Tuesday, August 14, 2012

REI Takes Strong Position in Favor of LGBT Equality

In the ongoing kulturkampf about LGBT equality in general and marriage equality in particular the pressure on corporations to take a stand has become intense. I have neglected to comment on the recent Chick-Fila-A brouhaha, but I do think it is significant when corporate entities (or their CEOs) stick their neck out to reveal their values to the community.

To that end, with the ongoing fight over Washington's Referendum 74 continuing, several Washington-based companies have been forced to say whether they are in favor of marriage equality (i.e. on the Approve Referendum 74 side) or not. Previously we discussed huge personal donations from Washington-based tech billionaires Jeff Bezos and his wife (Amazon.com) and Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer (Microsoft).

The latest one to join the good guys is the well-known outdoors retailer REI.

Washington United for Marriage reacts:
“REI is taking a position in support of marriage equality — an issue that is important to the co-op as an inclusive organization and a welcoming place to work and do business,” wrote [CEO and President Sally] Jewell, who went on to describe the importance of her own 34-year marriage through raising children, job changes and relocation, and the joys and challenging of aging parents. 
“Marriage equality is important to the co-op because the benefits, legal clarity and social understanding that Warren and I have enjoyed these past 34 years should be available to any two people who want to express their love and make a permanent commitment to each other that is so clearly provided for in the legal definition of marriage,” Jewell wrote. 
“We are so proud to have REI take this powerful step in endorsing the freedom to marry and our effort to Approve Referendum 74,” said WUM Campaign Manager Zach Silk.  ”REI is one of Washington’s iconic companies and it’s woven into many of our lives.  Whether we’re on a day hike, paddling in a kayak, or pitching a tent with our kids, we’re generally doing it with gear we got at REI.  As a result, this endorsement will register with a lot of people and we’re very grateful to have REI’s support.” 
With annual sales of $1.8 Billion, REI has nearly 5 million co-op members nationwide and has been on Fortune’s Best Places to Work ranking every year since the inception of the list.  REI has a long history of environmental stewardship and is committed to “increasing access to outdoor recreative through volunteerism, gear donations and financial contributions.” 
Among the leading business supporters of Approve 74 and WUM are Nike, Starbucks, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Alcoa, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Vulcan.
Take another close look at that list of corporations in favor of the marriage equality referendum in Washington: it's basically a who's who of the business community in the state! As I keep on saying, the kulturkampf is basically all over except for the gnashing and wailing of teeth. Of course, that means the battles will get louder and nastier as the bad guys realize they are going to lose the war and might as well take as many casualties now.

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