Business
4:10 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

Schultz defends Starbucks' support of same-sex marriage

The CEO of Starbucks defended his support of same-sex marriage at the company’s annual meeting in Seattle. Starbucks came out in favor last year of Washington’s referendum legalizing same-sex marriage. Opponents of that measure vowed to make Starbucks pay, and the National Organization for Marriage launched a boycott of Starbucks.

At the company’s annual meeting Wednesday, shareholder Tom Strobhar suggested that the boycott had indeed bled the company of value.

“In the first full quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earnings — shall we say politely — were a bit disappointing,” he said.

CEO Howard Schultz shot back that the decision to back gay marriage was not about the bottom line, but about respecting diversity. He said the company had delivered a healthy return last year, boycott or no.

“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,” he said, to loud applause from the audience.

The comment came shortly after shareholders voted down a proposal to prevent the company from making political contributions. Board members said they wanted the flexibility to promote the company’s policy agenda.