by Burt Stein, Business Editor
for The Post Publications
BALA CYNWYD PA – President Obama, Vice President Biden, retired Gen. Colin Powell, and many respondents to a recent Washington Post/ABC News Poll all say they favor what is being called “marriage equality,” a term used to recognize marriages between straight, gay or lesbian couples as equally valid. Should businesses see the controversial issue the same way?
Udi Behr thinks so. Behr, who describes himself as “a happily married straight man with two children,” also is a co-founder and chief designer of loveandpride.com. His seven-year-old company is based in Bala Cynwyd, northwest of Philadelphia, and sells lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) jewelry and fashions online.
In June, the retailer introduced what it calls Marriage Equality pendants, a matched set of two stainless steel military-style dog tags, each to be worn by one partner. Engraving is optional. Behr refers to them as “activist jewelry.” If enough people wear the pendants, he claims, it could greatly speed a shift in public opinion favoring marriage equality.
Proceeds from the pendants’ sale are being donated to a non-profit organization promoting marriage equality. Since 2005 the company has raised nearly $400,000 for the LGBT community by donating a portion of every sale to the consumer’s choice of relevant charities.
Why does Behr fight for gay rights? “Discrimination is unacceptable in all its forms,” he replies. And his is not a lone voice in the business world:
- Cookie-maker Nabisco’s “Oreo” brand – after posting an image last month of a rainbow-hued cookie on its Facebook page, accompanied by the captions “Proudly support love!” and “June 25/Pride” – received more than 143,000 Facebook “Likes” and nearly 18,000 comments.
- JCPenney was threatened by the One Million Moms organization with a boycott for refusing to fire openly gay spokesperson Ellen DeGeneres, and for featuring a female couple in its May catalog. The company responded in its June catalog by featuring two gay fathers and their children.
- In March (2012), Starbucks – having issued an endorsement of same-sex marriage two months earlier – became the target of a “Dump Starbucks” campaign by the National Organization for Marriage. When Starbucks stood firm, 640,000 U.S. respondents signed a virtual thank-you card.
- In January (2012), the Human Rights Campaign, a LGBT rights charity, launched its “Buying for Workplace Equality Guide” iPhone app. It enables users to seek and buy items from companies that “don’t discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity, that provide benefits for LGBT employees and their families, and that respectfully market to or recruit employees from the LGBT community.”