"Teenagers travel in droves, packs, swarms…. To the librarian, they’re a gaggle of geese. To the cook, they’re a scourge of locusts. To department stores they’re a big beautiful exaltation of larks…. all lovely and loose and jingly." So spoke Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, Director of Advertising for Macy's, in 1960, explaining that where others feared change and new participants, Macy's saw opportunity. Macy's declared policy has long been to thrive on a commitment to welcoming all and treating all equally, doing well by doing good.
Macy's corporate motto is "Be everywhere, do everything, and never fail to astonish the customer," but because inclusion and welcome actually strengthen businesses (and communities), it should not have been entirely astonishing to readers of Wednesday's Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and New York Times to see prominently placed full-page ads from Macy's showing two wedding rings and the celebratory message:
First comes love. Then comes marriage. And now it’s a milestone every couple in California can celebrate.
Of course businesses have long been ahead of the government in this area, moving to provide health coverage and other important protections and opportunities for their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees on terms as equal as they can make them, given the patchwork of discriminatory laws and barriers created by government's denial of the freedom to marry in 48 of 50 states.
And as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the most popular Republican in the nation and leader of the most populous state, said following the historic state supreme court ruling upholding the freedom to marry for same-sex couples:
You know, I'm wishing everyone good luck with their marriages and I hope that California's economy is booming because everyone is going to come here and get married.
In declaring that he respected the decision and would oppose the right-wing's attempt to overturn it through a ballot-measure attack in November, Gov. Schwarzenegger underscored that the gain for gay people and their loved ones would help, not hurt, the community as a whole.
Still, many reacted with surprise upon seeing Macy's ad. What did it signify that a leading company with its eye on opportunity as well as equality felt comfortable speaking out so clearly?
Majorities in Support
As it turns out, it signifies that Macy's is very much in sync with where Californians are moving as they think it all through. Alongside the Macy's ad, newspapers throughout the state, and now throughout the country, reported that California's highly respected,
independent and non-partisan Field Poll showed an outright majority of Californians (51%) in favor of ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage.
"[T]his is a historic turning point or milestone," said Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo. The Field Poll, taken after the historic May 15th California Supreme Court ruling, showed that people are embracing the decision and its powerful importance for same-sex couples and their kids. Much of the movement came from people who used to either oppose any legal acknowledgment of same-sex couples' families, or only supported civil union -- unequal treatment that the Supreme Court made clear failed to protect families or fulfill the constitution's guarantee of equality for all. A dramatic 9 percent now shifted to supporting full marriage.
Majorities (and Bill O’Reilly?) in Opposition to Discrimination
The CA Field Poll also found that California voters do not want to write discrimination into their constitution. A majority (54%) opposed the likely anti-gay ballot measure being pushed by the anti-gay industry as their last-ditch effort to roll back the clock and take away the marriages that may well begin June 17. Only 40 percent said they would vote to roll back the clock – and that's before people see their friends and neighbors marrying and witness the reality of families helped while no one is hurt. This is before the public is educated about what such a discriminatory amendment would do. Clearly the campaign to defend the marriages, www.equalityforall.com, is winnable.
The real surprise was not that Californians are rising to fairness, or that civic voices such as Gov. Schwarzenegger and Macy's are speaking out for the freedom to marry as serving the common good. Instead, the week's real surprise came from, of all sources, the Bill O'Reilly show, when the pundit invited on an anti-gay guest and then expressed consternation at the opponents' failure to identify any good argument against the freedom to marry.
Like Gov. Schwarzenegger, O’Reilly predicted defeat for the attack measure in November:
You’ve got to go into a reason why it’s not good for the state of California so what would that reason be?...
You’re going to lose at the ballot box if you don’t come up with a reason, now what is the reason, you’re an American, you’re a Californian, what’s the reason you oppose gay marriage?...
So you really don’t have a good reason for me about why you oppose gay marriage…
I don’t think that’s going to cut it.
If Macy's can speak out for equality for all, so can we. If Bill O'Reilly can spread the word that there's no good reason to try to undo the freedom to marry, so should we. And if Gov. Schwarzenegger can do his part to respect and uphold the epic gain in California, so must we.
If we do our part, reaching out to others and supporting the campaign at www.equalityforall.com, it will be no surprise when Californians reject the attack and more Americans get a chance to realize that sometimes, indeed, what's good for business is good for the country.