Tag Archives: Microsoft

Companies bail out on GOP convention

Donald Trump has promised to liven up this year’s Republican National Convention. But some of America’s biggest companies are bailing on the party.

Apple recently announced it would give the GOP’s presumptive nominee the cold shoulder. It won’t contribute money or products to the Republicans’ big shindig in Cleveland next week.

HP Inc. is also withholding support, while Microsoft is giving products only, not cash.

Beyond the tech industry, Ford, JPMorgan Chase and United Parcel Service have opted to withhold support.

Most of these companies also are taking a pass on donating to the 2016 Democratic convention. In previous election cycles, though, several of them have given Republican organizers more — sometimes far more — in cash or donated products than they have the Democrats, making their pullback from the Republican gathering this year more dramatic.

 

WHY COMPANIES ARE UNEASY

The reasons aren’t completely clear. None of these companies publicly described its decisions as a repudiation of Trump. Several declined to discuss their thinking, while others said their sponsorship plans were decided months before Trump emerged as the front-runner for the GOP nomination.

In many cases, however, their decisions became known after civil rights groups launched a public effort — including billboards, letters and online messages — aimed at persuading companies to withhold support for an event celebrating a candidate who’s campaigned with incendiary proposals , racial rhetoric and harsh comments about immigrants and women.

“Of course it’s because of Trump,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist who has studied party conventions for more than 30 years. Business executives, he said, don’t want to alienate customers who may be offended by Trump’s statements. “Just as candidates don’t get votes from people they insult,” he said, “corporations don’t get business from people they insult.”

Even so, Republican convention organizers say their fundraising is going well. More than 100 donors have contributed a total of $57.5 million, or about 90 percent of what’s needed, said Emily Lauer of the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee. She declined to provide a list of sponsors. Trump’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

 

APPLE AND THE REPUBLICANS

Apple made headlines after Politico reported the tech giant won’t support the GOP convention because of Trump’s divisive statements.

Apple declined to comment on its plans for either convention this year, although Lauer confirmed to The Associated Press that the company isn’t a sponsor for the GOP gathering.

A spokeswoman for Democratic organizers declined to comment.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly supported diversity and fair treatment of immigrants.

Trump, meanwhile, has publicly blasted the company for manufacturing its products abroad and for resisting FBI demands to help unlock an encrypted iPhone used by an extremist killer in San Bernardino, California.

As if to underscore that Apple’s dispute is with Trump, but not the GOP, Cook hosted a California fundraiser for House Speaker Paul Ryan and other congressional Republicans.

Ryan has endorsed Trump, but opposed his call to temporarily ban foreign Muslims from entering the country and criticized a Trump remark as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

Apple hasn’t been a big cash donor to past conventions, although it gave $165,000 in computers and other tech gear for the 2008 GOP gathering and $140,000 worth of products to that year’s Democratic event.

It also loaned iPhones to organizers of the 2012 Republican convention.

 

DOWN IN THE VALLEY

Another well-known tech company, Hewlett-Packard, gave a total of $1 million in cash and tech gear for the two previous GOP conventions.

While organizers of the 2012 Democratic convention didn’t accept corporate cash, HP gave $100,000 to the Democrats’ gathering in 2008.

HP has since split into two corporations; neither is donating to either convention this year.

Meg Whitman, the chairman of HP Inc. and CEO of spinoff Hewlett Packard Enterprise, has been a prominent Republican fundraiser over the years.

But she has called Trump “a dishonest demagogue” and said his nomination would be disastrous for the party.

Not every Silicon Valley company has followed suit.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has criticized Trump’s proposal for a wall on the Mexican border to block illegal immigration.

But his company said it’s providing “financial and other support” to both conventions.

Google said it will be the official “livestream provider” of online video from both events.

Microsoft said in April that it’s providing tech products to both party conventions this year but will give cash — it hasn’t said how much — only to the Democratic event.

Microsoft has made hefty donations to past Republican conventions.

It gave $815,000 in cash and more than $700,000 in products in 2012, while providing $1.3 million in cash and products to the Republican gathering in 2008.

By contrast, Microsoft has given less support to previous Democratic gatherings. It provided $71,000 in software for the 2012 Democratic convention and $640,000 worth of products in 2008.

