Starbucks Gay Marriage Stance: CEO Puts Smackdown On Anti-Marriage Equality Shareholder

Starbucks CEO Smacks Down Anti-Gay Marriage Shareholder

At Starbucks' annual shareholders meeting in Seattle, Wash., on Wednesday, CEO Howard Schultz told off an investor who tried to argue that the company's support for gay marriage is bad for business.

NPR affiliate KPLU captured audio of the heated exchange:

"In the first full quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earnings -- shall we say politely -- were a bit disappointing," Starbucks shareholder Tom Strobhar said, referring to the National Organization for Marriage's boycott of the coffee company.

Schultz replied bluntly that Starbucks's endorsement of marriage equality wasn't about making money, but about the principle of diversity.

“If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much," Schultz said, to applause from the audience.

Last year, Starbucks endorsed a Washington state bill to legalize gay marriage, and released a statement saying it was "deeply dedicated to embracing diversity." The bill later became law.

Strobhar, who is the founder of the anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage Corporate Morality Action Center, has been a vocal opponent of progressive causes in the past. He is also the chairman of Life Decisions International, a Virginia-based non-profit that has been fighting to oppose Planned Parenthood since 1992. His website boasts that he has fought against corporate involvement in gay marriage, abortion and pornography at major U.S. companies from Microsoft to Pfizer.

At last year's Starbucks shareholders meeting, Strobhar asked Schultz to stop endorsing liberal issues because they were bad for business, Yahoo reported at the time.

(Hat tip, Purple Unions)

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