannot hide its connection to the dangerous anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and record of President Jair Bolsonaro at this point, and it must make its views clear and condemn his virulent anti-LGBTQ views that put Brazilians in danger."
Hoylman has asked the chamber to cancel the event, planned for May 14. In a petition Hoylman launched on Change.org more than 55,000 people have signed up demanding the event be canceled.
Bolsonaro's record on women, race and LGBTQ rights has sparked outrage since his 2018 election. Just hours after his inauguration, Bolsonaro removed LGBTQ rights from human rights ministry considerations and wanted to remove homosexuality from textbooks.
In the past, Bolsonaro has been quoted making multiple anti-LGBTQ statements, including saying that he would rather his son be dead or a drug addict than gay. He also recently warned against allowing Brazil to "become known as a gay tourism paradise."
Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat defended the bank's decision to sponsor the event in a CNBC interview on Thursday, saying, "We spend a lot of time making sure our people understand the values of our company, and I hope that in terms of that, there's no question of our support, our unwavering support for our LGBT community."
For some Citi customers, Corbat's explanation was not good enough.
Marriott has defended its decision to host the event, telling CNBC in a statement earlier this week, "We are required by law to accept business even if it conflicts with our values. Acceptance of business does not indicate support, or endorsement of any group or individual."
Marriott and Citigroup both have long histories supporting LGBTQ rights. Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson was among the first "CEO-activists" to challenge politicians in the U.S. over legislation seen as discriminatory. Citi has received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Corporate Equality Index for 15 consecutive years.
The backlash over Bolsonaro's views on homosexuality is one of several recent instances in which Wall Street has been wrestling with the rift between its support on social issues and business operations. A growing list of multinational banks including J.P. Morgan are banning employees from staying at hotels owned by the sultan of Brunei, where homosexuality and adultery is punishable by death.
—By CNBC's Ryan Ruggiero and Rhania Kamel, special to CNBC.com