Chicken, Coffee, and Gay Marriage

This past January, Starbucks made a statement about same sex-marriage. This is from an executive vice president:

“Starbucks is proud to join other leading Northwest employers in support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples… It is core to who we are and what we value as a company.”

That caused a movement titled “Dump Starbucks” that created an online petition to boycott the coffee company. The result? After a few months of their campaign, they’ve gotten 47,144 people to sign the petition. At the same time, another on-line petition was created to thank Starbucks for their support of gay-marriage. The result? Over 650,000 signatures. Most analysts argue that Starbucks gained more business from the controversy than it lost.

In July, president and CEO of Chick-fil-A said the following:

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. …We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

I’m assuming you haven’t been living in a cave the past few months and know what kind of fallout that comment created. (But in case you have been living in a cave—go see the Avengers.) Former Governor Mike Huckabee declared August 1st as “Chick-fil-A” day and all supporters of traditional marriage were encouraged to support the restaurant that day. The result? Hour long waits and the company’s single biggest day of sales in their history. Two days later, some pro-gay groups tried to coordinate a “kiss-in” to protest Chick-fil-A’s statement. In comparison, barely anybody showed up.

In both cases, the boycotts backfired. Now that the dust has settled from the Chick-fil-A support/boycott I wonder, do boycotts even work anymore? So I asked a trusted source: Google. (See? I’m just like my students.)

Aside from the many bloggers who rant their own opinion on their subject (man, I hate those guys!) I did come across an interesting article from the Washington Post back in 2009 by Lawrence Glickman who has written a number of books and articles on economy and history. He wrote, “Despite their frequency throughout U.S. history, boycotts have rarely achieved their intended goals.” So it’s not that boycotts don’t work. It’s just that they rarely work, at least in economically punishing whatever is boycotted.

It seems the real lesson in all of this, no matter what side of the gay marriage debate that you’re on, is most of us would like to have our coffee and eat our chicken, too. Both boycotts were a bust. We live in a culture that would rather support than suspend, rather say yes than say no. It’s easier for people to buy than to boycott. Activists, take note.

But for people of faith I think there is a bigger issue than just the economics. In Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate, he wrote that, “every economic decision has a moral consequence.” Where we spend or don’t spend our money is not about just about the institution we denounce/support, it’s also about ourselves.

I’m not convinced that sipping a Starbucks leads our country any closer to gay marriage than I think that eating a chicken sandwich keeps things “straight.” But I do think it’s important, if only for our own conscience, to financially support organizations that line up with our beliefs, whether they be religious, charitable, or even retail, as well as refrain from supporting those institutions that denounce those beliefs. The “fasting” of something is always harder to do than the “feasting” of something else, but I think both are in order if are to live what we believe and make a difference in the world today.

5 Comments on “Chicken, Coffee, and Gay Marriage

  1. “Both boycotts were a bust.”

    Were they? My sense is that a boycott takes place over a long period of time, as opposed to a single day.

    I (for example) never intend to eat at Chick-fil-a. So in that sense, the boycott worked. They had a good day profit-wise. But will they lose business in the long run? I don’t know…maybe, maybe not.

    I do know they’ve lost my business.

  2. Great post, Bob. I think the implications of boycotts are interesting. When you look at numbers and boil it all down, it does seem to suggest that making a personal boycott of something has a far greater effect on yourself and those close to you than it does on the actual bottom line of a company. It’s a way to kind of gently remind yourself what you believe in and when people say “Why are you buying that item?” you have an opportunity to educate them not only on what that company believes in, but by your protest, what you believe in, in case they didn’t already know. 🙂 I do find it hard to do, sometimes, though. The list of organizations which support Planned Parenthood is getting so long, I’m pretty sure I’m only allowed to shop out of my own garden and the Catholic book store down the street!

  3. I’m still not sure why anyone would boycott a business who said they support traditional marriage. If he said he hated gays, or something like that, then I could understand.
    Plus, they train their employees to be respectful and friendly to every customer. Heaven forbid!

    • Because he also, apparently, uses some of his money to support attempts at keeping gay marriage illegal.

      He’s perfectly within his rights to do that. And I’m perfectly within my rights not to give him any of my money to use for his desires, which I view as immoral.

  4. Dear notascientist, I totally respect your thoughts. I don’t like anything that seperates us as God’s family. I have learned that God’s ways are not mine. It doesn’t matter if I like it or not God is very clear on his view of Marriage, communion and the church. I accept them even if I don’t understand them. I feel it is like a child not understanding why they need to go to bed. I trust that God loves us and has made these rules for a reason. I didn’t say that I liked them or understood them but I do accept them………Not to say that it is easy too. I pray that you will also beable to hear Gods word and feel his love even when it is hard. I know it has been for me.

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