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Chick-fil-A founder and Chairman S.Truett Cathy listens during the keynote address delivered by US Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney at Liberty University's 39th Annual Commencement in Lynchburg, Virginia, May 12, 2012.
Have you ever wondered if the businesses you frequent share your political views? Well, it’s been getting easier to find out lately as a number of companies have been coming out with their positions on same sex marriage.
Chick-fil-A, a company that has always been open about its Christian values — and closed for business on Sundays — has recently stirred up a social storm with its anti-gay marriage stance. Chick-fil-A’s president Dan Cathy, when asked in an interview with Baptist Press if his company’s support of the traditional family unit means opposition to gay marriage, Cathy replied, “Guilty as charged.” The reaction was clamorous. Supporters cheered and critics denounced the company’s political views.
“I think from a business perspective, I would have to ask Mr. Cathy whether he wanted to sell chicken sandwiches or whether he wants to evangelize his view. I’m proud to be in a country where you can do either one, and it’s up to him, but as far as selling chicken sandwiches is concerned I believe it’s gonna harm his business,” said Robert Winsor, professor of marketing and business law at Loyola Marymount's College of Business Administration.
It’s not clear yet what effect, if any, Cathy’s stance will have on his company’s profits. But Southern California residents have mixed views.
“I don’t agree with Chick-fil-A’s opinion but at the same time I’m still gonna bring my kids there because my kids enjoy going there, playing and also my kids enjoy the food. And that’s with a lot of companies. I find it refreshing that people have the right to have their own opinion and can say what they want to say,” said Arabella from Irvine.
“I think Chick-fil-A can do whatever they wish but then we as consumers can also choose not to support them. And my biggest question to him [Cathy] is, aren’t we all God’s children?” said Sandy from Pasadena.
Chick-fil-A isn’t the only company making headlines. JCPenney recently featured a gay couple and their children in a Father’s Day advertisement. Oreo became a hot topic after releasing an ad with a rainbow-stuffed cookie with the word “Pride” emblazoned beneath it. Target was called out for donating thousands of dollars to a politician with an anti-gay platform. The company then launched a sale of Gay Pride T-shirts, donating part of the proceeds to an LGBT advocacy group. Now, Target is even selling same-sex marriage greetings cards.
“I think the evidence is there both anecdotally and empirically that this can cause lasting damage...If I feel like I don’t get respected at a company I’m never going back. And I think we all have companies that we will not patronize even if it’s in our financial interest to do so,” said Winsor.
What’s behind this trend of businesses airing their political views? In a country that’s so politically polarized, how risky is it for companies to take a stand on controversial issues like gay marriage? Would you take your business elsewhere if a company’s values contradict your own?
Robert Winsor, Professor of marketing and business law at Loyola Marymount's College of Business Administration