Diane Brady at Bloomberg Businessweek had a very interesting chat with Bill Marriott months before the Chick-fil-A controversy exploded.
Marriott is the chairman, and former longtime CEO, of Marriott International, a big Mormon-controlled business.
He personally believes that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, but he does his best to keep those personal views far away from his business.
What does he have to say about gay marriage? Nothing.
Here’s what Marriott had to say about his company and the church. From Bloomberg Businessweek:
“This church helped me raise a family and has brought great joy and happiness to my life. We have to take care of our people, regardless of their sexual orientation or anything else. We are an American Church. We have all the American values: the values of hard work, the values of integrity, the values of fairness and respect.
“Our church is very much opposed to alcohol and we’re probably one of the biggest sales engines of liquor in the United States. I don’t drink. We serve a lot of liquor. You’re in business. You’ve got to make money. We have to appeal to the masses out there, no matter what their beliefs are.”
For instance, his church campaigned against gay marriage in California, but he kept himself — and his company — out of it. He donated nothing, and instead reiterated Marriott International’s commitment to gay rights.
Now, look at Dan Cathy, the president and COO of Chick-fil-A, whose remarks about the definition of marriage have sparked boycotts and a national political firestorm.
What’s the difference?
Chick-fil-A’s charity arm donated nearly $2 million to anti-gay marriage groups. When Chick-fil-A committed to stop talking about marriage, it did so in a generic release, where Cathy’s name was not to be found.
And, importantly, when he spoke publicly about marriage, he said that it’s “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.” He said that those who seek to include homosexuals in the definition of marriage are “prideful” and “arrogant.”
While he certainly has a right to any opinion he may have, statements like that are bound to alienate people — not just customers, but his own employees.
That’s a big reason why people are freaking out at Cathy, but not at Marriott.
“Not only did he openly condemn the beliefs of a big chunk of Chick-fil-A’s audience, he implied that their views are unpatriotic and even put the country at risk,” writes Brady.
“The issue isn’t that Dan Cathy disapproves of gay marriage … The problem is that he crossed the line in letting his faith become less about inspiration than alienation.”