With at least 50 locations across the Carolinas — including Columbia, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh, Wilmington and Myrtle Beach — Cold Stone Creamery is one of the most popular ice cream shops around. Its founders also happen to be supporters of Arizona’s anti-LGBT, anti-family marriage amendment, Proposition 102. Cold Stone parent company Kahala Corp told Q-Notes that no official relationship exists between the current company and its founders.
Blogger Joe Jervis of JoeMyGod.blogspot.com and a reader discovered a $10,000 contribution from Cold Stone founders Donald and Susan Sutherland to a group supporting Arizona’s gay marriage ban. Cold Stone Creamery is based in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Activists say that Arizona’s marriage amendment made its way to the ballot through questionable legislative actions in the state’s senate. Two openly gay members of the body were effectively silenced during debate when GOP leadership cut off their microphones. State Sen. Paula Aboud told The Arizona Star the move by GOP officials violated her and her colleague’s rights. She also said “the trust of the citizens of Arizona” had been violated.
“These three Republican senators have heaped dishonor upon themselves and the institution that they are sworn to serve in order to protect ‘marriage,’” she wrote.
In a written statement to Q-Notes, Kahala Corp spokesperson Jami Clark said the Sutherlands “have not been store owners, shareholders, employees or otherwise involved in the management of the business.”
Clark also said, “While Kahala and Cold Stone Creamery believe each individual has the right to get involved in causes they feel passionate about, the company does not endorse ballot initiatives or contribute to political causes. The personal beliefs of the Sutherlands as well as those of past and present franchisees, crew members and employees are not representative of the company. Cold Stone Creamery welcomes all ice cream lovers into our stores.”
The Kahala Corporation includes sexual orientation in its corporate non-discrimination policy which “applies to all areas of employment including hiring, training and development, promotion, transfer, compensation, and all other conditions and privileges of employment in accordance with our company’s core values,” according to the statement.
The company has offered full spousal benefits to same-sex domestic partnerships since 2004.
The Arizona-based ice cream parlor is not the only company to come under fire for contributions to anti-gay causes. Earlier this year, William Bolthouse of Bolthouse Farms juice fame, donated $100,000 to California’s anti-gay Proposition 8. Although company officials distanced themselves from the contribution, it was later revealed that the Bolthouse Foundation received most of its money from the company. It also gives money to the conservative Alliance Defense Fund.
Soon after the Bolthouse controversy, which sparked a national boycott by some gay activists, the CEO of Bolthouse Farms made a small contribution to the effort to defeat California’s anti-gay marriage amendment.
On Oct. 9, advocates with Californians Against Hate announced the boycott against Bolthouse Farms had been ended, after the company’s CEO had “provided us with a compelling perspective which clearly demonstrates the separation between Bolthouse Farms and . . . its founder, William Bolthouse,” according to Californians Against Hate statement printed in The Los Angeles Times.