Let me begin by saying that I am a proponent of marriage equality. I firmly believe that any union built on mutual love and respect should not be a matter of legislation. I proudly stand beside my LGBT family and friends. For the purpose of this article, however, I am putting my allegiances on the shelf and asking that those on both sides of the fence to pause for a second and look at how blind activism is making the rich richer.
In response to the backlash against Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy publicly announcing his stance against marriage equality Mike Huckabee's drive for a Chick-fil-A day on August 1 drew massive crowds to the restaurant chain's more than 1,600 locations buying chicken sandwiches in support of Cathy's stance. Representatives for Chick-fil-A have stated record sales for the day. The waves of support also brings out some of the LGBT community with impromptu love-ins.
Fast forward to August 7 and Starbucks appreciation day (smartly renamed National Marriage Equality Day). All marriage equality supporters are encouraged to go to Starbucks and show their support by purchasing beverages from the chain.
According to the Chick-fil-A website, the company posted $4.1 billion in sales in 2011. Making it one of the most lucrative privately owned companies in the country. Starbucks, on the other hand, posted sales of more than $11 billion in 2011. So who exactly needs our support?
Arguments are funny. The longer you have them the farther they get from the original subject. I have had arguments with my wife about the litter box that have ended with me screaiming about the designated hitter rule in baseball. At some point, if you have a debate long enough, it becomes about winning the argument itself instead of creating change. The marriage equality debate is quickly spinning away from a national discourse on the concepts of love and into a political game of chicken for liberals and conservatives and now billion-dollar companies are lining their pockets with your angst.
None of the money given to Starbucks today will go toward the teen LGBT homeless whose numbers are growing at an alarming rate. Nothing will be given to HIV research, or safe-sex education. If appreciation is giving potentially millions of dollars away, put it where it will do some good instead of dropping huge sums of money into a painfully empty sentiment.
Any political debate in America is a fight to win the middle. Convincing the undecided to your way of thinking. At this point the conversation looks like a scene from Family Guy than anything resembling anything logical.
Justice and equality have never needed corporate backing to be deemed relevant. Sadly, both sides of the argument are selling their souls to the highest bidder. More sadly, both sides are dumping money and effort into a sideshow where neither side ultimately will benefit.
Some will say that this is the continuation of the civil rights boycotts of the past where the disenfranchised proved there economic power by refusing to use an oppressor's product or service. They divested in order to prove they were worth investing in. They banded together and created infrastructures The moves made in conjunction with Chick-fil-A and Starbucks do the opposite by lining the pockets of those who claim to be supportive. It's like a politician paying a special interest group or a college football player paying a booster its counter-intuitive and ultimately counter-productive.
So I implore liberals, conservatives, the LGBT community, conservative Christians, Republicans and Democrats alike, go to your corners, take a deep breath re-evaluate the conversation and come back out swinging.
Follow Shane Paul Neil on Twitter: www.twitter.com/shanepaulneil