Businesses use power to support anti-gay institutions

by MaryEllen Cagnassola and Casey Murphy
The mall is probably the last place one would expect to be confronted by a moral dilemma. Shopping and consuming is meant to be a mindless release from modern stresses, but in recent months it has become apparent that a purchase can potentially hinder gay rights. Owners of large corporations contribute private donations, and in some cases corporate money, to evangelical Christian politicians and anti-gay groups which have maligned the fight for equality for decades.

Urban Outfitters, which is currently in the process of being installed in Westfield’s popular local shopping area, plays the part of a hipster haven, marketing urban-chic clothing and décor in an effort to appeal to a young, liberal demographic. T-shirts featuring progressive-minded content, including pro-gay marriage slogans, are popular sellers.
But Richard Hayne, the co-founder and CEO of the chain store, is a known private contributor to controversial evangelical Christian politicians, including Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum, who is notorious for vehemently opposing gay marriage and lobbying to make homosexuality a punishable crime.
Hayne is one of many corporate leaders who use the wealth they have amassed to influence politics. Some owners support politicians because they find the promise of Republican tax cuts and less federal regulation to be a satisfying fix for their greed; overlooking the individuals who are targeted by the right-wing Republicans they support.
“I don’t think any CEO or business leader should take stances on political issues; it seems like a deterrent for business,” said sophomore Alex Walejewsky.
There are also companies whose leaders and CEOs themselves have a history of making direct contributions to anti-gay organizations. Most recently, the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A came under fire when it was discovered that its top executives have actively funded Christian lobbyist groups such as Focus on the Family and Exodus International for years, donating nearly $2 million in 2010 alone according to the pro-gay rights organization Equality Matters.
Groups like these launch ideological attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens. Focus on the Family’s website features propaganda such as “Collateral Damage? Children with a Gay Parent Speak Out,” warning readers of the “dangers” of homosexuality and listing ways to prevent it from harming children.
ExxonMobil, the all-powerful Wal-Mart, and even the charitable Salvation Army have been exposed as contributors to homophobia in America. Though the Salvation Army is a traditionally Christian organization, its denial of services to LGBT citizens and refusal to cooperate with anti-discrimination efforts speaks volumes regarding the hypocrisy and bigotry that transcends civil rights in these situations.
“I find it really ironic that the Salvation Army, which is supposed to be about helping others, would actively support groups that hurt people,” said senior Rachel Naugle. “My generation’s views are so progressive so it’s always a rude awakening to hear these types of things are still happening.”
ExxonMobil may have achieved Fortune Magazine’s highest ranking for financial success, but when it comes to ensuring human rights,  the company’s performance could not be worse. The oil company earned the Human Rights Campaign’s first-ever negative score on the annual Corporate Equality Index, according to Advocate, for its refusal to offer benefits to gay employees and exclusion of LGBT employees from its nondiscrimination policy.
The recoil from younger generations in response to anti-gay corporate activity is a small step in the right direction. Knowledge and awareness are vital in combatting such prejudice.
“Support for gay rights is really beginning to expand in this country. If enough people are knowledgeable about this, we can hurt these companies; education is key,” said senoir Dylan Sands.