 

ELSEWHERE IN THE FORTUNE 100

Several other companies said they’re not supporting either party’s event this year.

UPS donated more than $400,000 in cash and services to the GOP convention in 2012 and a similar amount to the Republicans in 2008, while providing $125,000 worth of donated services to the Democrats in 2012 and far less in 2008.

Spokeswoman Kara Ross said her company decided last year that it wouldn’t give to either event in 2016, citing budgetary reasons unrelated to Trump’s candidacy.

Similarly, Ford Motor Co. says it decided to sit out both conventions last year, well before Trump emerged as the front-runner.

JPMorgan Chase says it decided near the start of 2016 to donate money instead to youth employment programs in this year’s host cities.

Both companies gave cash to the Republican convention in 2012 and equal amounts to both party gatherings in 2008.

Coca-Cola has also reconsidered its support. The soft-drink maker donated $666,000 in cash and another $100,000 worth of beverages to the Republican event in 2012, while donating $70,000 worth of products to the Democrats that year, after giving equal gifts of $150,000 to each party gathering in 2008.

It gave $75,000 to each party’s host committee in 2015, but said in late March that it won’t give any more this year.

Activists had urged Coca-Cola and other companies to withhold support for the GOP convention, citing what they called Trump’s “hatred and violent rhetoric.”

“We don’t run this campaign every four years,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director for the activist group Color of Change. “This is a moment where corporations should be saying this is not something they want their brand connected to.”

This is a technology wish list for 2016

There’s plenty for tech companies to do in the new year. Here’s a wish list for 2016:

PICK AND CHOOSE ONLINE TELEVISION

In 2015, HBO and Showtime freed themselves from traditional television shackles. Both now offer app subscriptions directly to consumers – with no cable or satellite TV service required.

It’s a start, but lots of worthy channels, including ESPN, remain locked up in packages filled with channels not everyone wants. Even though Dish’s Sling TV offers ESPN over the Internet – Sony’s PlayStation Vue will also do so soon – you can get it only as part of larger packages. I’d love to get AMC, ABC Family and Comedy Central as stand-alone subscriptions, for instance.

MANAGING YOUR SHOWS

With lots more online viewing options, we need better ways to keep track of what to watch and when shows expire from streaming services. I kept forgetting to watch that “Unauthorized Melrose Place Story” on Lifetime, and now it’s too late.

Streaming TV devices from Apple, Roku, Amazon and Nvidia let you search multiple services at once to see what’s available, but you don’t have any way to add shows to a universal queue. Instead, you have to go to Netflix to see your list of flagged shows on that service, HBO to see its list, and so on. It’s as if you needed separate video recorders for each channel. TiVo comes closest to offering a universal queue with its OnePass feature, but it has relatively few streaming TV apps.

ENOUGH WITH PASSWORDS

Passwords are difficult to manage, which is one reason so many are trivial to guess (“password12345,” anyone?) and so many people reuse the same weak passwords across multiple services.

Yahoo has an easier way to sign in to its services. Using Account Key, you confirm who you are through a text Yahoo sends to your phone. Google is testing something similar. Other services tap the fingerprint ID technology found on iPhones and some high-end Android phones. A touch of the home button bypasses the password by confirming you’re the one holding the phone. We need more such mechanisms that offer both simplicity and security.

GETTING ALONG

Companies are getting better at acknowledging their rivals. Microsoft, for instance, made its Office apps for iPhones, iPads and Android before tackling its own Windows phone system. Samsung smartwatches now work with non-Samsung phones, while Apple made its music service available on Android.

It’s a start. But animated photos taken with Apple’s new iPhones can be viewed only on other Apple devices. And streaming devices made by Apple, Google and Amazon typically won’t play video bought from each other, at least not without using a backdoor relay feature such as AirPlay. So if you have Amazon video, you’re stuck with Amazon’s device. Amazon even stopped selling Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast on its website.

GETTING AROUND WITH NO INTERNET

Google Maps for Android and iPhones now works without an Internet connection, so long as you download mapping data ahead of time. That’s helpful when you find yourself trying to leave a remote national park or an underground parking garage – both areas where cellular service is spotty or non-existent. But the offline feature doesn’t work with walking or transit directions, so it’s not as useful for wilderness hikes or in many subway stations.

