Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bob Page, Replacements Ltd. CEO Who Turned Firm Into Pro-Gay Campaign Outlet, Now Concerned His Radical Politics Could 'Hurt Our Business'

This is a very interesting report at the New York Times, "A Company’s Stand for Gay Marriage, and Its Cost."

It's fascinating that the Times turns this into some kinda hate-based campaign against the business, but the truth is far from it. Mr. Page gave $250,000 to campaign against North Carolina's Amendment One, and then he subsequently turned his flagship store into a campaign office. Longtime customers were turned off by the gay radicalism, which is their right. Nobody came after the dude in the manner of how the NOH8 extremists attacked regular citizens after the passage of California's Proposition 8. Nope. Mr. Page is out and proud, and now he's bumming at the backlash:
In the months leading up to North Carolina’s vote this month to ban gay marriage, most of the state’s business leaders were conspicuously silent. While some executives spoke out against it as individuals, not one Fortune 500 company based in North Carolina, including Bank of America, Duke Energy, VF Corporation and Lowe’s, opposed it.

But one company did: Replacements Limited, which sells silver, china and glassware, and is based in Greensboro. Its founder and chairman, Bob Page, is gay. The company lobbied legislators, contributed money to causes supporting gay marriage, rented a billboard along the interstate near its headquarters, and sold T-shirts at its showroom. Its experience may explain why no other for-profit company followed its example.

Hostile letters and e-mails poured into the company from customers canceling their business and demanding to be removed from its e-mail list. “I understand that your company donated $250,000 or so to the effort to ban the marriage amendment,” read one. “I am very concerned that with an increased visibility and acceptance of the gay and lesbian lifestyle, one of my children, who would have grown up and been happily married to a husband, could be tempted to the lesbian lifestyle.”

Another read: “I was excited to see your wares and expected a pleasant shopping experience. Instead I was accosted by your political views, which I do not share. It was very uncomfortable and unpleasant browsing with all those signs and T-shirts against amendment one, to the point where I had to leave.”

A third said, “Money you used to support this opposition came from my many purchases from your company and that is not O.K. with me,” adding, “I will look for my replacement pieces elsewhere.”

Several writers seemed more sad than angry. “Visiting Replacements Limited has always been one of my favorite treats,” said one. “I had the privilege of experiencing your beautiful store firsthand,” began another. Both said they would never return.

Andrew Spainhour, Replacement’s general counsel and a member of the steering committee that organized opposition to the amendment, tried to recruit other businesses. “I had a lot of phone calls and e-mails that weren’t returned,” he said. “If I did have a conversation, they’d say, ‘Gosh, we can’t do this, we can’t go out on a limb.’ There’s a tremendous amount of fear.”

The company did get a few letters and e-mails of support, but the outpouring against its stand shows that the subject of gay marriage “is hugely divisive in our state,” Mr. Spainhour said. “It’s exposed a lot of fault lines. It’s a natural reaction for people to say, ‘We’re not going to anger 50 percent of the people that we do business with or want to do business with.’ There’s too much downside.”

Mr. Spainhour said he worried about Mr. Page’s safety, and has discussed his concerns with him. He mentioned Charles C. Worley, pastor of the Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C., not far from Greensboro, who preached on May 13 that lesbians and gays should be separated from each other and society and quarantined behind electrified fences. “In a few years, they’ll die out,” Mr. Worley said. “They can’t reproduce.” Video of the sermon circulated on the Internet.

“Bob has been absolutely fearless in the face of that,” Mr. Spainhour said. “It’s a North Carolina that exists but that I don’t recognize. There are two North Carolinas: the progressive cities and college towns, and places where there are no openly gay people.”

Much the same could be said of America as a whole. Although recent polls suggest a majority of Americans favor legalizing gay marriage in their state, those who do are concentrated in the Northeast and on the West Coast. But even in those states most hostile to the idea, support for gay marriage has grown strongly over the last decade.

Most companies have traditionally tried to avoid taking positions on political and social issues. But corporate involvement in campaigns to support gay marriage has mirrored the shift in the nation’s attitudes, from nonexistent 10 years ago to some involvement by major companies in 2008, when Apple, American Apparel, Google and  Levi Strauss publicly opposed California’s Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage (it passed). Last year, corporate support in New York was deemed critical to the Legislature’s passage of a law allowing gay marriage. This year, major corporations based in Washington State, led by Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft, have publicly opposed an effort to repeal the state’s law permitting gay marriage, scheduled to take effect on June 7.

Mr. Page, 67, said he didn’t like politics and wasn’t “extreme,” or “in your face” about being gay. But, he added: “I just refuse to hide. I did that way too many years and it’s just not healthy.”

At the same time, he said: “I’m always concerned I will hurt our business. I know we have lost business. But I don’t have a board or shareholders I have to answer to. My life is not about money.”
Rod Dreher has a post on this, "Punishing Businesses on Gay Marriage." From the comments there:
I doubt that the conservatives who stop shopping at Replacements will take the course of action that homosexual activists have taken against those opposed to SSM. The homosexual activists are especially aggressive and are determined to shut down all speech that they disagree with check out this link ... to see an example...

But compare that to the headline at Towleroad, "Gay 'Replacements Ltd' Owner Faces NC Hate After Opposing Amendment One."

It's only "hate" when progressive businesses face political backlash, of course.