Big business joins the gay rights battle

Starbucks, Chick-fil-A and others are taking positions -- pro and con -- on the Supreme Court's upcoming rulings.

By Jason Notte Mar 26, 2013 8:10AM
A Starbucks Corp., sign is displayed outside a coffee shop in London, U.K. / Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesAs the Supreme Court mulls two separate cases related to gay marriage, the line separating the issue from the often socially agnostic business world continues to skew.

Starbucks (SBUX) Chief Executive Howard Schultz made that evident on Friday by telling a shareholder who took issue with the company's show of support for Washington state's referendum backing gay marriage that "You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much."

Schultz and Starbucks aren't out on a big limb by any stretch because several other companies have either offered their support in repealing the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) or have withdrawn funding from the Boy Scouts of America over troops' decision to ban gay scouts.

There's plenty of support on the other side of the debate as well. Chick-fil-A and its supporters made that clear last year when outrage over Chief Executive Dan Cathy's anti-gay comments to the Baptist Press led the chain's supporters to close ranks and head down to their local outlet in a show of support.

Since then, gay rights supporters in the corporate community have increased their profile and made their stance on the issue increasingly clear. The Human Rights Campaign launched its Business Coalition for DOMA Repeal in January and has recruited companies including Aetna (AET), Biogen Idec (BIIB), Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), Diageo (DEO), eBay (EBAY), Electronic Arts (ERTS), Sun Life Financial (SLF) and Marriott (MAR) to the cause.

That last company is perhaps the biggest coup because, as the Los Angeles Times points out, it was founded by Mormons. The Mormon church is officially against gay marriage and went to great lengths to support California's Proposition 8 banning gay marriage back in 2008. CEO Bill Marriott, son of founder John William Marriott, told Bloomberg Businessweek last year that he's personally against gay marriage but is reluctant to impose those views on his business.

Back in September, Intel (INTC) told ThinkProgress that it would no longer donate to Boy Scouts of America troops that discriminated against gay scouts. That's no small deal, considering the $700,000 that Intel gave scout troops in 2010 made it one of the Boy Scouts' biggest donors.

In November, UPS (UPS) followed Intel's lead and responded to a petition by withdrawing its support from the Boy Scouts because the organization is in violation of anti-discrimination policies at UPS' charitable wing. UPS gave the scouts $150,000 in 2010, which is a fraction of Intel's contribution but still sorely missed when it's reduced to $0.

Not surprisingly, The New York Times reported in January that the Boy Scouts were seriously rethinking the ban on openly gay scouts and scout leaders, but that didn't stop Chipotle (CMG) from pulling funding for a scouting event in Utah earlier this month.

While those companies are balanced out by a host of others that tend to lean to the right on the issue, the combination of the two sides puts a lot of money on court rulings that already had high stakes and wide economic impact even without the corporate help.

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Mar 26, 2013 9:51AM
Business can choose whatever side they want to.  You can choose who you want to do business with.   If you strongly disagree with Starbucks, don't give them your business.  The same goes for Chick Fil-A or anybody else.  Isn't freedom great?

The main problem arises within the debate itself, particularly when one side is essentially labeled as a hate group, just because they disagree with a certain behavior.
Mar 26, 2013 1:47PM

I just think it is unfortunate that the Boy Scouts is even in this situation. It was a group that upheld moral character and taught basic qualities intrinsic to all to promote youth development in general. If they are not promoting sexual orientation and dating then it should be a mute point that is not broached in their groups. Simple. If some one wants to enter and flaunt their sexuality then they should directed to find a different group for that. Sexuality is not what the Boy Scouts are about.

Mar 26, 2013 2:46PM
Interesting how there is very little about the companies that are against gay marriage.  I personally thinks it takes a lot more guts to stand up to the rising tide of immorality than to take the attitude that there is no right and no wrong only what feels good.
Mar 27, 2013 1:01PM

If you brake all this down, the real issue is if you believe that Gay Marriage is right or wrong. If you think it is right then you must ignore or relegate what the Bible says about it to be insignificant or in error. If you think it is wrong then you must look within your yourself as to why you feel that way. For me, I oppose Gay Marriage because homosexuality is condemned in both the Old and New Testaments and I hold the Bible as being the revelation of God's will on earth. The Bible clearly says that "the wages of sin is death". I don't want that for myself, my fellow man or my government. History is full of examples where nations fell not so much because of their might, but because they lost sight of what was right.

Mar 26, 2013 3:51PM
Mar 26, 2013 6:12PM

No one says they can't get married just that they can't marry the same sex.  I can't claim to be a male because I am a female. Facts of life and centuries of tradition.  This is not about rights. The way it's being pushed  seems to me to be just another densentization of our moral beliefs.  It's hard to believe that after all these years some people think this is a right.  As far as I know there is no "right to get married or not get married" stated in the Constitution or Bill of Rights.


