Marriott Hotels Does Post-Prop. 8 Damage Control
In the wake of the highly divisive campaigns over the issue of marriage equality in California, the role of the Mormon church and its membership in bankrolling the anti-marriage side (to the tune of a reported $22 million) has come under scrutiny, with a movement afoot to strip the Mormon church of its tax-exempt status and some calling for a boycott of the state of Utah as a tourist destination.
At least one large corporation headed by a Mormon has responded pre-emptively, evidently to head off a boycott of its services.
Bill Marriott, of Marriott Hotels, issued a release in which he assured company’s employees and guests that Marriott Hotels did not, as a company, contribute to the successful campaign to revoke the right of gay and lesbian families in California to marry.
Wrote Marriott in the Nov. 11 statement, "Neither I, nor the company, contributed to the campaign to pass Proposition 8."
Continued Marriott, "The Bible that I love teaches me about honesty, integrity and unconditional love for all people.
"But beyond that, I am very careful about separating my personal faith and beliefs from how we run our business."
Wrote Marriott, "I am personally motivated to speak now because Marriott was built on the basic principles of respect and inclusion."
Marriott noted that his company had received a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for two years running, and also cited the chain’s longtime hosting of GLBT events and functions.
Marriott also pointed out that the hotel chain had put a diversity program in place more than two decades ago, and reminded readers that the hotel was an early leader in providing its employees with benefits for their domestic partners.
"My father, who founded this company along with my mother, told everyone who would listen: ’Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your customers, who will come back again and again.’"
Not all those who responded at the feedback section of the online blog where the release appeared seemed willing to return as guests, however.
Wrote one reader, "I appreciate the transparency of this conversation, bill. But i ask you to put yourself in the shoes of gay people: we were trying to live our lives with dignity in California and marrying the people we love.
"Then your Church, which you tithe to, asks its members to support Prop 8 and take away our civil rights.
"What would you do in our situation? Or other straight readers?" continued the reader.
"I am sure you would be mad as we are. And I am sure you have tremendous influence in the Mormon Church: if you call the Church President, he will take your call.
"I applaud the diversity policies of the Marriott Corporation, but that is good business and within your own self-interest," continued the reader.
"For now, until you stand up to the bigotry of your church and impact on my life, I will take my business to the Four Seasons, Hyatt and Hilton, and urge my business colleagues to do the same."
Other readers defended and applauded Marriott’s comments. Wrote one, "Prop. 8 was an issue before California Voters. They and they alone voted for it to pass. Marriott didn’t do it, the LDS Church didn’t do it. The boycott people are barking up the wrong tree."
Added the reader, "The LDS Church did not contribute one dime to the pro Prop 8 cause. Members did of their own free will. The Church asked them too but it was their decision.
"None of Bill Marriott’s tithing went toward this effort."
Wrote another, "Thank you, Mr. Marriott, for being the voice of reason amidst a throng of hypocrites.
"You are a living testament to your faith and a role model to business-owners, consumers and Americans everywhere."
Americablog took note of Marriott’s release in a Nov. 12 item.
"Bill Marriott rightly noted that his business has a perfect rating from the Human Rights Campaign. And that’s swell," the Americablog article read.
"But there are a few problems with that argument."
Continued the article, "First, I’m sure Domino’s and Coors probably weren’t particular anti-gay companies per se. But the people running the company gave their money to some pretty nasty conservative causes.
"That money came from us, their customers. And I suspect Bill Marriott, as a good Mormon, gives 10% of his gross income to the Mormon church as is required.
"And the Mormon church is personally responsible for taking away our rights in California. We were winning on Prop 8 until the Mormons parachuted in and dropped as much as $20 million (one estimate is that Mormons gave 77% of the entire budget the bigots had to push Prop 8).
"But hey, maybe in the end Bill Marriott hasn’t given a ton of money to the Mormon church," the article added. "Maybe he doesn’t give his ten percent.
"I’m sure he’s willing to tell us just how much money he’s given to people who have made it their mission in life to rescind our civil rights. Then we can judge whether we ever want to stay at a Marriott hotel ever again."
Added the article, "The Mormons have the right to try to dehumanize blacks, Jews and gays. And we have the right to fight back.
"And now we are."
At the hospitality industry Web site Meetings Collaborative blogger and hospitality professional Joan Eisenstodt took up the issue of boycotts targeting Utah and other states, including California, Arizona, and Arkansas, where the rights of gay families were curtailed by ballot initiative.
Wrote Eisenstodt, "Will we boycott Utah and California, and Arizona, and perhaps Arkansas too as destinations for meeting?"
Noting that there were already calls to boycott Utah, Eisenstody continued, "What about companies and organizations that have bylaws and policies of non-discrimination? How will they treat these states?
"Isn’t this also a matter of social responsibility?"
Wrote Eisenstodt, "In my opinion--reflecting only mine and not that of the owners or operators of Meetings Collaborative--it is time to seriously look at human rights in the United States.
"Our country did a great injustice to hundreds of thousands (millions?) of human beings in this election. Our industry has the ability to make a difference.
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