Why Conservatives’ Request For Corporate ‘Neutrality’ On Marriage Equality Is Phony And Harmful

“Neutrality” is the new buzzword among groups opposed to same-sex marriage. The Family Research Council would prefer Target “take a position of neutrality on the redefinition of marriage” instead of selling Pride Month t-shirts. One Million Moms has called on JC Penney to “remain neutral in the culture war,” rather than include same-sex families in their advertisements. And last week, the National Organization for Marriage sent a vaguely threatening letter to Minnesota’s 50 largest corporations urging them to sit out the debate on the state’s marriage inequality amendment:

As a cultural matter that has little to do with your corporate mission to serve customers, earn profits, and provide good jobs for the people of Minnesota we would request that _____ adopt a neutral stance on the Minnesota marriage amendment. We do not request that you endorse our efforts to protect the age-old definition of what is a marriage, but only that you stay neutral and respect the conscience rights of your customers and employees who are on both sides of the issue.[…]

Wading into a culture war over an issue where _____ has no business interest is to invite public backlash, much like what Starbucks is experiencing in the campaign, with little upside. Polls have put support for the Minnesota marriage amendment at 56% — higher than polls in North Carolina had support for the marriage amendment there just prior to the 61–39% victory for marriage in that state.[…]

We are carefully watching what _____ will do on this important measure, with the expectation that you will not be engaged on one side or the other. Please let us know if this is not the case.

It’s unclear which poll NOM is referring to, because the latest survey showed the discriminatory measure losing 43–49. Furthermore, the DumpStarbucks threat is a joke — only 44,338 people have pledged to dump Starbucks, whereas nearly 15 times as many people (650,000) eagerly thanked Starbucks for supporting marriage equality. In the weeks after NOM first launched its campaign, the company’s stock climbed significantly in value. Today, Starbucks publicly endorsed marriage equality in Australia, clearly not intimidated by NOM’s paltry protest.


More importantly, there’s no such thing as a “neutral” position that doesn’t still hurt the gay community. The term as used by anti-gay conservatives seems to derive from Minnesota’s largest school district, Anoka-Hennepin, where a “neutrality” policy prevented staff from discussing LGBT issues and thereby created a toxic bullying-ridden climate for gay and trans students. A policy of neutrality is a policy of invisibility, disregard, and shame. NOM’s use of such a red herring is both a sign of the organization’s anti-gay malevolence and desperation for support.

Lastly, NOM’s rationale that supporting marriage equality has “little to do with” corporate missions is simply wrong. Businesses do better when their LGBT employees are treated fairly, because they can recruit and retain more talented staff and market their spirit of inclusion to customers. Minnesota’s businesses should call NOM on its bluff and do what’s right for both their profits and the thousands of same-sex families who might patronize them: embrace equality for all.