Post Misstates Quote from Starbucks CEO on Marriage

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Quick Take

Starbucks has a long history of supporting LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage. But a post on social media twists a 2013 statement from its CEO at the time to falsely claim he said don’t buy Starbucks coffee “if you support traditional marriage.”


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Starbucks has long supported marriage equality and “advancing inclusion and equity for all,” according to the company website.

Starbucks has offered full health benefits to all employees, “including coverage for same-sex domestic partnerships,” since 1988

But during an annual shareholders meeting in 2013, a shareholder said that Starbucks was losing customers because of the company’s support for gay marriage.

In response, Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks at that time, said the company will continue to embrace all forms of diversity. Schultz told the shareholder, “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company.” 

A few articles over the years either misquoted Schultz’s exchange with the shareholder or took his comments out of context.

In 2013, the Examiner carried a headline that said “Starbucks CEO: No tolerance for traditional marriage supporters.” In 2015 and 2017, respectively, two articles paraphrased Schultz to have said, “If You Support Traditional Marriage We Don’t Want Your Business.”

Over the years, too, social media posts that shared those articles distorted Schultz’s words.

“’STARBUCKS BREAKING NEWS: At the annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday, CEO Howard Schultz sent a clear message to anyone who supports ‘Traditional Marriage’. He states, ‘WE DON’T WANT YOUR BUSINESS,’” one Facebook user wrote in 2015 after the meeting.

Now, nearly 10 years later, a post on social media continues to misstate Schultz’s words by reviving the old claim that supporters of “traditional marriage,” or marriage between a man and a woman, aren’t welcome to buy coffee from Starbucks. 

“The CEO of Starbucks just said, ‘If you support traditional marriage, don’t buy our coffee.’ I accept those terms,” read a post on Facebook shared on Feb. 1 that received over 1,000 likes. 

But there is no record of Schultz saying this, and a spokesperson told us in an email there’s no truth to the claim. 

“This is false,” said the spokesperson, who also shared a link to the company’s statement of support for the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015.

It’s also worth noting that last year when the Respect for Marriage Act — which affirmed same-sex and interracial marriage rights — was signed into law in December, Starbucks announced support for the legislation and pledged its “commitment to advance inclusion and equity for all.”

But that doesn’t mean that the company doesn’t support “traditional marriage.” The company published an article on two couples who got engaged at their local Starbucks in 2016. Both couples — who are identified in the article as being in what some may consider a “traditional” relationship — received support from Starbucks employees to help with the proposal. 


Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.

Sources

Allen, Frederick E. “Howard Schultz to Anti-Gay-Marriage Starbucks Shareholder: ‘You Can Sell Your Shares’.” Forbes. 22 Mar 2013. 

Peiper, Heidi, “Timeline: Starbucks history of LGBTQIA2+ inclusion.” Starbucks Stories. 16 May 2022. 

Starbucks Stories. “Starbucks Applauds Supreme Court’s Ruling on Marriage Equality.” 26 Jun 2015. 

Starbucks Stories. “Message from Zulima: Advancing Protections for Marriage Equality.” 13 Dec 2022. 

Starbucks spokesperson. Email to FactCheck.org. 2 Feb 2023.

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