Starbucks Pushes Latte and Homosexual Agenda

Discussion
Sep 02, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Starbucks was looking to get people talking with its “The Way I See it” promotion. It worked.

The promotion includes quotes from a number of well-known (to varying degrees) Americans on a variety of subjects imprinted on Starbucks’ cups.

One particular quote, number 43 in the series, has the Concerned Women for America (CWA) citing it as proof that Starbucks supports the homosexual lifestyle.

The quote from Armistead Maupin, the writer of the bestseller Tales of the City, says: “My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don’t make that mistake yourself. Life’s too damn short.”

Meghan Kleppinger, assistant to the national field director at CWA and an avowed loyal, albeit former, customer of Starbucks, sees the quote as another example of the coffee chain making the wrong choice on a number of issues that for her and many others is a matter of morality.

She wrote on WorldNetDaily last month: “Starbucks has a corporate policy of supporting the homosexual agenda by sponsoring ‘Pride’ events all over the country — events where children will be exposed to sexually explicit materials and pedophiles as well as the extremely liberal and pro-abortion Planned Parenthood. This might be a good time to add that the owner of Starbucks made a large donation to a liberal candidate’s campaign.”

Maureen Richardson, state director of CWA in Washington told The Seattle Times that the group is not calling for a boycott of Starbucks but suggests the company would be wise to steer away from activities that might cost it customers. “I think it’s wiser for them to stay out of these issues so that they don’t offend conservatives and people of faith.”

“If you want my money, support some of my causes,” she added.

Ms. Richardson suggests that if Starbucks is going to continue supporting issues such as the homosexual lifestyle and abortion, it should balance it with contributions to groups such as the Boy Scouts of America, which advocates for children but rejects homosexuality as immoral. She also suggested the company contribute financially to the operation of pro-life clinics and advocacy groups.

Leo Hindery, author of It Takes a CEO: Leading with Integrity, said there are some issues that are too controversial for public businesses to deal with. “There are many religious-based social issues that are so hard for society to address right now — things like abortion and capital punishment — they’re better left for another time…

But there are a couple of places where it is clear to me that there should be no ambiguity of corporate responsibility — the environment and civil rights. As a corporation, you cannot let the desire for unanimity override your obligation for fairness.”

Audrey Lincoff, a spokesperson for Starbucks, said, “Embracing diversity and treating people with dignity is one of the guiding principles of our corporation.”

Another company spokesperson, Lara Wyss, said decisions about sponsoring local events of any kind are made at the store or regional level. She also added that Starbucks does not make outright contributions to groups such as Planned Parenthood. It does, however, match its workers’ contributions to charities as a matter of company policy.

Moderator’s Comment: The CWA suggests that Starbucks and other companies should either stay away from controversial subjects such as homosexuality and
abortion or take a balanced approach where opposing sides are represented and/or receive corporate contributions. Do you agree with this position?

Following the CWA logic, if Starbucks included the Armistead Maupin quote it would also need to have a cup with a quote from, say, Anita Bryant. In 1977,
Ms. Bryant said, “As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children.”

George Anderson – Moderator

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23 Comments on "Starbucks Pushes Latte and Homosexual Agenda"


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Karen Kingsley
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Karen Kingsley
15 years 5 months ago

I’m not sure I agree that the comment by Maupin represents support of homosexuality. As nearly as I understand it, he’s really suggesting people embrace their true selves and not be afraid to love, regardless of who the recipient of that affection is.

Curiously, I never hear people asking those companies who support conservative causes to be more balanced in their approach. Starbucks’ constituency is more likely to support a more liberal view anyway, so liberal remarks are more in keeping with their marketplace.

This feels like a misguided tempest in a teapot to me, and frankly, I suspect more people (who are already inclined to spend $4 for a cup of coffee) will support them than ban them.

Jerry Stephens
Guest
Jerry Stephens
15 years 5 months ago

I think Scanner is on target here. Starbucks has a lot of stores here (Dallas) and I cannot see how they could ever hope to gain enough liberal customers to replace the customers they may lose.

Why would anyone selling anything set up a situation where they build walls between themselves and current or future customers?

This may go away for Starbucks. I suspect that the situation may get difficult for them in some markets. It is a Red State / Blue State disconnect.

I, too, would like to know more about their matching funds program for charitable contributions. What charitable groups are excluded, if any?

Bill Clark
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Bill Clark
15 years 5 months ago

In our society, whenever someone wants to take a public position on a controversial issue, whether they be corporation, clergyman, celebrity, or commoner, they need to be aware of the firestorm they may call down on themselves. Knowing the possible costs, it takes courage to stand up for a principle. Our culture and very way of life is strengthened when its members stand up, regardless of which side of the line they stand up on.

We are all weakened when “the right thing to do” is to sit down, keep quite, and not get involved. My momma taught me to call that cowardice.

Bob Houk
Guest
Bob Houk
15 years 5 months ago

“Curiously, I never hear people asking those companies who support conservative causes to be more balanced in their approach.”

