|Should New Zealand and Australian LGBT organisations launch a boycott of Queensland, Australia's 'hate state?'
It seems as if the right-wing Liberal-National Coalition Queensland state government is intent on repealing its civil union legislation and cutting funding to Queensland Action for Healthy Communities, the state's HIV/AIDS prevention group?
This has been tried before, and succeeded. When antigay hatemonger Anita Bryant went on the warpath in 1979 after Florida's Dade County passed an antidiscrimination ordinance and had it repealed, canny lesbian and gay rights activists launched a nationwide boycott of the Florida Citrus Commission, for she acted as a spokesperson. Due to the brand damage, Bryant was sacked as representative and other sponsors followed suit, torpedoing her musical career. Later, in the nineties, Colorado passed a citizens initiated referendum that threatened to repeal state antidiscrimination law coverage for lesbians and gay men in 1992. Despite metropolitan and alpine business opposition, the case went to the US Supreme Court and the referendum result was struck down in 1996, under Romer v Evans.
More recently, it has been conservative Christians that have threatened boycotts, this time against corporate sponsors of the popular coffee chain Starbucks. The "National Organisation for Marriage" has picked up an initial suggest by one Pastor Andrew Stevens of "USA Christian Ministries" and in New Zealand, the Christian Right's "Right to Life New Zealand" (an antiabortion group) has voiced its support.
Should we be purchasing products and services from states and nations that then announce intentions to openly discriminate against lesbians and gay men in fields like antidiscrimination law, relationship and parenting equality? Why shouldn't we get tough with our political opponents? Granted, they have the right to free speech as private citizens. If they're government legislators though, they need to realise that pandering to vocal and overt homophobia can have destructive consequences for particular localities. And do all Queenslanders support the repeal of civil union legislation, or total repeal of HIV/AIDS prevention funding?
I suggest that we think seriously about the possibility that a boycott threat might have on Queensland businesses if circulated widely enough. It is high time that we did so- Australia needed our solidarity when it came to the Howard administration's federal same-sex marriage ban in 2004, yet we did nothing to protest that.
What would happen if an organised boycott was launched and actively undertaken? If Queensland businesses recognise that state government civil union repeal plans are destroying the value of their product or service, then they can become stakeholders in this context. They cam then be enlisted to criticise the Queensland state government when it comes to these objectives. If the state government and businesses fail to heed the boycott call, then it may be neccessary to mount an organised divestment campaign from the state, sparing inclusive corporates that actively oppose civil union repeal and oppose the QAHC funding cut.
In February's Globe and Mail, Canadian journalist Wendy Leung wrote an intriguing article on social conservative Christians and antigay boycott activity within the United States. She suggested that corporates should distinguish between threatened and actual boycotts. After all, one tactic involves potential loss of market share, while the other intends to damage corporate profitability- although boycotts do backfire if they make one’s political opponents determined to support the affected brand, product or service because of their inclusive corporate policies. Offending the admittedly large US fundamentalist market may mean that the equally lucrative LGBT market comes to its rescue. In the case of Queensland, there's always the more inclusive state of New South Wales next door to consider. Given its omission from the mineral boom, I imagine NSW businesses might be keen supporters of a Queensland goods and services boycott.
According to Brayden King, assistant professor of management at US Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, about one-quarter of actual boycott campaigns do result in some corporate concessions from the affected party. Alarmingly, religious social conservatives are more likely to engage in product or service boycotts than constituencies like the green or animal rights movements, he notes. (Against that, though, we should note the successful US LGBT boycotts of Anita Bryant and Colorado above).
At the moment, Starbucks isn’t the only affected brand. JC Penneys, a prominent US department store chain, appointed Ellen DeGeneres, lesbian media celebrity, as one of its spokespeople. The fundamentalist “American Family Association” has encouraged a front group, “One Million Moms”, to boycott the chain in response. We’re not the only targets though- a “Florida Family Association” has targeted advertising on All American Muslim, a reality show, which has led Lowes home improvement stores to cease advertising during that time slot. AFA claims that Ford motor vehicles stopped funding organisations that support same-sex marriage.
It's time that the Queensland Coalition state government learnt that if they pander to prejudice in a global economy, then we are equally capable of financial retaliation, through boyccotting Queensland-sourced products, services and brands if they are so determined to kowtow to extremist homophobes.
Monroe Friedman: Consumer Boycotts: Effecting Change through the Marketplace and Media: New York: Routledge: 1999.
S.Sen: "Marketing and Minority Civil Rights: The Case of Amendment 2 and the Colorado Boycott" Journal of Public Policy and Marketing: 15: 311-318.
N.Craig Smith: Morality and the Market: Consumer Consumer Pressure for Corporate Availability: London: Routledge: 1990
Wendy Leung: “Faith in boycotts- can religious groups affect the bottom line?” Globe and Mail: 28.02.12: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/faith-in-boycotts-can-religious-groups-affect-the-bottom-line/article2351906
"Dark Times for Queensland:" Samesame: 21.05.2012: http://www.samesame.com.au/features/8428/Dark-times-for-Queensland.htm Craig Young - 27th May 2012