I’ve been contacted by several people this week who want me to endorse the “Dump Starbucks” campaign sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Starbucks’s sin? According to the campaign’s website, the socially-conscious company has “taken a corporate-wide position that the definition of marriage between one man and one woman should be eliminated and that same-sex marriage should become equally ‘normal’.” My correspondents have also made me aware of a Starbucks memo issued in January that said same-sex marriage “is core to who we are and what we value as a company.” Readers of this blog know that I do not support gay marriage and that I personally boycotted Marriott hotels for years due to their revenue from pornography channels. In this case, I will choose to pass on the “Dump Starbucks” campaign.
The primary reason that I will continue to patronize Starbucks is that like many Jews, I have high expectations of my LDS coreligionists but do not necessarily expect others to adhere to the same standards. I boycotted Marriott because the company was founded by and bears the name of a prominent LDS family that still sits on its board. That it took in revenue from pornography was completely unacceptable to me (note: the company has since changed its policy). Did I consider boycotting other porn-offering hotel chains? I did not, because they weren’t run by Mormons.
If I were not LDS, I would be in favor of gay marriage. While there are valid religious objections, I have yet to find a secular one that makes sense. I can’t bring myself to fault someone who does not share my theology for supporting gay marriage. The CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, happens to be a non-Orthodox Jew. Why I should expect him to have the same beliefs about marriage as a devout Mormon is beyond me. If a Mormon were to become CEO of the company, I might think about taking my business elsewhere because the idea of a Mormon actively promoting the sale of coffee and tea, two drinks expressly prohibited by our dietary laws, is unacceptable to me. However, I can’t fault Mr. Schultz & Co. for going to the mat over what they believe is an issue of fairness and equality, even if I don’t see things the same way.
Indeed, as a survivor of the Prop 8 battle in California, I don’t think it is advisable for either side of the gay marriage issue to start targeting people or companies for punishment. Several people unsuccessfully tried to get me fired from my job with a Jewish organization after Prop 8 passed, and I know of several Mormons who did in fact lose their jobs or suffer other career setbacks thanks to bigots who took revenge on them. The First Amendment is still alive and well in this country; firing people and boycotting companies that disagree with you on moral issues seems rather petty and small-minded to me in this day and age.
Another concern that I have is consistency. Both Microsoft and Google have also expressed strong support for gay marriage. Is the NOM planning to target Bill Gates and encourage people to give up Windows and close their Gmail accounts? If not, why not?
My final point is that Starbucks is not an advocacy organization, it’s a coffee shop. When I walk inside, I don’t have to pass by rainbow flags and banners advocating gay marriage. No one asks for my political preference or my signature on a petition. All I need to do is place my order, pay, and pick up the warm croissant and grande hot chocolate at the counter. I’m willing to bet that Mormons aren’t a huge slice of Starbucks’s customer base, and we are known for our opposition to gay marriage. That said, I’d be very surprised to see many Mormons join the “Dump Starbucks” campaign. You don’t have to support gay marriage to believe that people with different theologies who act on their beliefs shouldn’t be punished for doing so.