Speaking of maps, all services could do better at directing motorists to rental-car centers at airports. Typing in the three-letter airport code assumes you’re getting dropped off at the main terminals. The rental-car location might be miles away, perhaps off a different highway exit. It would be nice to see the rental-car location more prominent in map searches. Better yet, how about the closest gas station to refill your tank?

OOPS … I DROPPED IT AGAIN

Motorola may have cracked the problem of shattered phone screens. Its Droid Turbo 2 phone ditches glass for shatter-proof plastic. While the glass used in most leading phones is chemically strengthened, it will still crack if it hits a hard surface with enough force. In testing, the Turbo’s screen withstood normal drops, though plastic does make the device more prone to scratching.

Sure, there’s a trade-off, but it’s time to stop assuming that cracked screens are just something we have to learn to live with.

Nintendo apologizes for excluding gay relationships in ‘Life’ game

Nintendo is apologizing and pledging to be more inclusive after being criticized for not recognizing same-sex relationships in English editions of a life-simulator video game. The publisher said that while it was too late to change the current game, it was committed to building virtual equality into future versions if they’re produced.

Nintendo came under fire from fans and gay rights organizations this past week after refusing to add same-sex relationship options to the game “Tomodachi Life.”

“We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in ‘Tomodachi Life,'” Nintendo said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch.”

The game was originally released in Japan last year and features a cast of Mii characters — Nintendo’s personalized avatars of real players — living on a virtual island. Gamers can do things like shop, play games, go on dates, get married and encounter celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Shaquille O’Neal. Already a hit in Japan, “Tomodachi Life” is set for release June 6 in North America and Europe.

Tye Marini, a 23-year-old gay Nintendo fan from Mesa, Arizona, launched a social media campaign last month seeking virtual equality for the game’s characters.

“I want to be able to marry my real-life fiancé’s Mii, but I can’t do that,” Marini said in a video posted online that attracted the attention of gaming sites and online forums this past week. “My only options are to marry some female Mii, to change the gender of either my Mii or my fiancé’s Mii or to completely avoid marriage altogether and miss out on the exclusive content that comes with it.”

Marini said Saturday that he was “very happy” with Nintendo’s response. “I don’t believe they are a homophobic company at all,” Marini said. “I think that the exclusion of same-sex relationships was just an unfortunate oversight.”

Yet the issue does mark a cultural divide between Japan, where gay marriage is not legal, and North America and Europe, where gay marriage has become legal in some places. It also highlights the problems with “localization,” the process when games are changed to suit different locales and customs.

The uproar prompted Kyoto, Japan-based Nintendo Co. and its subsidiary Nintendo of America Inc. to pledge to create a more inclusive “Tomodachi” installment in the future.

“We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone,” Nintendo said. “We pledge that if we create a next installment in the `Tomodachi’ series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.”

While many English-language games don’t feature gay characters, several role-playing series produced by English-speaking developers, such as Electronic Arts, “The Sims,” Microsoft Studios’ “Fable” and Bethesda Softworks’ “The Elder Scrolls,” have allowed players to create characters that can woo others of the same sex, as well as marry and have children.

After Nintendo said this past week — in response to Marini’s growing campaign — that it wouldn’t add same-sex relationship options to “Tomodachi Life,” the publisher of such gaming franchises as “The Legend of Zelda” and “Mario Bros.” was called out by fans and organizations such as the gay advocacy group GLAAD.

“Nintendo has taken a first step, but if the company’s longtime values are rooted in ‘fun and entertainment for everyone,’ then it needs to catch up to peers like Electronic Arts, which has been inclusive of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) gamers for years,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement.

Techgaze: Wireless audio gizmos under $500

If “unplugged” acoustic music was a hallmark of the ‘90s, surely “wireless” listening is the big trend of the ‘10s.

Sure, we’ve been essentially wireless since the radio came out a century ago. But today’s Internet-connected mobile devices often require cords to hook up to accessories like speakers and headphones. And these cords can result in a knotty nightmare in your bag.

Several wireless gadgets I tried out recently should keep music lovers a bit more tangle-free this holiday season.

