By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com April 01 2014 5:00 AM ET
When LGBT people call out companies and organizations working against our interests, often it results in a positive policy change. But these businesses or groups have recently muddied the waters by making halfhearted apologies — or they’ve backtracked on progressive moves or taken no action. For anyone keeping watch, here are some examples never to follow.
Mozilla: The company behind the popular Web browser Firefox has a new CEO, Brendan Eich, who back in 2008 donated $1,000 to the campaign to pass Proposition 8, which nullified marriage equality in California. (Happily, thanks to a successful court challenge, Prop. 8 is no more.) Activists immediately raised concerns about Eich, and he and the company responded by asserting that Mozilla’s LGBT-friendly policies would not change, but Eich did not address the donation directly or say whether his views on marriage equality had changed. So now the backlash is growing, with more than 65,000 people have signed a petition calling on Eich to renounce his donation or resign. Plus, OKCupid made the bold move on Monday of intercepting anyone visiting the popular dating site while using Firefox with a letter warning that Eich "is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software."
Republican National Committee: Dave Agema, a former Michigan state legislator who now represents his state on the RNC, has made numerous outrageously antigay statements and posted homophobic misinformation on Facebook, leading to demands for him to resign from the RNC. A sampling of Agema’s misdeeds: saying Russia’s “gay propaganda” law is “a good law” and the U.S. should have one like it; alleging that gay men want free health care “because they’re dying between 30 and 44 years old”; and sharing articles by other antigay activists that included such unfounded assertions as “Many homosexuals admit they are pedophiles” and “The median age of death of lesbians is 45.” With a record like that, you'd think those self-proclaimed, equality-loving Republicans in charge of the party aparatus would be howling for his resignation every day, right? Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, has condemned Agema’s inflammatory rhetoric, and RNC chair Reince Priebus has called for him to resign — but he’s still here. Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette has also urged Agema to quit the committee, yet Agema and Schuette were seen shaking hands at a recent event for Schuette’s reelection campaign. Oh, and by the way, Agema says the devil’s behind the push for his resignation.
World Vision USA: This isn’t a case of muddy waters; it’s more like, first the group was clearly opening up to us, then it slammed the door shut. The worldwide Christian charity’s U.S. affiliate requires employees to abstain from sex outside marriage, but in late March it announced that it would treat same-sex marriages the same as opposite-sex unions. Its leaders noted that employees are drawn from 50 Christian denominations, some of which now solemnize same-sex marriages. But the day after the news broke, World Vision reversed itself, possibly in response to the outcry from ultraconservative Christians. “We failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith. … And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners. As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage,” said a statement from the group’s top officials. So, a group has issued a statement repenting for its support of equal rights? That's novel.
Chick-fil-A: The feathers hit the fan two years ago when it was revealed that the company’s charitable arm had made significant donations to antigay groups, and chief operating officer Dan Cathy voiced his opposition to marriage equality (repeatedly). LGBT consumers and their allies vowed never again to eat that kind of chikin, while conservatives like Mike Huckabee drummed up support for the fast-food chain. Cathy kept on serving up antigay rhetoric into 2013, saying the Supreme Court’s rulings for marriage equality constituted a “sad day for our nation.” But now, as the newly minted CEO of the company, he says he’s going to keep his views to himself — but they haven’t changed. “I think the time of truths and principles are captured and codified in God’s word and I’m just personally committed to that,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month. “I know others feel very different from that and I respect their opinion and I hope that they would be respectful of mine.” But something tells us LGBT customers and their allies won't exactly be rushing to get in line.
A&E channel: In a December interview, Phil Robertson, patriarch of the family duck-call business at the center of popular reality show Duck Dynasty, included homosexuality in a long list of sins, including bestiality, drunkenness, and prostitution. A&E quickly removed him for the show, then almost as quickly said he’d be back on it, while on the other hand asserting the network’s commitment to diversity and equality. Oh, and other members of the Robertson clan have spouted antigay remarks too. We don’t plan to be watching Duck Dynasty, but maybe we shouldn’t watch anything on the network? With a record like that, and with plenty of options, you can't blame LGBT viewers for changing channels.
Barilla: In September the Italian pasta company’s chairman said Barilla would never feature a gay couple in an ad and that he also opposed adoption by gays. And if they didn’t like it, he said, they could eat someone else’s pasta. LGBT activists immediately said they’d be happy to. The company then announced a “diversity and inclusion” initiative, but we haven’t heard of any concrete actions coming out of it. Still, The New York Times thinks the boycott is over; we think such a call is premature.
Salvation Army: Last year the venerable evangelical Christian charity removed two links to “ex-gay” groups from its website, and officials said they do not “consider homosexual orientation a sin.” The group has also adopted an employment policy that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. In previous years, LGBT advocates had suggested that there were better places to make charitable contributions than in the Salvation Army’s ubiquitous red Christmas kettles, citing various antigay efforts by the group. Some still assert that the Salvation Army hasn’t entirely abandoned those. So perhaps we should shop at other thrift stores, and when the holidays roll around, well, we’ll see.