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Rainbow Connection: Starbucks Supports Gay Marriage, Home Depot Gets Boycott

Posted by Abe Sauer on January 25, 2012 07:01 PM

Starbucks is on a libertarian tear. After expanding beer and wine sales last week, the coffee kingpin released a letter to all partners in full support of same-sex marriage rights. It's a bold move considering just how much PR trouble other large brands like Home Depot are currently having with the issue.

But, it seems, the time has come when brand managers have to check their SWOT analyses for the "gay marriage" entry.

"Starbucks is proud to join other leading Northwest employers in support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples," began the letter from Starbucks' executive vice president of partner resources. The letter, addressed to all brand partners, lays out Starbucks position in no uncertain terms.

The move was celebrated by gay rights advocates and others, with Twitter responses running heavily in favor of the brand's declaration:

Starbucks joins such high profile Washington-headquartered brands as Microsoft and Nike in support of same-sex marriage equality. While such support is a marketing strategy move for the brands in some respects, it is also a genuine boost to the gay rights movement to have some of the nation's most important "job creators" backing a movement that goes beyond just equal benefits.

Meanwhile, Home Depot is locked in a gay rights battle of a different rainbow stripe. Last year, the Mississippi-based conservative American Family Association (AFA), which aims to "strengthen the moral foundations of American culture," took umbrage at the brand's support of Gay Pride events last summer. "See Home Depot's shocking gay pride parade float," read an August 2011 alert.

AFA duly launched a Home Depot boycott. AFA claimed a victory, noting that "in 2009 and 2010, Home Depot sponsored and marched in at least 16 separate gay pride events. After the boycott began, Home Depot's participation dropped to just four events in 2011," adding — from the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" Dept. — that Home Depot had "ordered its employees to stop wearing its highly recognized orange aprons to any homosexual-themed events."

But then, horror of horrors, AFA claimed that Home Depot had, instead of capitulating, reiterated its support for expanded gay rights. In response, the AFA released an alert warning on January 23rd that "Every homosexual organization Home Depot supports has as their top priority the legalization of homosexual marriage." AFA further called for action by calling and boycotting the brand. Further, the AFA urges that everyone "pray for Home Depot Chairman Frank Blake."

Of course, Starbucks' brand position is not the same as some big box retailers who have broader demographics to worry about. Target, for instance, is currently headquartered in the state that faces a gay marriage ban referendum this November. While Target has not issued any statement on the measure, coming out against it could help restore a great deal of the negative PR the retailer generated in 2010 after it donated heavily to elect anti-gay politicians.

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