Chick-fil-A may be the only honest company left. Many companies have openly promoted LGBT rights, from marriage equality in the U.S. to decriminalization of homosexuality internationally. While pro-gay businesses may genuinely want social equality, they also embrace the LGBT community with cash in mind. Gay-friendly policies are hugely profitable, as they attract two large consumer markets and the majority of job-seeking Americans. Politicians have made money by promoting marriage equality, so now business may be taking a similar strategy. Money and social equality definitely can go hand-in-hand, but it's possible that gay-friendly companies have goals that are far from egalitarian.
LGBT and young people are huge consumers, and they value social equality. The LGBT community has a purchasing power of $790 million each year in the U.S. alone. The 15 million Americans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender also shape the opinions of straight friends and family. While pro-gay businesses may lose anti-gay consumers, these companies also gain an enthusiastic market of LGBT people and their extensive networks of straight consumers. Moreover, millennials, who are increasingly supportive of gay marriage, are arguably the biggest spenders. It does not make sense for a business to go against the largest group of consumers.
Businesses have embraced many LGBT causes. Google launched “Legalize Love” to encourage foreign governments to decriminalize same-sex activities and get rid of laws that discriminate against LGBT people. In November, Nike and Microsoft protested DOMA, the law that bars same-sex marriage in the U.S. More simply, Gap and Target sold t-shirts with gay-friendly messages during Mother’s and Father’s Day.
Whether catering to consumers or employees, all business focus on maximizing profits. LGBT consumers are 71% more likely to stay loyal to a gay-friendly company, even if another company offers lower prices or more convenience. Companies such as Nike have enacted LGBT-friendly employment policies to attract the most talent; in a survey, 80% of people said an employer’s equality and diversity policy was very or somewhat important to them.
Marriage equality has certainly made money for politicians. The LGBT community supported New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) with major donations after he legalized same-sex marriage last summer. One fundraiser hosted by two gay donors raised $400,000 for Cuomo last September, and Empire State Pride Agenda gave $60,000 to the governor last May. President Barack Obama also received big money for vocally supporting marriage equality in June - he raised $1 million in funding within 90 minutes of his announcement to embrace same-sex marriage. Around one-sixth of Obama’s top donors are gay, so his encouragement likely inspired more funding from them. Business could take a similar approach to raise revenue.
Chick-fil-A may already be losing customers by holding fast to Christian values. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (D) has vowed to prevent the fast-food chain from opening in his city, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel (D) said the anti-gay stance of the company clashes with the city’s values.
In a twisted way, Chick-fil-A may be more honest than pro-gay companies about their goals. Ideally, gay-friendly companies support social equality and diversity for their own sake, not just for branding purposes. But even if companies only want money, the recent outburst of corporate support can only help the LGBT community move towards legal equality.