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Why Ben & Jerry's Honored Marriage Equality


The term "crunchy Vermonters" typifies the corporate culture of Ben & Jerry's, the ubiquitous ice cream company begun by two hippies -- Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield -- in 1978. It didn't seem like a stretch that Ben & Jerry's supported marriage equality (which became a reality in the company's home state Tuesday), since the firm's leaders have already voiced support for social justice causes like nuclear disarmament and health care. But the maker of Phish Food went a step further, renaming its Chubby Hubby flavor "Hubby Hubby" at Ben & Jerry's Vermont shops for the month of September. The company also partnered with the group Freedom to Marry to spread the word on its support of marriage equality, urging people to visit Freedom to Marry 's website to sign a marriage resolution petition and learn how they can support the cause.

Sean Greenwood, Ben & Jerry's grand pooh-bah of public relations (yes, that's his official title), talked to us about his company's proud embrace of same-sex marriage and taking the Hubbys national. What was the impetus for turning Chubby Hubby into Hubby Hubby?
Sean Greenwood: Well, it was just staying true to our company's values. It's not a new issue with us to support equality. We gave benefits to domestic partners a long time ago --maybe 1987 or 1988. And in April [when a same-sex marriage bill was passed by Vermont's legislature] we wanted to show our support for marriage equality, so we served up some Ben & Jerry's wedding cakes at City Hall in Montpelier.

We then thought we could do something to bring attention to the issue on a larger scale. We realized on September 1, the first day of marriage in Vermont, we had a reason to celebrate. So we had the symbolic renaming. We actually also had a couple trucks dressed up [in Hubby Hubby regalia], and serving Hubby Hubby circling Burlington and Montpelier. We also wanted to tell that story nationally, and to an extent internationally, with information on Facebook and Twitter.

What's the response been?
In general, supportive. There's always going to be naysayers. From the 35 e-mails I received in the past day, about 85% have been positive. One I received was from a woman in Illinois, a place where she and her partner can't be recognized as married. She said she cried when her daughter said, "At least Ben & Jerry's recognizes mommy and mommy are married."

Any thoughts of taking Hubby Hubby national?
Anything is possible. But if we put a rainbow flag on the pints, people would say we're just trying to sell more product to a niche market. We weren't bringing out Hubby Hubby as a product to sell; it was done because it was the right thing to do. What we are bringing out nationwide is the discussion, and we think that's more important.

And the most important question, what's in Hubby Hubby?
Fudge-covered peanut butter-filled pretzels in vanilla malt ice cream rippled with fudge and peanut butter.

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