Coors. I seem to recall an attempt to boycott Dominoes as well.

Companies have a right to take a stand. The CWA, or any other group, has a right to criticize them for it.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

It’s a free country, and companies should be allowed to speak their minds just as consumers should be allowed to buy what they want, where they want. Personally, I appreciate companies like Starbucks for taking a stand, and not necessarily because I agree with it in this particular case (which I do). Telling people or companies to sit back and not take a stand for fear of upsetting people has to be either hypocrisy or cowardice. I am reminded of the debate over slavery prior to the civil war, when abolitionists were asked to be more calm about the debate. One of them said something akin to: “You may as well ask a man whose house is on fire with his children inside to remain calm and not become excited.” I have always admired people who are not afraid to speak their minds.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Bookstores have this type of problem all the time. If they stock books and magazines with one point of view, do they have to stock books and magazines with opposing views? If they don’t stock controversial books, is that censorship? If they are forced to stock books with every possible point of view, isn’t that a type of censorship, too? Will Starbucks get more business from people sympathetic to the Maupin cups, balancing out the business lost by those who are offended? Should every cup have a disclaimer reading, “The opinions expressed on this cup are not necessarily those of Starbucks”? If the purpose of the campaign was to create interesting publicity, it succeeded. When I worked for Penguin Books, twice we bought manuscripts for pennies from obscure authors whose books were loudly condemned and banned in other countries. This publicity made both books best-sellers in the US.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

I doubt Starbucks could care less about any of the controversial subjects, the environment, or other political agendas. What Starbucks does care about is separating as much money as they can from the pockets of the people who care about these issues and putting it in Starbucks’ cash register. Starbucks is simply making a business decision by supporting causes that its targeted customers support. It’s no different that politicians voting in favor of those who donate the most money. It’s the money doing the talking here, not Starbucks.

Bruce Vierck
Guest
Bruce Vierck
15 years 5 months ago

Marketing today is about being polarizing; it’s the only way to distinguish yourself in an otherwise sea of sameness. Starbucks’ coffee cup quotations are simply a means of distinguishing their brand as edgy and enlightened. Will they win more than they lose with this initiative? Time will tell. The lesson is that more marketers will begin to win, or lose, based on their attachment to causes, philosophies and positions, as this is one of the last fertile grounds for differentiation. Polarization is becoming a marketing necessity; with it come greater risks.

Jason Brasher
Guest
Jason Brasher
15 years 5 months ago
Any company has the right to determine whether they support charities and determine what those charities are. It sounds here like Starbucks’ has decided to match contributions to the charities their employees support. What a great way to do good in the community while reflecting the true personality of their company as they will be represented to their communities. I would wager that it helps boost employee moral to boot. If the CWA, or any other organization wants to exercise their rights to state their opinion and protest what the company is doing, I applaud them for getting involved in the process. I would like to see some ability to require these published statements be factual and accurate if they are going to be reported as news. If the CWA is looking for a handout, I believe they have taken a distasteful approach to threaten the company’s business with political actions. The implied call to arms against Starbucks for not contributing to their causes is just a poor showing of pan handling from what I… Read more »
Lori Sudler
Guest
Lori Sudler
15 years 5 months ago

The idea that Starbucks has any sort of agenda beyond selling coffee is laughable. They are a company making money by supporting their customer base. How wise would it be of Starbucks to come out with an anti-homosexual policy when that group probably makes up 10-20% of their customer base? I’m sure their shareholders wouldn’t mind losing 10-20% in order to support a social agenda.

George Anderson
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

In fairness to the CWA and because the point of this discussion is to address a real business issue and not demonize any side, it should be noted that Meghan Kleppinger didn’t call for a boycott of Starbucks in her original article.

She simply said she was looking for another coffee shop that didn’t take positions that were contrary to her own. To this, she and any other consumer are entitled. And, if her estimate that she spends $1,040 a year is correct, I’m sure there is a Dunkin’ Donuts or some other coffee seller who would love to have her patronage.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 5 months ago
Ah, the power of words. And pictures, see Benetton, 1990s. I disagree that companies should stay out of choppy political waters. Corporations are citizens, in both a legal sense and a philosophical sense. They pay taxes, they buy property, they are born and they die, and affect other people’s lives when they act. It seems hypocritical to decry corporate greed and a single-minded, blind pursuit of profit at any cost, then turn around and scold a company that dares to have an opinion on a social issue. Starbucks may or may not care one whit for either side of an issue it uses in its ads. But there is nothing wrong with a company having a social agenda. You don’t have to work for that company and you don’t have to buy its products. But companies *are* citizens and they should care what kind of world they exist in. I would argue that they have a greater interest than individuals, because if they are successful, they will outlive many generations of individuals, and will have… Read more »
Mark Barnhouse
Guest
Mark Barnhouse
15 years 5 months ago

The other week when I came across this cup at my local Starbucks, I was glad. As a gay man, I remember what it was like before I accepted that essential fact about myself, and I thought, as I drank my grande soy chai, “I hope some gay or lesbian teenager gets this cup, reads it, and understands a little bit more about him or herself.”

