The Opera House in Seattle was the setting for Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and the annual board meeting of his church of Starbucks.
That's what it felt like -- what with the heart-stirring videos, the soulful songs of Grammy award-winning Esperanza Spalding, and a real Baptist preacher (Rev. Calvin Butts), not to mention free coffee and doughnuts.
Jonathan Baker, head of the National Organization for Marriage's Corporate Fairness Project was there to ask if the board really approved the statement that gay marriage is "core to the Starbucks brand."
Yes, Schultz said. Most of the room there applauded, but what happens in Seattle doesn't stay in Seattle.
Another shareholder asked how it could possibly be in the shareholders' interest to wade into a hot-button political and cultural issue. A few brave souls in the audience applauded.
I was going to ask a question, too, but Schultz cut off questions just before I spoke, leaving me the sole person standing before a microphone with a question in my heart to ask:
Millions of good, honorable, decent and loving people believe that marriage is the union of husband and wife for a reason -- these unions make new life and connect children to a mom and a dad. Of all the sustainable ecosystems Starbucks might want to support, surely this one is worthy of a company that bills itself as a company with a conscience?
I wanted to tell Schultz personally that we at the National Organization for Marriage were going to ask all his customers, employees and vendors who do not support gay marriage to make their presence known.
I don't generally support boycotts, especially not the kind gay marriage advocates have launched that target whole business enterprises if any one major partner personally donates to a measure like California's Proposition 8. It's wrong because the basic norms of business are that people of differing moral views, even on deeply felt moral issues like gay marriage and abortion, need to work together to grow a company to serve their customers and shareholders.
But Starbucks has voluntarily decided -- as a corporation -- to associate its brand with a major political issue, the CEO just confirmed. I was in the room. I heard him.
Customers across the world have a right to know that contrary to the promises made by the corporation in the Middle East and elsewhere, Starbucks does subsidize political causes. Drinking a cup of Starbucks coffee, sadly, means supporting gay marriage.
The National Organization for Marriage, which I co-founded, in response this week announced a national and international protest: DumpStarbucks.com. We are asking customers who oppose gay marriage to call both their local Starbucks branch and company headquarters to communicate that they wish to be able to buy a great cup of Seattle coffee without promoting gay marriage, and to switch to another brand of coffee.
Speak out, and stop being invisible to powerful men like Schultz. The business of America may or may not be business, but the business of corporations is to make an honest profit by serving all their customers well, both those who favor and those who oppose gay marriage.
(Maggie Gallagher is the founder of the National Organization for Marriage and has been a syndicated columnist for 15 years.)
- gay marriage
- Howard Schultz