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Nine Pro-LGBT Companies Facing Conservative Backlash
Here's your excuse to really overdo it on Oreos.
By Lizzie Plaugic
The National Organization of Marriage, the Christian group forever reminding us that devil-worshipping homosexuals are among us, infiltrating our society and cumming all over our Puritan values, has a bone to pick with your morning coffee ritual. This March, Starbucks came out in favor of Referendum 74, which eventually (this month) legalized gay marriage in Washington state. According to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, "[I]t was, to be candid with you, not something that was a difficult decision for us." Then, in less time than you could say "I do," the National Organization of Marriage launched DumpStarbucks.com, urging people to boycott the coffee giant.
The plan backfired, however; Starbucks profits actually picked up. But NOM recently announced a new plan to ensure Starbucks will have difficulty expanding to countries in the Middle East, where support for same-sex marriage is undeniably harder to come by. NOM President Brian Brown vaguely outlines their plan: "In Qatar, in the Middle East, we've begun working to make sure that there's some price to be paid for [support of gay marriage]. These are not countries that look kindly on same-sex marriage. And this is where Starbucks wants to expand, as well as India. So we have done some of this; we've got to do a lot more." While we contemplate these charmers and their repressive-fundamentalist international hangouts, we're looking at other companies that've taken stands in support of LGBT rights, and the criticism they've attracted for it.
It's relatively easy for a big corporation to support LGBT rights now, but Microsoft was the first Fortune 500 company to grant equal benefits to gay employees, way back in 1993. Ric Weiland, one of Microsoft's first five employees, was gay, and left $65 million to pro-gay organizations after his 2006 suicide. Unfortunately, Microsoft wavered on gay rights in the mid-'00s. In 2005, Microsoft backed a Washington-state bill preventing workplace discrimination against homosexuals, but withdrew its support after backlash from conservative interest groups and evangelical preacher Ken Hutcherson. Gay and liberal activists reacted with scorn, eliciting a sort-of apology from Bill Gates, who said he was surprised at the vehemence of the two sides' reactions. (Duh, Bill.) Later, Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer declared in a message to staff that "diversity in the workplace is such an important issue for our business that it should be included in our legislative agenda." This year, both Gates and Ballmer made $100,000 donations to Washington United for Marriage.
In July, CEO Jeff Bezos made a 2.5 million donation to Washington United for Marriage, in what may have been the largest single donation to marriage equality to date. No one boycotted, though a writer at redstate.com was reminded of a pre-order with Amazon (who I hear have a fantastic selection of gay erotica) that he would now have to cancel, writing "If the pro gay marriage people want to make a big stink about Chik-Fil-A, we give it back to them double with Amazon." Ah, the old "an eye for two eyes" adage.
In June 2012, Nabisco posted a photo to its Facebook page of an Oreo with rainbow cream boasting the caption "Proudly support love!" In response to the totally gay, totally tasty-looking photo, Christian group One Million Moms wrote a post on their website titled (apparently in a Cookie Monster dialect) "Oreo — No Longer Favorite Cookie." In the post, they urged their readers to boycott Kraft unless it rescinded its stance on gay marriage: "Kraft needs to hear from you. Supporting the homosexual agenda versus remaining neutral in the cultural war is just bad business. If Christians cannot find corporate neutrality with Kraft then they will vote with their pocketbook and support companies that are neutral."
4. Ben & Jerry's
When Vermont legalized gay marriage in 2009, Ben & Jerry's changed the name of their ice-cream flavor Chubby Hubby to "Hubby Hubby" for the month of September. One Million Moms declined to boycott the creamery, perhaps because they'd already boycotted in response to its fudgy rum flavor, Schweddy Balls. (Yes, I am serious.)
Macy's has run multiple ads in support of gay marriage, including one featuring a wedding cake topped with two grooms to support the gay-marriage bill in Washington, and ads in California protesting Prop 8. In 2011, a Macy's employee refused to let a transgender woman change in the female dressing room. After refusing to comply with the store's pro-LGBT policies, the employee was fired, causing the American Family Association to claim, "The LGBT agenda has become the theatre of the absurd."
Levi's was the first Fortune 500 company to offer health benefits to unmarried domestic partners, and their gay-rights track record has been pretty stellar ever since. In 2008, the company donated $125,000 to fight Prop 8 in California, and in 2009, Levi's stores across the country adorned mannequins with white ribbons in solidarity with the White Knot campaign to support marriage equality. And way back in 1992, Levi's pulled its funding from the Boy Scouts of America because of the group's "3 Gs" principle: everyone is free to join unless they're gay, godless, or a girl. In response, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher encouraged a "grassroots" counter-boycott of Levi Strauss, and Congressman Tom DeLay claimed Texans would be "burning Levi's in the streets." In a rare display of Texan restraint, this did not turn out to be the case.
In 2008, the digital behemoth released a public statement against California's Prop 8, and founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page donated $140,000 to the "No on Prop 8" campaign. This July, the company launched its Legalize Love Campaign to support gay workers in countries that criminalize homosexuality. In response to the campaign, the American Family Association urged its supporters to boycott Google. So, uh, good luck with that. (And don't go to Bing. Microsoft.)
8. Home Depot
Though it's actually a major Republican donor, the hardware giant has also sponsored multiple gay-pride events around the country and offers domestic-partner benefits to its employees. To no one's surprise, the American Family Association called for a boycott of the company. In response to the AFA, Home Depot's Chairman Frank Blake said, "We are, and will remain, committed to a culture that fosters an inclusive environment for our associates, our customers, and the communities in which we exist."
In 2006, Walgreens was a platinum-level sponsor of Chicago's Gay Games, the world's largest sporting event for the LGBT community. This prompted Tom Kovach of RenewAmerica.com to call for a boycott of the drugstore, saying, "By its very definition, the 'Gay' Games will invite people from all over the world to come to Chicago this summer and have homo-sex." I'm not sure when the definition of Gay Games became "invitation to city-wide international gay orgy," but it sounds like a good time.