Don’t look for Salvation Army bell ringers outside your local Macy’s this holiday season.
The department store company didn’t renew its contract with the Salvation Army, a spokesperson told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “We reevaluated our cause and community work and made a significant commitment to driving societal change by empowering underrepresented youth in our community,” the spokesperson said. “With this shift, we made the difficult decision to not continue our partnership with the Salvation Army this holiday season.”
The Macy’s rep did not say explicitly if the decision was related to the Salvation Army’s fraught relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. The Salvation Army, a conservative Christian organization, has been accused of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in its provision of services — something it has denied strongly. It also has stated it does not discriminate in employment.
But its churches do not marry same-sex couples, a topic a Salvation Army spokesman tried to pivot away from quickly in an Advocate interview in 2017. In 2012, it joined other faith groups in denouncing marriage equality as a threat to religious freedom, but its leaders have said since then that it is not involved in any efforts to undermine marriage equality.
Macy’s is an LGBTQ-supportive company. It has a perfect 100 score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. It has advertised in LGBTQ+ publications and featured same-sex couples in its ads. Its 2018 Thanksgiving Day parade featured a performance from the Broadway show The Prom that included a same-sex couple kissing, a first for the parade. It has worked with LGBTQ+ organizations such as HRC and the Trevor Project.
Its charitable work is in keeping with its recently adopted “Mission Every One” statement, which emphasizes “grant funding to advance human rights, racial justice, workforce development and economic opportunity in partnership with organizations including the Human Rights Campaign, National Urban League, Hispanic Federation and the Asian American Business Development Center,” according to Macy’s website.
A Salvation Army spokesperson told the Inquirer, “The Salvation Army is incredibly thankful for the many years of Red Kettle partnership with the Macy’s Corporation. Macy’s decided not to renew our annual Red Kettle agreement in 2022 to focus on other nonprofit causes at this time. We are grateful for all our continuing national and local Red Kettle partners and the generosity of the public to help us help their neighbors in need, which is greater than ever this season.”
The Advocate has sought comment from both Macy’s and the Salvation Army and will update this story if it receives a response. In interviews in 2015 and 2017, the Salvation Army denied any discrimination in its provision of services, which include drug and alcohol recovery services in the U.S., shelter for the homeless, disaster relief, assistance for former prisoners reentering society, and more.
The group’s national spokesman, Lt. Col. Ron Busroe, told The Advocate in 2017 that he’s less concerned that charges of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination will affect donations than that they might discourage LGBTQ+ people from seeking help. “My greater concern is not whether they’re donating, but if they’re saying the Salvation Army won’t help you because you’re gay,” he said.
The Salvation Army once had a statement against same-sex relationships on its website but no longer does. Also, it removed links to conversion therapy groups several years ago. Its site now states that it does not engage in “unlawful discrimination or harassment” on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or other characteristics in its employment practices or provision of services.