It has been roughly three weeks since President Barack Obama has publicly voiced his support of gay marriage, and both critics and supporters of his stance are still debating whether or not the announcement will ultimately help or hurt his reelection campaign. Given the recent announcement by the NAACP, the general ineffectiveness of One Million Moms and National Organization for Marriage campaigns against corporations openly supporting GLBT rights — and even the increasingly positive GLBT visibility in various well-known comic book universes, such as Marvel, Archie Comics and DC — the announcement appears to be a reflection of a shifting national sentiment, and may ultimately help President Obama’s reelection bid.
The organization One Million Moms (OMM) has called for bans to JC Penney twice in recent months, once for employing talk show host and lesbian Ellen Degeneres as a spokesperson, and later for a catalogue ad featuring two lesbian mothers and their children. While JC Penney shares have gone down in the first quarter (an adjusted net loss of $55 million), it is unclear just how much their support of the LGBT community has caused this. The corporation is currently undergoing reorganization, which involves lowering inventory levels and incurring restructuring and management transition charges. In addition, JC Penney has a new CEO, Ron Johnson, formerly of Apple. The instability of these changes and the loss of money due to restructuring costs can easily affect the organization’s profitability, and while OMM’s boycotts may have helped contribute to this, there is every indication that these losses would have occurred with or without their efforts.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), another group in opposition to same-sex marriage, has also initiated a boycott against coffee retailer Starbucks after the company openly voiced its favor for same-sex marriage, an action which was ultimately squashed when their online petition only received roughly 36,000 signatures, while a similar petition serving as a thank you card for Starbucks’ support received approximately 228,000 signatures.
Other American-based companies openly supporting same-sex marriage and/or gay rights include Nike, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Levi’s, The Gap, American Apparel, American Airlines, Google, Boeing and IBM.
Let’s turn our attention to a different group of companies endorsing same-sex marriage: comic book companies. While not everyone reads comic books, the fact is that these companies are reaching a particular group of people that other types of companies might not is important to take note of. Archie Comics recently featured a comic where a same-sex couple celebrated their wedding, with an illustration of the wedding on the comic’s cover (OMM tried to boycott Toys “R” Us for selling the comic, which had the reverse effect of causing the comics to fly off the shelves). Marvel Comics has announced that an openly gay member of the X-Men, Northstar, will propose to his partner in the comic “Astonishing X-Men #50,” effectively making him the company’s first married gay superhero. Likewise, DC Comics has recently announced that one of its many heroes will be reintroduced as gay in the near future, though which hero is still a secret.
In addition to all of these companies and corporations supporting same-sex marriage, we have to note that states like New York and Washington have recently voted to legalize same-sex marriages, even as North Carolina has (narrowly) voted to ban it. This means that same-sex couples can be legally married in New York, Washington, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa, while civil unions or domestic partnerships are recognized in Hawaii, Oregon, Nevada, California (previously performed marriages still recognized), Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maine and Maryland (out-of-state marriages recognized). Same-sex marriage is also legal in Washington D.C.
After taking all of this information into consideration, the many (and diverse) companies openly endorsing same-sex marriage, the fact that boycotts on some of these highly influential companies have either failed or yielded inconclusive results, the fact that beloved niche companies (e.g., comic book companies) are reaching difficult audiences with their support of same-sex marriage and the increasing amount of states either recognizing or legalizing same-sex marriage indicate that President Obama’s newly-outed support for same-sex marriage is more in line with shifting national values against them. And, despite the potentially bad timing of the announcement, it might end up helping his reelection campaign more than hurting it.