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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Starbucks supports Washington bill legalizing gay marriage

Starbucks Coffee Company stirred up more than frappuccinos this past week.

The Seattle-based coffee giant — along with other northwestern companies such as Amazon, Nike and Microsoft — backed a Washington state bill aimed at legalizing gay marriage and has received boycott threats for doing so.

Some UF students who frequent Starbucks said they support the company's endorsement. They called it a bold, respectable move.

"I think that's really exciting, actually," said Lauren Tripp, a 32-year-old doctoral candidate in the College of Education. "I think a lot of companies are reluctant to do anything that would upset their shareholders. It's cool that they take a stand for their morals over losing money."

Animal biology freshman Alissa Valdes, 18, agreed. She said she believes Starbucks could influence customers through its public support for gay rights.

"If Starbucks loves gay marriage, maybe then everybody else will, too," she said.

The bill was passed by the Washington State Senate Feb. 1 and will be up for a vote in the state's House as early as today. Both chambers have a Democratic majority, and Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire expressed her support. Passage is expected sometime next week.

Starbucks notified its employees of the endorsement in a message on Jan. 24.

"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," Executive Vice President Kalen Holmes wrote in the message. "This important legislation is aligned with Starbucks business practices and upholds our belief in the equal treatment of partners ... We look forward to seeing this legislation enacted into law."

Robert Thomas, chair of the Warrington College of Business Administration's Department of Management, said the decision shouldn't negatively impact the coffee company.

"I think it's risky, especially if it doesn't directly impact their core business," he said. "Given that they are joining Microsoft and Nike, they probably have some cover and may have even had some pressure. I think it could actually help Starbucks business, [which] probably leans left of center in the crowd they attract."

Some opposition toward the company arose when USA Christian Ministries Pastor Steven Andrew called for a national boycott of the company in a post on the ministry's website.

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