Beats Studio Wireless ($380):

This plush set of over-ear headphones almost mirrors Beats’ popular Studio line, but comes with wireless ability for an $80 increase in price. Like the wired-only model, this puts you in a cocoon with its noise-canceling technology, which works even if you just want padded silence. The sound is crisp, and the bass is deep.

A button on the outside of the left ear cup operates like the button on standard iPhone earbuds: one click to pause, two to skip forward and so on. A disc-shaped button turns the volume up and down.

The headphones promise 12 hours of wireless listening and 20 hours if you connect the cord, which is included.

Nearly $400 for headphones is pricey, but whoever gets this as a holiday gift will be mightily pleased. It’s an outstanding way to bliss out during a noisy commute. It works as a headset for phone calls, too.

Monster iSport Freedom ($250):

Meant for a workout, these on-ear headphones are made of sweat-resistant plastic and rubbery material and will give you a tight-fitting hug.

Although the headphones didn’t jostle while jogging, there’s something about completely covering your ears that creates a kind of bone-conducing sound. Every foot strike resulted in a thud inside my head, something that doesn’t happen with $29 iPhone EarPods. In addition, on-ear headphones squish your ears against your frames if you are wearing glasses.

Separate buttons for volume up, down and skipping forward and back were difficult to use, partly because I often hit a much larger button for pause and play instead.

That said, the sound is excellent, and I appreciate not having to worry about yanking my headphones off accidentally by snagging the cord.

With 10 hours of playback time per charge, these should outlast all but the most enduring athletes.

Sonos Play:1 ($200 each):

The little brother to the company’s Play:3 and Play:5 speakers packs a big, immersive sound in a package the size of a pickle jar.

Unlike Bluetooth speakers, Sonos speakers run over Wi-Fi and need to be plugged into a power outlet. Through the end of the year, the company is throwing in, for no extra charge, a $50 Bridge adapter to attach to your router, so you can free yourself from having to plug an Ethernet cable into at least one speaker.

You can play digital tunes that you own or use streaming services such as Pandora and Rdio. I found Sonos’ Wi-Fi connection to be far more consistent than using other speakers with Bluetooth, which can cause skips now and then.

The speakers are designed to disperse sound in a wide radius and fill a room. When two little Play:1s are paired for stereo sound, they deliver big time.

Beats Pill 2.0 ($200):

This Tylenol-shaped beat box puts out a decent sound, but to me, it’s remarkably tinny for the Beats brand.

This year’s model, however, adds some cool features. A near-field communications chip lets you pair two Pills together for stereo sound. If you are on the road, you can lift a tab to reveal a full USB port, which you can use to charge your mobile phone if you don’t mind giving up some of its seven-hour playback time. On a full charge, it can replace two-thirds of an iPhone 5S battery.

But the Pill is indeed round and will roll. One rolled off a shelf on me and dropped three feet onto the floor. It didn’t miss a beat or get dented, but I wouldn’t recommend trying it at home.

Marley Get Together ($200):

This is what you want when you go on a picnic with your hippie friends. It’s even made of hemp.

No kidding: The cloth enclosure is made of recycled hemp, organic cotton and recycled plastic. Its natural bamboo front gives this an Earth-loving, yet luxurious polish. Two big woofers and two tweeters on the front will reassure you that you’re not compromising on sound.

Playing Bob Marley over Bluetooth on this modern-day boom box just seems right. It has eight hours of battery life. And I’m sure if the Rasta master were alive today, even he would appreciate the USB port on the back that can be used for charging mobile devices.

Soundcast Melody ($450):

This Bluetooth speaker flips the idea of surround sound on its head. A speaker grill encircles a body that is shaped like a rice cooker. You can surround it from any direction and still feel the sound coming your way.

This chunky, 9-pound speaker is for people who want mobility from a speaker system, but for whom weight is no issue. With a full charge, it’ll play up to 20 hours at low volume or two hours if you’re blasting it.

At this price, it’s pushing the upper end of wireless speakers. But it’s an attractive travel companion with its four speaker sets pointing in all directions, quality sound, lengthy battery life and car-lighter charger attachment.

HMDX Jam Plus ($60 each):

These stubby speakers the size of a tumbler glass are perfect companions to a laptop or tablet.

