For millions of Americans, e-commerce is nothing more than an easy way to purchase needed products. But somehow, the boring and seemingly nonpartisan online shopping world has been strewn into the politically-charge gay rights debate. With angry advocates and bloggers taking on big businesses and non-profit Christian charities, alike, all sides are sparring over divergent views on free speech, religious tolerance and economics.
Here's a simple breakdown of what's been going on: Massive retailers like Apple, Microsoft, Netflix and Wal-Mart have a relationship with an Internet marketer called the Charity Giveback Group (CGBG). When CGBG brings customers to retailers' web sites, the marketer gets commission for the sales that are made. This, of course, is a common occurrence in the e-commerce world.
But there's a twist in this breakdown that has gay rights advocates infuriated -- a portion of the commission that retailers pay out is donated to the buyers' charity of choice. On the list of potential recipient options are Christian organizations like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family -- groups that oppose gay marriage. The New York Times has more:
The national battle was ignited in July by Stuart Wilber, a 73-year-old gay man in Seattle. He was astonished, he said, when he learned that people who bought Microsoft products through a Christian-oriented Internet marketer known as Charity Giveback Group, or CGBG, could channel a donation to evangelical organizations that call homosexual behavior a threat to the moral and social fabric.
Wilber, clearly unhappy with the arrangement that these retailers had with the marketer and with the potential that money could change hands between the businesses and groups opposed to gay marriage, took to the Internet. He created a petition on Change.org (a web site that often champions what some see as leftist policies and ideals), urging Microsoft to end its relationship with these "hate groups." Microsoft, likely fearing the loss of revenue as a result of its connection to the marketer, dropped out of the CGBG program.
This petition, of course, was only the beginning. Apple, the popular tech company, also bailed out on the arrangement as well after another similar petition was launched. So far, nearly 100 companies have left the charity agreement following the launch of these mini-campaigns, with very few of them speaking out about their reasoning.
The responses coming from the marketer and the non-profits involved in the controversy have been strong. Mike Huckabee, a former pastor, governor and candidate for the American presidency (who is also a CGBG consultant) said, "This is economic terrorism. To try to destroy a business because you don’t like some of the customers is, to me, unbelievably un-American."
While gay rights advocates feel that they are fighting against "hate groups," conservative Christian organizations feel as though they are being targeted for their religious beliefs. And the marketer feels as though customers are being denied full access to choose donation recipients for themselves.
Despite activists' success in boycotting CGBG, a new, counter-campaign has been launched called, "Christians/Consumers Against Retail Discrimination." An announcement on the group's web site reads:
In recent weeks, online political activists have engaged in a misinformation campaign that bullies retailers into discriminating against customers and charities based on their religious beliefs, specifically the traditional and biblical view of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The online activists are targeting CGBG, a charity support group with a mission and partner network that includes more than 170,000 charities representing a range of religious, non-religious, educational and other groups. The online service helps users support their favorite charities by shopping on the web. However, in recent months online activists opposed to a traditional and biblical view of marriage have pressured retailers to end their participation with the charity support group.
Despite pressure to separate from CGBG, companies like Walmart and Sam's Club have reignited their relationships with the marketer. This, of course, is likely to further infuriate the activists who have worked so hard to hamper the company's success among major retailers.
(H/T Huffington Post)