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02/01/2011

Pride in sponsorship: Regardless of intent, all companies need to own advocacy

by Jeremy Hooper

In a Tweet to RedState.com's Erick Erickson, Peter LaBarbera makes this point regarding the Chick-Fil-A controversy:

Screen Shot 2011-02-01 At 9.26.35 Am
[SOURCE]

But while Pete is attempting to spin the Chick thing as the "gotcha" liberal media coming down on conservatives, what he's really doing is helping us highlight the CLEAR difference between companies that support equality and companies that do not. Which, to us, is the biggest takeaway from this whole pickled-bun dustup.

The undeniable truth is that pro-gay companies largely make their support known. There's a reason why a vast (and growing) number of Fortune 500 companies come down on the side of civil fairness and LGBT non-discrimination: Because it's smart business to do so! That's why on our side, it's not uncommon to see companies creating Gay Pride ads, launching special micro sites supporting equality, sponsoring conferences like this week's Creating Change, or in other ways associating the brand with the cause. The support is not done underground: It's worn as a badge of honor. Sometimes literally:

Orbitz Hrc Ad
(2009 Orbitz ad)

So that's what's been so eye-openingly reinforced for us throughout this Chick-Fil-A situation: The clear difference between the ways pro- and anti-equality companies conduct their outreach and/or advocacy efforts. At this point, we all know what Chick-Fil-A does via its WinShape foundation. We all know that the retreat center explicitly bans gays. We all know that they host national "protect marriage" seminars at that very same retreat center. And so on, and so on. So why is it even kinda problematic for them to see these realities coming to light? Chick-Fil-A, as a private company, chose to make these decisions, just as pro-equality companies made their own corporate choices. Why is it that the pro-equality companies send press releases begging us to promote their LGBT support, yet when we do little more than note another company's inverse effort, we are somehow acting like "radicals"?

We all exist within the same consumer market. On any consumer good or service, every last one of us is free to shop or not shop. To eat or not eat. To care or not care. To boycott or not boycott, or to even boycott the boycott. That's how it works here in Ameri-I-ca. Thank you, please drive around.

But no company is guaranteed a shroud of secrecy. No company has a pass that frees their execs from raised questions or criticisms. No restaurant chain is free to say, "relax it's just chicken chikin" in one breath, declare that "our supported retreat center does not support homosexual couples" in the next breath, and then go on their merry way without any portion of their customer base issuing a "hey, wait a minute!"

If Peter and fellows want to make a major stink out of a Fortune 500 company's basic support for a minority population's civil rights, then they have the floor (and we'll push back accordingly). But as part of their efforts, the "values" crowd should also make sure the companies on their side of the "culture war" fence have the fortitude to stand their own ground. We're confident ours will.

***

*Full Chick-Fil-A Controversy Archive

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