Mar 27, 2013 2:05PM
The main goal of these activists is for society to recognize their alternative life style as normal behavior.  Otherwise, the granting of equal protections via civil unions and domestic partnerships would satisfy the activists. But they obviously haven't been satisfactory concessions.  They insist on marriage as the name given to their relationship.  Why? Because that's what the non-gay people call their committed relationships.  They want all of us to consider what they routinely do normal behavior  i.e. not aberrant.  For me that's asking all of us to go beyond tolerance to a place where we wear blinders and deny reality.      
Mar 26, 2013 5:07PM

Businesses should NOT stick their noses into politics.

I am disgusted.

I don't want to know what any of these fkng people support. I don't go to your restaurants and hotels and coffee shops to support any of your agendas. I go to spend my $$$ on your product!


They have all lost my business. I can live my life without all that crap.

Mar 26, 2013 7:58PM
Brutus625 hit the nail on the head.  "Toleration" and "acceptance" are interesting word depending upon what you believe.  If you back gay marriage, then your all of the above.  If not, then the same people preaching toleration and acceptance all of a sudden have a hard time tolerating or accepting your beliefs.
Mar 27, 2013 3:33PM
It is true that a kingdom divided within itself is brought to desolation, and every house divided against itself will not stand. Our enemy knows this too and is actively gnawing at the foundation of our society. This is what is going on today. The tares are in the field with the wheat. Choose carefully how you walk.
Mar 28, 2013 8:15AM
Dan Cathy did not make any comment regarding gay marriage, he simply stated his support for traditional marriage.  If you're going to trash conservative values, at least get your facts straight.
Mar 28, 2013 2:59PM
I personally hope the Scouts will never allow an openly gay leader into its ranks.  I'm not saying all gay men are pedophiles.  I'm saying there's too much at risk. 
Mar 28, 2013 3:33PM
Funny that the article does NOT list any of the companies that do NOT support same sex marriage........probably NOT a coincidence.
Mar 26, 2013 9:04PM
All this crap of discrimination against LGBTQ, ( yes "Q" also,'cause that's what they are) is just that ---- crap. Since the beginning of time it has been a union of man and woman that made the world go 'round and the foundation of civilization. Now the 5 % of you that have an intrinsic abberation want to feel like like the other 95%, and it isn't going to happen, no matter what norms you tear down. You aren't the same, get used to it!   Blind people can't be airline pilots, get used to it! This is not discrimination, it's just life. You can live together and bf all you want, call your union  what you want, but let marriage be the reserved for the rest of us who have a man/woman relationship which for centuries has been blessed by religion and the state. As for divorce; no relationship is perfect, and those who think that a homo relationship will survive any better are sadly mistaken.
Mar 26, 2013 2:34PM
I say if you want to know what the world is really like go to the mideast, India, or China and see what they are doing. Not wasting time on stuff like this.
Mar 26, 2013 9:14AM

No government has any right to dictate the meaning of the word marriage, married or matrimony. That right only should belong to religious organizations and they only, should have the right to decide who is married in there eyes, and the government has no right to control that decision.

            Governments have no place in marriage and should not be issuing marriage certificates to anyone. The governments roll should be only to issue a civil union certificate (a legal binding document) to all who seek one within the governments’ rules. All who are joined in a civil ceremony (of which marriage is one type) should be bound by all the same laws, the good and the bad that have traditionally been a part of a marriage.

No one should receive government spousal benefits unless they are in a legal and binding committed relationship. Corporations should be free to set there own rules beyond a civil union regarding extending benefits and should not be vilified or boycotted because of those decisions. Boycotts are for little people with little minds.

If you are gay, what is more important to you, a word, or the benefits your friends on the left have yet to grant you because you are to busy fighting over a word?

Mar 27, 2013 2:18PM
Well if the Supreme Court supports gay marriage the side effect will be pissing off the Islamic radicals so to some a win, win
Mar 26, 2013 2:58PM

It shouldn't matter what your "orientation" is...what should matter is that the Government and the Supreme Court are trying to "define" marriage in the first place!  THIS SHOULD NOT BE A POLITICAL ISSUE.  People (in a free society) should be able to do pretty much as they like as long as it isn't detrimental or harm someone else.  It is NOT the Government's right or responsibility to manage individuals lives.


The same can be said for Abortion.  IT SHOULD NOT BE A POLITICAL ISSUE.  As long as Abortion is not used as a means of "birth control" should be up to the individuals (women's) right to do whatever she wants to with her own body.

Mar 26, 2013 4:29PM

There is a simple solution to this debate. There is no practical reason for the United States Government to formally recognize the institution of marriage.

Back in the day when the US fostered the concept of the nuclear family it made sense, but now that divorce rates are +40%, and men are marrying men, and women are marrying women, what's the point?

I am not suggesting that marriage be outlawed or tax incentives for dependents be revoked; I am simply saying that to truely have equality the US government needs to be blind to legal choices being made by adults.

Mar 29, 2013 4:44PM

Is not this a "free" country??? Do we not have "rights"?. Are not the rights of those who appose same sex marriages having their rights infringed upon? Don't those who have not been pressured to follow this post modernistic society's position relative to this issue have a right to stand with God and His Word in the Holy Bible


( Leviticus 18:22 (KJV)
22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.)

that explicitly states that this behavior is an abomination? Just as those who support same sex unions have a right to be wrong, we have a right to stand with God, and therefore be right on this matter...<><

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