Gay marriage activists had a vision: Tuesday would be their clarion call for consumers to reject Chick-fil-A and its president’s comments against same-sex unions, instead crowding into Starbucks and other more sympathetic companies.
Though it's still early in the day, National Marriage Equality Day – originally known as National Starbucks Appreciation Day before organizers broadened the scope – seems to be getting a mostly mild start.
A Facebook profile created for the event by Equally Wed, a lesbian and gay wedding magazine, shows more than 34,000 people signed up to attend. But a photo page populated by submissions from supportive consumers had fewer than 20 images just before noon on the East Coast.
Organizers called out dozens of brands – including Absolut Vodka, Macy’s and Tiffany & Co. – as gay-friendly. But if social media users were patronizing such companies more than usual, they were relatively quiet about it.
Starbucks, however, got plenty of shout-outs.
“Let's show the right that the left can spend money on demand too,” wrote one Twitter user. “Accentuate the positive! … We can ‘appreciate’ OUR biz’s too!!,” wrote another.
Big crowds, however, weren’t on the menu.
Compare that with Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day last week, which was launched by former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. The event, inspired by comments from Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy backing the “biblical definition of the family unit," created traffic jams, out-the-door lines and record sales for the chicken chain. More than 670,000 people signed up on Facebook to attend.Starbucks has well over 12,000 stores in the Americas; Chick-fil-A has slightly more than 1,600.
Seeing the Chick-fil-A outpouring, Equally Wed decided to strike back with an event lauding corporations that it deemed to be more tolerant. Organizers chose Aug. 7, a date that left them less than a week to plan and generate buzz.
“We didn't want the momentum and feeling to be too lost so we tried to choose a day that gave us a little bit of time to get the word out but not so far away that people would have moved on to the next big news story,” said Kirsten Ott Palladino, co-founder of Equally Wed.
Initially, the event was focused on Starbucks, which recently threw its support behind legislation in Washington that would make gay marriage legal in the state.
But the coffee giant’s corporate office had no part in planning, instead reiterating the same statement it has used for months.
“We deeply respect the views of our customers and our employees and recognize that there’s genuine passion surrounding the topic. We have many constituents and from time to time will make statements that are consistent with our values and heritage even if they may be inconsistent with the views of a particular group.”
The company declined to comment about a potential sales boost from Tuesday’s event.
“We will continue to treat all with dignity and respect regardless of their view,” spokesman Zack Hutson said. “As always, we welcome everyone in our stores.”