By Chelsea Karnash
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – While Chick-fil-A is hardly the first company to take a side in the marriage equality debate, the attention it garnered by doing so has raised questions about the effects on business that taking a stance on hot-button social issues can have.
In the last year, President Obama has come out in support of marriage equality and polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. In the business sector, both Oreo and JCPenney have drawn nationwide praise and criticism for showing support for marriage equality. After Oreo posted a rainbow version of its cookie during the 2012 Gay Pride festivities in June, it received over 143,000 “likes” and nearly 18,000 comments. Meanwhile, JCPenney, which released a catalog featuring a female same-sex couple back in May and recently brought on the openly-gay Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson, faced boycotting from the conservative organization One Million Moms, only to respond by putting out a June catalog that featured a same-sex male couple.
Here in Philadelphia, one local jewelry designer has been continually outspoken in his support for marriage equality while still managing to stay out of the spotlight. Udi Behr, the co-founder and chief designer of Philly-based jewelry design company loveandpride, has raised nearly $400,000 for the LGBT community in the seven years since the company was formed. He’s donated a portion of every sale to the customer’s choice of LGBT charities, and he’s also designed special pieces to raise money for organizations like the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the Human Rights Campaign.
Behr, who is not gay and is married with two children, is now taking his commitment to the cause a step further by releasing a special “Marriage Equality Pendant” in honor of Freddie Mercury. The item is actually a pair of military-style stainless-steel dog tags that can be engraved and then split between a couple, with each wearing a tag. One-hundred-percent of the proceeds will go towards Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA), an organization that works to secure legal marriage for all Americans regardless of sexual orientation or gender.
And why would a straight, married man want to fight for gay rights? Behr cites the three things he thinks are most important for people: equality, diversity and tolerance.
“Discrimination is unacceptable in all forms,” Behr says emphatically.
And in Philadelphia, a city that hosts the largest National Coming Out Day event in the world, is home to a thriving section known as the “Gayborhood” and where Chick-fil-A’s anti-marriage equality leanings spurned angry letters from city officials to the company’s CEO (see previous story), Behr’s loveandpride seems poised to do well with consumers.
For more on loveandpride and the Marriage Equality Pendant, visit: www.loveandpride.com/meusa