Gay Pushback Over Charity Program Benefitting Anti-LGBT Groups
Many of America’s biggest companies are overtly gay-friendly. But some of those companies are also much more discreetly supportive of anti-gay groups like Focus on the Family (FOF) and the Family Research Council (FRC), faith-based organizations that condemn gays and their families and actively work to deny them legal and social equality, the New York Times reported on Sept. 25.
Microsoft, one of the nation’s most progressive companies when it comes to LGBT employees, is among the major firms that uses the services of an Internet provider that puts them in touch with online customers, and then diverts a share of the commission it makes to anti-gay groups. When Stuart Wilber, a gay resident of Seattle, where Microsoft is based, realized that business transactions between the software giant and Christian customers resulted in fees going to the coffers of anti-gay groups, he raised an alarm.
The ensuing controversy has opened up a whole new front where the same old questions and talking points are raised and re-hashed anew. Advocates of LGBT legal and social equality are working to spread the word that the service, Charity Giveback Group (CGBG), funnels cash to groups they say promote hatred and bias in the law and in everyday life. Gays should shop accordingly, they say, and refuse to support companies that channel some of the money they get from gay patrons into causes the target those very same people for legislative attack.
On the other side, well-worn claims of anti-Christian persecution and gay-driven oppression have found a completely new application, the New York Times reported.
"In July, Mr. Wilber went to a Web site that helps groups and individuals circulate petitions, called Change.org, and started one, asking Microsoft to end its association with what he called ’hate groups,’ " the New York Times article said.
"By that night, 520 people had signed, with their ire copied to Microsoft officials--and Microsoft had quietly dropped out of the donation plan. Much to Mr. Wilber’s surprise, this would be the start of an electronic conflict that has put hundreds of well-known companies in an unwelcome glare."
The anti-gay line of attack has grown increasingly pugnacious in recent years, with efforts by gay groups to assert their economic and political muscle being labeled everything from "intimidation" and "bullying" to "terrorism" by religiously based foes of LGBT equality.
For the gay community, however, flexing those muscles seems like a long-delayed means of shaking off shackles of oppression and prejudice imposed on sexual minorities in the name of religious and moral doctrines.
Though boycotts--whether called for by anti-gay groups or LGBT equality advocates--are of questionable effectiveness in terms of how much money they actually cost companies, the public relations part of the equation is always difficult to manage, never more so than now, an age in which petitions and online alerts can go viral overnight.
With both sides watching like hawks, companies that directly fund anti-gay groups--like Southern fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, or Target--can become the target of gay boycotts and negative PR campaigns, even as anti-gay activists point to such actions as another form of gay thuggery similar to the kind of intimidation anti-gay groups claim the LGBT community inflicted upon people of Christian conscience following the passage of Prop 8 in California.