Starbucks: Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage ‘Is Core to Who We Are and What We Value’

By Elizabeth Harrington | January 27, 2012 | 6:09pm EST

(AP Photo)

( – Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee shop chain, added its name to the list of major corporations that have endorsed a gay marriage bill in Washington State, saying the legislation shares the company’s values at its core. The decision was criticized by many conservative, pro-family organizations.

Leading traditional marriage organizations, for instance, are accusing the Seattle-based company of “meddling” in the debate, after Starbucks joined Google, Microsoft, and Nike in support of the legalization of same-sex marriage that is currently gathering momentum in the state legislature.

Kalen Holmes, executive vice president for Partner Resources, released a statement on Jan. 24 entitled, “Starbucks Supports Marriage Equality,” to all of the company’s U.S. employees. Starbucks employs 149,000 people internationally.

“Starbucks is proud to join other leading Northwest employers in support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples,” Holmes said. “Starbucks strives to create a company culture that puts our partners first, and our company has a lengthy history of leading and supporting policies that promote equality and inclusion.”

“This important legislation is aligned with Starbucks business practices and upholds our belief in the equal treatment of partners,” she wrote. “It is core to who we are and what we value as a company.”

Starbucks coffee symbol(s). (AP Photo)

Holmes added, “We are deeply dedicated to embracing diversity and treating one another with respect and dignity, and remain committed to providing an inclusive, supportive and safe work environment for all of our partners.”

“We look forward to seeing this legislation enacted into law,” she concluded.

“This is just a sad development,” said Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH), a group dedicated to countering the homosexual activist agenda. “We’re seeing the corporate world gravitate more and more towards the pro-gay position and, of course, it ends up with ultimately supporting same-sex marriage.”

“It’s just very sad because corporations, including Starbucks, they seem so much more solicitous of 1 to 3 percent of the population than the many, many millions of pro-family, mainly Christian consumers who oppose the redefinition of marriage,” he said.

Gay Marriage Watch, a news site that promotes same-sex marriage laws, is now calling for Amazon to support the bill.

The Family Research Council (FRC), a conservative organization that promotes faith, family and freedom, published a post on its Web site saying, “Starbucks Doesn't Know Beans about Marriage.”

In this Oct. 22, 2011 photo provided by the family, Jeff Littlefield, left, and his husband Tommy Starling pose with their 5-year-old daughter, Carrigan Starling-Littlefield, at a friend's wedding. (AP Photo/Gregory Pittman)

Calling attention to the endorsement, the FRC wrote, “Coffee isn’t the only thing brewing at Starbucks. So is controversy -- as customers learn about the company’s bold blend of liberal politics.”

“While the state is still sharply divided over same-sex ‘marriage,’ Starbucks has decided to sweeten the pot for homosexual activists and join the attack on local families,” stated the organization.

“Despite the coffeehouse’s meddling, families in Washington State are doing their best to keep the legislation at bay,” the FRC wrote.

Nonetheless, the same-sex marriage bill passed on a 4-3 vote out of the Senate Government Operations, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee on Jan. 26, and is now awaiting a vote in the full Senate. It appears the Senate has enough votes to pass the measure, joining a solid majority in the House and support by Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, according to the Associated Press.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) released a statement on Monday vowing to mount a referendum campaign in response to the efforts by the Democrat-controlled legislature to make Washington the seventh state to allow gay marriage.

“NOM will not stand by and let activist politicians redefine marriage, the bedrock of civilization, without voters having a say,” said Brian Brown, the organization’s president.

(AP Photo)

The group has previously worked to overturn gay marriage laws by ballot referendum in Maine and most famously in California, with Proposition 8.

The NOM also conducted a statewide survey that found 57 percent of Washingtonians, after being made aware the state has a civil union law for homosexual couples in place, said it was not necessary to redefine marriage. The results also showed that 72 percent think state lawmakers should work on other issues instead of gay marriage; 71 percent believe the people should decide the marriage issue; and 9 percent think it should be decided by the legislature.

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the FRC, in an e-mail to, said: “Starbucks' endorsement of controversial legislation to change the definition of marriage that was codified by the Washington state legislature only 14 years ago makes no sense. As their statement notes, they already give ‘domestic partner benefits’ to partners of their homosexual employees, as a way of ‘embracing diversity’ and treating them with ‘respect and dignity.’ For the state to redefine civil marriage will add nothing to these internal policies.”

“However, their concern for ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ apparently does not extend to Christians and other citizens who have legitimate concerns about affirming homosexual conduct,” said Sprigg. “Starbucks could well have remained silent in this heated political debate. But by taking sides, they have only shown their contempt for their employees and customers who believe in traditional family values -- in contradiction of their expressed corporate values.”

LaBarbera said a majority of Americans support traditional marriage since 30 states have passed defense of marriage amendments that prohibit civil unions, gay marriage or both. “Why isn’t that a factor in Starbucks’ corporate decisions?” he said.

In the past, the AFTAH has called for a boycott of the restaurant chain Chili’s for being a National Corporate Partner to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a homosexual activist group.

While his group is not yet calling for a boycott of Starbucks, LaBarbera says, “Consumers should not take their dollars to companies that basically repudiate their own values.”

LaBarbera said the company inserting itself into controversial issues could backfire. “If somebody wants to boycott Starbucks, it’s certainly an easy company to boycott.”

“It’s so easy you, just get your expensive cup of coffee somewhere else,” he said.

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