Pairing two of them for stereo sound was a snap thanks to a switch on the bottom that designates which one is right and left. The speakers have comically short USB cables for charging, no longer than a foot. Provided you have USB ports on both sides of a laptop, insert one on either side for stereo sound.

Mind you, the USB port doesn’t act as an audio connection if your device isn’t Bluetooth-ready. Unplugged, they should give you six hours of listening.

The fact that the speakers point straight up isn’t a deal breaker somehow, as the sound is dispersed well.

For the price, a pair of these would make a nice stocking stuffer for any gadget lover.

On the Web …

Beats Studio Wireless: http://bit.ly/17wrpQY

Monster iSport Freedom: http://bit.ly/1881vBx

Sonos Play:1: http://bit.ly/1a8OqIr

Beats Pill 2.0: http://bit.ly/HT69JJ

Marley Get Together: http://bit.ly/18wIepV

Soundcast Melody: http://bit.ly/17yQ6Mx

HMDX Jam Plus: http://bit.ly/1eR3b6s 

Nordstrom backs marriage equality in Washington state

Nordstrom, Inc. on Oct. 11 became the latest major business to endorse the campaign to retain Washington state’s marriage equality law.

The measure, passed by the legislature earlier this year and signed by the governor, faces a referendum vote on Nov. 6.

In a memo to the company’s employees on the subject of “Freedom to Marry,” president Blake Nordstrom said the company has “long had a philosophical approach to our business to be inclusive about the way we serve customers as well as how we work to create a workplace where every employee is welcomed and respected. It’s simply how we operate.”

He then reminded employees that the company was an “early adopter of adding sexual orientation to our anti-discrimination policy, which means we guarantee the same legal rights and protections in our workplace to gay and lesbian employees just as we do for other employees regardless of sex, race, color, creed, national origin, religion, age, marital status, pregnancy, physical, mental or sensory disability, and gender identity. This goes beyond the federal government’s protection in Title VII, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which still excludes sexual orientation. In 1998, we began offering life partner benefits to employees.”

The next step in the journey, Nordstrom continued, is to “support freedom to marry, also called marriage equality. There is a lot of awareness of this issue across the country and we’ve heard from many employees and customers. We gave this thoughtful consideration and felt the time was right to come out in support of this civil rights issue. It is our belief that our gay and lesbian employees are entitled to the same rights and protections marriage provides under the law as our other employees. We also believe supporting freedom to marry will help us create a more attractive and inclusive workplace for our current and prospective employees. Again – this decision is consistent with our long-time philosophy of inclusivity and equality for our customers and employees.”

Blake Nordstrom signed the memo, along with merchandising president Pete Nordstrom and stores president Erik Nordstrom.

Other Washington-based companies that have backed marriage equality in the past year include REI, Expedia, Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft and Nike.

GLAAD reported on Oct. 11 that the latest poll in Washington shows voters favoring marriage equality – Referendum 74 – 55-40 percent.

Amazon founder donates $2.5 million to marriage equality campaign

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos made a $2.5 million donation to keep same-sex unions legal in Washington state, becoming the latest in a list of high-profile executives to take public stands on a hot U.S. election issue.

Bezos joins Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and companies like Starbucks Inc. and Nike Inc. with support to the campaign to uphold Washington’s law. And while fast-food chain Chick-fil-A set off a furor opposing same-sex unions this month, other companies – including big names like General Mills and Nabisco – are brushing off fears that support for gay marriage could hurt their bottom line.

Gay rights advocates say the activism sends a strong message.

“Companies are a bellwether of what is in the mainstream,” said Marc Solomon, the national campaign manager for Freedom to Marry, a New York-based group that advocates for same-sex marriage. “When you have some of the mainstays of corporate leadership stand up, that’s important. It sends a powerful message about where our society is right now.”

Solomon and other national advocates say the donation by Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, is the largest publicly reported gift to support a gay marriage ballot measure, noting that some gay marriage opponents have tried to shield their donor lists.

Washington is one of four states with gay marriage measures on the ballot this November. Washington and Maryland both legalized gay marriage this year, but will also have public referendums this fall. In Maine, voters will decide on an initiative to approve same-sex marriage three years after voters overturned a state law. And in Minnesota, voters will decide whether to pass a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Same-sex marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.

