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US Retailers Under Pressure From LGBT Community

Some of America’s top retailers have been the targets of pressure from both LGBT and Christian organisations over their connection with an internet marketer "Charity Giveback Group" or CGBG.

CGBG, like other e-commerce marketers, gets a commission from retailers for each online customer it gives them.

The twist here is that a share of the commission that the retailers pay is donated to a Christian charity of the buyer’s choice, from a list which includes conservative groups like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family – both of whom are vocal in opposing homosexuality.

The Background

Stuart Wilber, a 73 year old gay Seattle man, is the guy who started it all. He was astonished, he said, when he learned that people who shopped on this site could buy Microsoft products and could channel a donation to organisations which call homosexual behaviour a threat to the moral and social fabric.

Microsoft is known to be supportive to LGBT issues.

He started an online petition in July asking Microsoft to end its association with ‘hate groups’.  By that night, 520 people had signed — and Microsoft had quietly dropped out of the donation plan.

In July, as word of Mr Wilber’s victory spread , Ben Crowther, a college student in Bellingham, Wash., started a similar Internet appeal to Apple, which drew 22,700 signers. Apple also quietly withdrew from CGBG.  Roy Steele, who runs a gay-rights in San Francisco, picked up the crusade, directly contacting about 150 companies listed on the CGBG site, including Macy’s, Delta Airlines, Wal-Mart and Netflix asking them to end their relationship with e-commerce marketer.

As a result of this pressure, nearly 100 companies have left CGBG. These have become the objects, in turn, of a counter-campaign from Christian groups which say that they have been discriminated against because of their faith.

Have Any Been Persuaded Back to the Fold?

A few companies that briefly left the network have been persuaded to re-join, including Delta, PetSmart, Sam’s Club, Target and Wal-Mart.

“People have been misled. The retailers are not donating to anyone; they are simply paying a commission to get traffic,” John Higgins, the president of CGBG, said in an interview.

Most of the companies involved whether they are out, in or ‘out and in’ of CGBG, are not keen to talk about it. Mindful of the powerful pink pound, they want to show they are anti-discrimination. However, the Christian groups also represent a large commercial opportunity. What’s a capitalist to do?

Expedia confirmed  in August that it had withdrawn from the network. “Expedia values diversity in its employee base and customer base and does not support discrimination of any kind based on sexual orientation.”  

Barneys New York said it had left CGBG because of the site’s support for groups that promote discrimination.

But Microsoft, though it led the way with its swift response, has never said a public word about it, nor has Apple been willing to do more than confirm that it no longer is associated with CGBG.

Of the companies that left then returned to CGBG,  Wal-Mart and its sister company Sam’s Club said their marketing affiliates included “more than 43,000 diverse organizations” that “serve a wide range of interests with diverse viewpoints.”

Delta said that it returned to CGBG  “because of the letters we received from several faith-based leaders,” said Chris Kelly Singley, manager of corporate communications. “This was important to them, and we were willing to reconsider,” she said, adding that Delta had a history of supporting gay and lesbian causes.

Hmm, when it comes to espousing liberal causes it’s the bottom line which is well - the bottom line. Plus ca change.

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