Earlier this week, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz adamantly reaffirmed his company’s support for same-sex marriage. His comments have refueled a boycott campaign by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).
According to Forbes, the topic surfaced earlier this week during Starbucks’ annual meeting in Seattle. A shareholder named Tom Strobhar—the founder of the Corporate Morality Action Center—complained that the company's public support for gay marriage last year resulted in smaller profits for shareholders.
During last year's debate over same-sex marriage in Washington state, Starbucks’ Executive Vice President Karen Holmes released a public letter proclaiming the company's support for legislation approving same-sex marriage.
“This important legislation is aligned with Starbucks business practices and upholds our belief in the equal treatment of partners," the letter said in part. "It is core to who we are and what we value as a company.”
Schultz replied to Strobhar’s question at the shareholder meeting by affirming both the company’s economic vitality and its social activism. “The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people,” he said. “We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity. Of all kinds.” He added that if Strobhar wasn’t happy with his return on investment, he was free to invest elsewhere.
Schultz’s comments have sparked some criticisms, but nothing compared to what conservative corporate executives experience when they express their support of traditional marriage. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, who endured a vicious backlash after he said he personally believed marriage should only be between a man and woman.
The media swamped the company in critical coverage and gay couples descended on its restaurants for a “kiss in” to express their displeasure. In contrast, Starbucks probably won’t suffer much besides the NOM boycott. On the campaign website, NOM warns consumers their money will fund a “corporate assault on marriage.” So far it has garnered more than 50,000 signatures.
But not everyone agrees a boycott is the appropriate Christian response, including Russell Moore, the incoming president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
“We don’t persuade our neighbors by mimicking their angry power-protests,” Moore wrote on his blog. “We persuade them by holding fast to the gospel, by explaining our increasingly odd view of marriage, and by serving the world and our neighbors around us, as our Lord does, with a towel and a foot-bucket.”