Instinct Exclusive: Overstock.com Co-President Reacts To Exec Jon Johnson's Statements Calling For Religious Protections Against LGBT
Reactions across the Internet to Overstock.com Executive Vice Chairman Jonathan Johnson's push for religious protections against the LGBT community have reached fever pitch. Facing calls for a boycott and personally fielding Facebook comments from angered shoppers, Overstock Co-President Stormy Simon spoke with Instinct on Tuesday to share her reaction to her colleague's comments.
While trumpeting and treasuring Johnson's right to free speech, Simon touts her (and Overstock's) support of the LGBT community and our right to marry. She hopes that the dichotomy (really trichotomy when you count founder and CEO Patrick Byrne's highly publicized fight and funding for marriage equality in Utah) that exists between herself and Johnson are enough to keep the LGBT and our allies shopping at Overstock.com
Simon tells Instinct:
It’s a hard thing because I believe in freedom across the board. I can speak for myself. First of all, church and state shouldn’t cross anyway, so I have a conflict of understanding for setting a law that protects the church when churches and states shouldn’t cross. I’m not sure if I were in an LGBT relationship that I’d want to get married at a church, and that’s a harsh statement coming from [someone in] Utah. The fact that we have to come up with these rules around it means that inequality’s happening, right? I want the states to recognize gay marriage. It makes me so angry every time we have to have a conversation because it’s ridiculous.
Now we’re having a conversation about “Should churches protect their beliefs?”, and I actually believe that they should. But in that sense, I don’t’ go to that church. I don’t go to places that don’t support my beliefs. That church and I have very differing beliefs on that issue. I can’t speak for Jonathan, but he has faith. I admire people who have faith and conviction about something, but I disagree. He and I haven’t had a conversation about it, and we shouldn’t because we are work colleagues.
He’s not doing this on our behalf. His title is his title and we’re not involved. He has to have that freedom because we’re in America. It’s unfair, but he has that freedom.
I support the fact that we get to do that [speak freely under the First Amendment] as Americans, but I will fight for you. This fight right now isn’t with the church, it’s with the state, with the government. You got all kinds of different things going on in churches, just select the right ones.
I’m sad that Overstock is taking a hit for it because I know what we’ve built there. ... We’re taking some heat as an organization. I’m perplexed by what to do about it because I know what Overstock stands for. ... I’ve been in the company 12 years and I swear to you, when you walk in that door it’s an equal workplace. I wouldn’t work there for as long as I have, I wouldn’t be so proud of it [if that wasn’t the case].
Unfortunately, people are going to disagree and they’re going to stand up by not shopping at Overstock and that makes me sad. But there’s one executive who has that PAC and there’s me, and I promise you one thing: we’re very different. At work, religion doesn’t come into our divisions.
I appreciate the opportunity to say that there’s a person in the company who supports gay marriage but who’s a First Amendment supporter, too, and that’s what Jonathan’s exercising right now. That’s important that he’s allowed to [speak freely]. So, we’ve got to fight every fight.
What do you think about Overstock's co-president's reaction to the comments that risk marring the company?