The Case Against a Marriott Boycott: Marriott is not a Mormon organization

by cv harquail on November 25, 2008

Dont Boycott Marriott  churchsign proposition 8 GLBT rights Many GLBT-rights and marriage equality rights activists are up in arms in protest against individuals, business and institutions that supported California’s Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage. Letters to prominent individual contributors, protests in front of churches, and calls for boycotts figure prominently in these activists’ efforts both to punish the individual, businesses and institutions and to demonstrate the size and passion of the marriage equality movement.

Mormon churches, Mormon individuals and Mormon businesses have all become targets of activists, because of the Mormon Church’s comprehensive efforts, directly and indirectly, to mobilize its members to fight against marriage equality .

Marriott Hotels and Resorts, because of its prominence and its purported link to the Mormon Church, has been a focal target of these boycott efforts. While it might be comforting to some to have a big target, I think that boycotting Marriott is the wrong thing to do, because it punishes the organization for being something that the organization is not.

Calling for a boycott against Marriott is wrong, for two reasons:

1. Marriott is not an "authentically Mormon" organization.

2. Marriott is LGBT-friendly, not "anti-gay".

For this post, let’s just address the first issue– of Marriott’s authentic identity. (I’ll address the second issue, that Marriott is LGBT-friendly, not "anti-gay", in a follow-up post.)

Tier 1: Convincing demonstrations of a Mormon Organizational Identity

In a previous post, I identified two levels of criteria by which we might answer the question: Is this a Mormon organization? In the first tier of criteria are those organizational features that convincingly demonstrate the Mormon identity– and on all six of these criteria, Marriott fails to qualify as a "Mormon" organization.

Criteria for being a
"Mormon" Organization

Is this true of Marriott?

Tier One:
Convincing demonstration of identity
1. The organization is wholly or majority-owned by the Mormon Church. no
2. Tenets, principles and priories of the organization are based on those of the LDS Church. no
3. Part of the organization’s mission is furthering the causes and principles of the LDS. no
4. Being a practicing Mormon is a criterion for employment or advancement in the organization. no
5. Practices and activities that are explicitly Mormon are official parts of the organization’s operation. no
6. The organization looks to the Mormon Church and to Mormon Church leaders for guidance on issues related to its business. no

gay wedding prop 8, marriott, marriage equality, boycott, What’s critical with any of the criteria in Tier 1 is that an organization could only have these features if they were "designed in". With the exception of #6 (Looking to the LDS Church for guidance), these features would be created and supported by official organizational systems — like HR systems, operational procedures, mission statements and communication practices — that are structured into the organization. And, because they are structured in, they are less likely to shift with the personalities of the leaders, the pressures of the business cycle, or management fads. They are more likely to be enduring practices, and thus closer to the core of the organization’s sense of itself.

Tier 2: Suggestive but not sufficient indicators of a Mormon Organizational Identity

It’s in the second tier of criteria where things get a little blurrier. These criteria are used by outsiders to infer a Mormon identity– but none of these features insures that the organization operate in a way that is officially Mormon. Said another way, none of these features ‘makes’ the organization behave in one way or another– all of them require some other kind of agency (like a CEO dictating certain practices) to move from some person’s identity as a Mormon to the organization being assigned the identity of Mormon.

As for the ways in which Marriott is related to Mormons or the LDS Church — through its current CEO, through some and certainly not that many employees and some shareholders– there is a legal (and operational) separation between the "organization" and these individuals. The behavior or an employee (whether CEO or housekeeper) can’t make the organization Mormon, and even the influence of shareholders (if some of these shareholders advocate for more Mormon practices) is diluted and indirect enough to be negligible. And, the identity of any given employee(s) does not dictate the identity of the organization.

Tier 2:
Suggestive but not sufficient indicators
1. Practices and activities that are consonant with Mormon principles but are not explicitly Mormon are part of the organization’s informal culture. no
2. The organization contributes to the Mormon Church and/or to the Church’s initiatives through its philanthropic activity (e.g., sponsorships, CSR, pro bono work, etc.). no
3. The organization is endorsed by prominent members of the Church. no

4. The majority of the organization’s employees are practicing Mormons.

5. The organization’s CEO is a practicing Mormon. yes
6. Some employees of the organization donate money and time to the LDS Church. yes
7. Some percentage of the organization’s shareholders are Mormon. yes

lesbian_wedding, authentic organizations, leadership, mormons, prop 8, homophobia, organizational values If an activist argues that boycotting Marriott is the right thing to do -because Marriott is a Mormon organization– the activist is wrong. Marriott is not a Mormon organization.

The only potentially persuasive links between Marriott and the Mormon church are through the church membership of the CEO and the idea that some shareholders’ personal wealth comes from Marriott corporation profits.

With regard to the CEO, Bill Marriott has publicly, clearly and officially articulated that his religious views and the values of the Marriott corporation are separate and distinct. Moreover, Bill Marriott explains:

Neither I, nor the company, contributed to the campaign to pass Proposition 8.

As for the ways that some shareholders choose to use their wealth, it would seem inappropriate to punish an entire organization for the church membership of those who hold 30% of the shares. This strategy punishes not only the 70% of shareholders who aren’t LDS members, but also assumes that the shareholders who are LDS members are against marriage equality– an assumption which is incorrect. A better strategy is to identify the individuals who contributed as individuals, and boycott or ‘out’ them.

What should marriage equality activists do instead of boycotting Marriott?

Given the arguments against punishing Marriott for being Mormon when it isn’t, there are more effective and more logical actions available to marriage rights activists. They should:

BlueCakes —  Boycott the organizations that have– as organizations- contributed to the Yes on 8 Campaign. These organizations include Container Supply Company , which as an organization donated $270,070.000 to the campaign against same-sex marriage rights. The Container Supply Company seems like a pretty "authentic" target– not only did the organization donate but also its owner, Robert Hurtt, contributed 300,000 of his personal money to the campaign against marriage rights.

— Publicly call for prominent Mormons who hold leadership positions in the LDS Church and who had shown some support for gay rights– folks like Bill Marriotto advocate within the LDS Church for civil (if not religious) rights for GLBT individuals and families.

Stay tuned for the next post, The Case Against a Marriott Boycott (part two): Marriott is LGBT-friendly, not "anti-gay". In the meantime, share your thoughts about Marriott, Mormons and marriage rights, by adding to the comments, below.


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