Food giant General Mills Inc., based in the Minneapolis suburb of Golden Valley, Minnesota, publicly spoke out against the state’s proposed amendment that would ban gay marriage, as well as Thomson Reuters, and St. Jude Medical, and executives including the co-owners of the Minnesota Twins. Even more national brands – Nabisco, J.C. Penney and Minnesota-based Target among them – have stuck with recent, gay-themed advertising.

John Taft, CEO of RBC Wealth Management U.S., has pressed Minnesota companies and executives to oppose the state’s proposed amendment, saying it’s simply good business.

“We’re all competing for talent, we’re trying to recruit and retain the best people out there,” Taft said. “If you’re going to be successful in business, you have to do diversity well. The world is becoming more diverse, not less diverse.”

Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy angered gay rights advocates earlier this month with another position, saying the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” He later added, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’”

Gay rights groups urged a boycott and the mayors of New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco spoke out against the chain; Christian conservatives promised to buy chicken sandwiches and waffle fries next week on “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”

Conservatives have also targeted companies in the Pacific Northwest that threw public support for the Washington law allowing gay marriage, up for a statewide referendum in November.

In March, following a shareholders’ meeting of Seattle-based Starbucks, the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage announced a “Dump Starbucks” protest and called for a boycott of the coffee giant. Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson said its business hasn’t been affected.

Last month, Gates and Microsoft co-founder Steve Ballmer donated $100,000 apiece to the campaign defending gay marriage. Keeping the law in place “would be good for our business and the state’s economy,” Microsoft spokeswoman Serina Hall said in an email.

In Minnesota, a number of executives have donated large sums to defeating Minnesota’s amendment that would ban gay marriage. State law already outlaws gay marriage, but supporters say the amendment is needed to fend off future legal challenges.

Jim, Bill and Bob Pohlad, the brothers whose holdings include the Minnesota Twins, together donated more than $300,000 to defeat the amendment. General Mills CEO Ken Powell personally donated $10,000, as did Michael Davis, the company’s senior vice president for human resources. Greg Page, the CEO of agribusiness giant Cargill, donated $1,000, while Doug Baker – the CEO of chemical products company Ecolab – donated $500.

All those executives declined interviews on the marriage amendment. Powell announced the company’s position last month at an internal gay pride function; Ken Charles, the company’s vice president for global diversity and inclusion, elaborated in a blog post.

“We believe a diverse, inclusive culture produces a stronger, more engaged workforce,” Charles wrote. “Inclusive communities are more successful economically as well.”

Other companies, including Target, have financially supported gay rights groups and courted gay customers _ but stopped short of directly calling on Minnesotans to vote against the amendment.

“Marriage equality is still a lightning rod issue in this country, and the country is still divided on it,” said Andy Bagnall, a New York City advertising executive who advises corporations on cultivating the gay community. “Any corporation that’s going to step into that, they really need to be prepared for what the response is going to be.”

Recent demonstrations against General Mills drew opponents who turned in their boxes of Old El Paso taco shells and cans of Green Giant corn and other General Mills products.

Janet Bezdicek, a suburban Minnesota mother of five, said she’s taken Cheerios off of her shopping list because of General Mills’ stance.

“We’re talking about a definition of something that’s been upheld for centuries. To be challenged by a corporation, that’s not appropriate,” she said.

But there’s little evidence that a conservative-mounted boycott over gay rights issues has tanked a company’s stock or made a noticeable dent in its profits, Bagnall said. Companies including Disney, Home Depot and Kraft Foods have been past targets of pressure by socially conservative groups for outreach to gay customers.

Bezdicek, who lives in Plymouth, Minn., and brought three of her kids to the demonstration, said she tries to shop with companies that share her values but said it’s becoming more difficult to line up her purchases with her conscience.

“My mother and I are always saying we’re not going to have any place to shop anymore,” she said.

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Anti-gay group singles out Starbucks for boycott

LGBT civil rights activists are wondering why the National Organization for Marriage singled out Starbucks for a boycott when other major companies endorsed marriage equality in Washington state.

