Equality Pennsylvania this month backed the boycott of American Way Corporation, a direct-selling company whose product line includes health and beauty items such as Artistry cosmetics and cleaning products such as Legacy of Clean items.
Amway’s North American operation, based in Michigan, is bolstered by a number of subsidiaries and does most of its business overseas. Forbes named it among the 30 largest private companies in the nation.
This past summer, blogger Zach Ford revealed that company president Doug DeVos made a personal donation of $500,000 to the National Organization for Marriage, which has led the fight for anti-gay-marriage amendments in a number of states, among other initiatives. In August, Rights Equal Rights, led by former out Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger, launched a boycott of the company, which has since drawn support from everyday LGBTs and allies to elected officials to out celebs such as Jane Lynch.
Karger said he’s ultimately hoping Amway will donate an equivalent amount to an LGBT cause, which has happened in previous boycotts he has led.
“This is now our fifth boycott and we’ve been successful in two, so it is our hope to sit down with Doug DeVos and try to work out an amicable resolution for both parties in this debate,” said Karger.
EQPA is the first statewide organization to endorse the campaign.
EQPA president Adrian Shanker hopes the organization’s support educates LGBT consumers.
“Amway has been worse than many companies in being active against gay rights,” Shanker said. “Amway has a presence in Pennsylvania, so we want to make sure our members know where to spend their money.”
Karger said DeVos’ contribution to NOM is thought to be the agency’s largest single family donation ever.
While he acknowledged that DeVos can support causes of his choice, he said the LGBT community also has a right to know about those donations.
“One of our sub themes is, you can give, but you can’t hide. It’s important that full disclosure happens. He’s entitled to make contributions but there are consequences to contributions,” Karger said. “He gave half amillion to NOM, and it’s our right as supporters of marriage equality and LGBT civil rights to not support businesses like that. I’m hoping this boycott will discourage some of the mega-donors from giving to NOM.”
Karger said private donations such as DeVos’ can have a real impact on LGBT rights.
In last month’s election, LGBT advocates for the first time far outspent antigay proponents in the four states where marriage equality was on the ballot — and won in each. About 65 percent of the funding for the antigay side came from NOM, Knights of Columbus and Catholic dioceses, Karger said.
“I think the measure of success we just saw in November shows that, while there was great campaigning done and while the tide is turning toward marriage equality, when you can outraise your opponent, you can win. It’s a huge advantage having two, three or four times the amount of money.”
Shanker noted that the boycott also is raising awareness about the attitudes of Amway leadership.
Amway founder and former CEO Richard DeVos, who also owns NBA team Orlando Magic, said in an interview that the LGBT community has criticized him for his approach to victims of HIV/AIDS while he was on a presidential commission convened by Ronald Reagan.
“I listened to 300 witnesses tell us it was everybody else’s fault but their own. I put into the document that was the conclusion of the commission that actions have consequences. You are responsible for yours. AIDS is a disease people gain because of their actions,” he said.
Shanker noted that the community this year lambasted Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy for his opposition to same-sex marriage and donations to antigay causes.
“With the outrage over Chick-fil-A, we thought it was necessary to remind people that one company doesn’t have a monopoly on antigay financial contributions; there are other companies that need to be watched as well,” Shanker said. “If people were upset about Chick-fil-A, they’re going to be really upset about Amway.”