The comments reflecting Starbucks’ tendency to attract a somewhat more liberal crowd than they attract an Evangelical one are partly right — but in the Denver suburb where I work I’ve seen Evangelical Christians having religious discussions in the very same Starbucks where I encountered the Maupin quotation cup. Like gays and lesbians, they too are everywhere.

George Anderson
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Peter – your objection to the story’s headline is noted. In hindsight it would have been better to make it: Starbucks Accused of Pushing Homosexual Agenda with Lattes

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 5 months ago
The comments today, at a glance, seem as misguided as Starbucks’ program itself and that surprises me. Especially, up to and including a limited point of view that Starbucks’ market is primarily liberal. If that were true, they’d be half their size. How ridiculous. Companies can indeed support issues and causes as they wish. They are free to support charities or not support charities. They are free to be political or be evenhanded. Or they are free to do nothing at all. When you do so, you are subject to accepting the alienation of the other side. However, much like Wal-Mart, when your intention is to obtain the greatest ubiquity known to man, you have a lot at risk should you decide you can afford to alienate any share of the marketplace. It would seem totally counter-productive to their own business interest. When you stick your nose out, be prepared to have it chopped off. A little less arrogance and a bit more care would be a good prescription for Starbucks. They can only hope… Read more »
Tillman Estes
Guest
Tillman Estes
15 years 5 months ago

“THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE,” is on all of our money in the US. The best part about it, you can spend it however you choose. You may not always make the best choices, however, they are just that, your choices. CWA, you are from this day forward empowered to spend your cash as you see fit.

Mike ODaniel
Guest
Mike ODaniel
15 years 5 months ago

I agree with Karen. I also find it interesting that these so called “conservatives” are always putting the words “sexually explicit” and “pedophile” into so many sentences that discuss the gay folks. I’m personally much more concerned about our young people getting killed in Iraq than if someone is gay or not. I wish these “people of values” thought that way too.

Peter Fader
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

I object to the headline of this discussion entry. Starbucks isn’t pushing a “homosexual agenda.” The only “agenda” exists in the minds of folks like the CWA who want to restrict free speech and human rights.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

First off, I am not a big Starbucks fan but this appears to be a (very successful) programme designed to initiate debate and stimulate media coverage. Secondly, I have gone on record here many times saying that I don’t believe in corporate contributions to any political campaign or activist organisation; these should be matters for individual executives, employees and shareholders rather than blanket ways of spending profits. But, in this case, if Starbucks is genuinely matching workers’ contributions and supporting their expressed preferences, it presumably leaves room for maneouvre and batting both ways on every issue so where does that leave the CWA argument? Anyway, who or what is Starbucks within the context of what “they” support? Which mind, as Warren puts it, are they speaking? Has the organisation taken on a personality of its own? Does it live and breathe and make decisions? If so, has it patented the process?

Olha Dunbar
Guest
Olha Dunbar
15 years 5 months ago

Starbucks is doing something right. What a way to do a little cause related marketing, and increase your market share at the same time. It’s a brave new world, and I would bet that the marketing geniuses behind this decision knew the numbers were for them and not against them before they started. I think it works.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 5 months ago

Some very great points made by the above commentators.

First, it was reported that Starbucks’ did some research to see if there would be a MAJOR backlash. Second, if there is a cause to promote, Starbuck will listen, and then decide.

Third, aren’t all people of equal rights, and don’t all have the right to speak in any fashion? Are you listening?(the Far Right, and almost all of the page!)

If a group wants to boycott Starbucks, go ahead! Hmmmmmmm

Paul McConville
Guest
Paul McConville
15 years 5 months ago

Is this a joke? Why should Starbucks pander to the ultra-right CWA? I find it laughable that, as a country, we cannot come to terms with the fact that people are different: Race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. Could a simple message on a cup help promote tolerance and acceptance? Sure. Isn’t this a good thing? Why pander to the intolerant, whatever label they put upon themselves (CWA)? I applaud Starbucks for their position on diversity and inclusiveness.

Drew Paterson
Guest
Drew Paterson
15 years 3 months ago

The problem with a campaign like Starbucks’ is that it has great potential for removing the parent from the decision of when, if, and how to discuss topics such as homosexuality with their child. Teens are regular buyers of Starbucks and it is not up to Starbucks to initiate dialogue with these youngsters; that is a parent’s responsibility.

The answer to the question of whether Starbucks is promoting a particular agenda appears clear. They are. If anyone was to suggest that they place a quote by the libidinous and lecherous Marquis de Sade on the side of the cup, something to the effect of:

“Here am I: at one stroke incestuous, adulteress, sodomite, and all that in a girl who only lost her maidenhead today! What progress, my friends… with what rapidity I advance along the thorny road of vice!”

Do you really think they would do it? It’s not on their agenda.

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