Homophobia. Turns out it’s just not good for business. Simply ask Aaron and Melissa Klein (pictured), the disgraced Oregon bakers who refused to make two lesbians a wedding cake, calling them an “abomination unto the Lord” and, as a result of all the bad PR they received, were forced to close up shop. They’re now peddling “ex-gay” cakes out of their home to make ends meet.
Earlier this week, Pat Robertson warned 700 Club viewers that gay people were a threat to Christian’s livelihoods, saying: “What the gays are saying is, ‘We’re going to drive you out of town. You conform to us or you must leave.’ It’s the same message that was put out in Sodom and Gomorroh: ‘You’re either going to have sex with angels or have open sex with anybody or else you leave, or you go out of business.’ ”
For once, Robertson may actually be right about something. Publicly proclaiming one’s hatred and intolerance of gay people can do serious damage to one’s business and reputation.
Check out these five professionals who learned that lesson the hard way.
Hazelmary and Peter Bull
The Christian husband-wife duo made international headlines when they denied two husbands a room at their B&B in Cornwall, England, citing a strict “heterosexual married couples only” policy. The couple sued the B&B owners for discrimination and won. As a result, occupancy at the hotel plummeted and the Bulls were forced to sell their business.
“In 2013, two people who worked all their lives at this have ended up cold and hungry,” Hazelmary told the U.K.’s Daily Mail last September. “It’s not right. This is like a death in the family. I never thought it would end like this. We are not facing the future with any real enthusiasm.”
The Indianapolis baker and owner of Just Cookies told a group of college students that he would not sell them rainbow-colored cupcakes in honor of October’s National Coming Out Day in 2010. At the time, he told reporters, “We’re a family-run busines. We have two young, impressionable daughters and we thought maybe it was best not to do that.”
The story got the attention of Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard, who called Stockton’s stunt “unacceptable” and ordered an investigation into the matter. After nearly losing his lease as a result of his behavior, which was deemed illegal under a 2005 city ordinance protecting LGBT people against discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations, Stockton agreed to sign a paper acknowledging the city’s equal opportunity ordinance and post a copy of it on display in his store.
In March 2013, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington was slapped with not one but two lawsuits after she told a gay couple she could not provide flower arrangements for their wedding because it would tarnish her “relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The state attorney general sued Stutzman for violating the Consumer Protection Act, which states that it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation. A second lawsuit from the couple Stutzman refused service to was also threatened, though they told her they would drop it if she “[vowed] to never again discriminate in her services for gay people, write an apology letter to be published in the Tri-City Herald, and contribute $5,000 to a local LGBT youth center.”
The trial is currently stalled but is expected to begin some time in the next two to three months.
Gregg Steinhafel and Target
The bargain retail giant, under the direction of then CEO Gregg Steinhafel, came under scrutiny in 2010 for donating $150,000 in cash and services to MN Forward, a super PAC that was backing antigay gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.
Steinhafel initially defended the donation, but after the story ignited a firestorm in the national press, he apologized to Target employees, saying: “While I firmly believe that a business climate conducive to growth is critical to our future, I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry.”
Target’s gay customers left in droves, with many vowing to drop the retailer for good. For the most part, Steinhafel was able to weather the storm. But as we all know, karma always comes back around eventually. In May of this year, he was forced to resign from his position as CEO after several years of slumping sales and the great data breach of 2013 that affected roughly 100 million Target consumers.