Before the vote and governor’s signature that legalized same-sex marriage in the state, Starbucks joined a number of companies in endorsing marriage equality.

Other pro-gay companies with headquarters in Washington state include Alcoa, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Nike and Vulcan. Other companies to endorse marriage equality include Apple and Google and corporate chiefs at Facebook and Yahoo.

Yet the National Organization for Marriage launched its “Dump Starbucks” campaign on Facebook and the Web, with easy access to campaign details through Google and Yahoo.

LGBT civil rights activists are wondering about the focus on Starbucks.

“People like Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher no doubt use products from the dozens of consumer-facing brands that have come out in support of marriage equality and against Proposition 8 on a daily basis,” said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese. “They include Microsoft, Apple, Google, Alcoa, Nike, and top executives from companies like Yahoo and Facebook. Nonetheless, it appears NOM launched their ‘Dump Starbucks’ campaign on Facebook. Do they not have any Microsoft software in their office? Do they ban employees from owning iPhones?”

NOM claims in its anti-Starbucks campaign that the coffee chain endorsement of marriage equality is in conflict with the majority of Americans who believe marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

However, recent polls indicate that about 53 percent of Americans support marriage equality and that 63 percent support legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

Starbucks has been a vocal supporter of marriage equality for loving same-sex couples – views that are in-line with the majority of Americans – and that enrages NOM,” said Solmonese said. “As a result, NOM is throwing a temper-tantrum and encouraging its few supporters to intentionally harm the economic well-being of Starbucks employees all over the world.”

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Starbucks endorses marriage equality

Starbucks this week joined the list of Washington-based companies backing a marriage equality bill in the state.

The legislation has the support of the governor and enough votes for passage in both the house and the senate.

The legislation also has support from some of the state’s most prominent corporations, including Microsoft and Nike.

This week, Starbucks joined the club.

A statement from company VP Kalem Holmes to partners across the United States read:

“Starbucks is proud to join other leading Northwest employers in support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples. Starbucks strives to create a company culture that puts our partners first, and our company has a lengthy history of leading and supporting policies that promote equality and inclusion.

“This important legislation is aligned with Starbucks business practices and upholds our belief in the equal treatment of partners. It is core to who we are and what we value as a company. We are proud of our Pride Alliance Partner Network group, which is one of the largest Employer Resource Groups for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) employees in the U.S., helping to raise awareness about issues in the communities where we live and work.

“For the last 20 years, our benefits program has offered domestic partner benefits in the U.S. These benefits include medical, dental, vision, prescription drugs and alternative health care coverage. All partners (part-time and full-time) in all work locations, whether in a store, a roasting plant or a corporate office, adhere to the same eligibility requirements for health coverage and have access to the same comprehensive health plans.

“We are deeply dedicated to embracing diversity and treating one another with respect and dignity, and remain committed to providing an inclusive, supportive and safe work environment for all of our partners.

We look forward to seeing this legislation enacted into law.”

Microsoft, Nike back marriage equality in Washington state

Microsoft and Nike on Jan. 19 in endorsed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state.

Marriage equality bills have been introduced in the Washington House and Senate and endorsed by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Hearings on the bills could take place early next week. In the House, enough votes exist for passage, but the bill is a vote short in the Senate. 

Earlier this week, Washington’s Catholic bishops posted their opposition to the marriage equality bill in a letter on the Archdiocese of Seattle website and urged Church members to lobby lawmakers.

Corporate support for the marriage bill includes Microsoft, Vulcan, Real Networks, Nike, Group Health and Concur. In a joint letter to Gregoire, the top officers of the corporations said, “We write you today to show the support of our respective companies for SB 6239 and HB 2516 recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples.”

Microsoft also released a statement: “Microsoft is joining other Northwest employers … in support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples. This position builds on our history of supporting corporate and public policies that promote inclusion and equality.

“Microsoft’s greatest asset is a talented workforce as diverse as our customers. As other states recognize marriage equality, Washington’s employers are at a disadvantage if we cannot offer a similar, equitable and inclusive environment to our talented employees, our top recruits and their families. This legislation would put Washington employers on equal footing with employers in the six other states that already recognize the committed relationships of same-sex couples. Passing the bill would be good for our business and for the state’s economy.”