The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) plans to expand its campaign to stoke homophobia abroad to undermine pro-equality American companies, according to audio of a conference call obtained by The American Independent. When asked during the call about Starbucks, which had spoken out against anti-gay ballot referenda, NOM President Brian Brown suggested his organization planned to intensify its campaign against Starbucks and other similar companies in countries where homophobia is pervasive:
Their international outreach is where we can have the most effect…So for example, in Qatar, in the Middle East, we’ve begun working to make sure that there’s some price to be paid for this. These are not countries that look kindly on same-sex marriage. And this is where Starbucks wants to expand, as well as India. So we have done some of this; we’ve got to do a lot more.
This strategy is incredibly irresponsible: by associating Starbucks with gay rights in homophobic countries, NOM is singling out Starbucks employees for anti-gay abuse and more generally stoking anger towards LGBT people. The broader Middle East is home to three out of the five countries in the world where homosexuality is punishable by death. Though Qatar specifically isn’t one of them, its government defends other countries’ right to execute LGBT persons and, according to the State Department, “there was an underlying pattern of discrimination towards LGBT persons based on conservative cultural and religious values prevalent in the society.” The situation in India, the other country NOM singled out, is also dire:
The majority of Indian homosexuals – many of whom still live with the parents – refer to their partners as “friends” for fear of being disowned by their families. Many are forcibly married off, trapped in a cycle of pretence and deception and facing social ridicule if they attempted to come out. And those who can live together do not advertise their sexuality, for fear of being evicted by landlords or preyed upon by the corrupt police who extort money from them on threat of exposure.
Under these circumstances, attempting to associate Starbucks with LGBT causes with said causes is doubly irresponsible. NOM is exposing employees to risk they did not voluntarily take on and potentially undermining the quest for the most basic of equal rights by painting LGBT rights as something foreign imposed by a Western company. That NOM is willing to take these chances with others’ lives and livelihoods — to “pay the price,” in Brown’s words — in an attempt to indirectly (and so far, unsucessfully) influence politics inside the United States speaks volumes about the organization.