Opinion » Note

Ice Cream Social Activism

Business supporting nondiscrimination

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In addition to dreaming up some of the most creative flavors of ice cream ever marketed, Ben & Jerry's is also one of the staunchest business supporters of LGBT equality. In 2014, the Vermont-based company joined an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States supporting same-sex marriage. Specifically, signers of the "Employers' Amicus Brief" called on justices to create a "single standard across all 50 states that recognizes same-sex marriage." According to a statement from Ben & Jerry's Mission Activism Manager Chris Miller—yes, that's a real job title at Ben & Jerry's—"This amicus puts these corporations on record saying that in addition to this being an issue of civil rights, it complicates the running of our businesses."

In January, the Supreme Court announced that it would make a ruling on same-sex marriage, possibly as early as this summer. While Ben & Jerry's can't be credited directly with pushing the Court toward making a decision, it certainly doesn't hurt a social cause when the money starts talking. As Ben & Jerry's co-founder Jerry Greenfield has said, "Business can be a source of progressive change."

In Idaho, where same-sex marriage was legalized in October 2014, the struggle for full LGBT equality continues with the Add the Words movement, which has sought for nearly a decade to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" in the state's human rights law. While a bill to do that finally received a hearing at the Statehouse this session, it was again sidelined.

Now the movement is drawing on support from local companies that, like Ben & Jerry's, are not afraid to make the business case for equal rights.

Boise Weekly Staff Writer Jessica Murri profiles a handful of these companies and talks with Add the Words leaders about why it's so important to build a broad base of support among the business community.

As Ben & Jerry's is fond of saying, "love comes in all flavors." With locations in 27 countries and sales reported at almost $600 million in the 52 weeks ending June 15, 2014, it seems love is good for the bottom line, too.