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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? 

 

 

Comments

Opinions are just that. I work at Overstock.com and I know that I and my cause are completely supported. If people would pay attention instead of jumping the gun, they would see that Overstock.com does not discriminate and actually supports equality, freedom, creativity, individuality, etc. It is the best company for which I have ever worked and I am very aware of the company morality as a whole, it's something that can't be knocked. I am gay and partnered, we didn't get married because we are not ready, but when we are ready we would be honored and excited to have Stormy marry us. I just hope that the so called gay community picks our battles more wisely and focus our energy where it's needed. No gay couple wishes to be married by a church that's non supportive... who wants a tense wedding day?

As a current employee we are very rainbow friendly as it's been called. We have many diverse people and that is what makes us awesome. Yes there are people within our company who have opposing opinions, those are theirs where more than half will tell you we are for the marriages.

Been with overstock for 3 years and love the community we have.

Here is what the CEO said WAY before this whole controversy. 

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56522010-78/utah-marriage-state-lawsuit.html.csp

PUBLISHED JUNE 28, 2013 11:58 AM

Company founder Patrick Byrne said Thursday that Overstock will provide a "substantial" sum to help fund the lawsuit and will work to encourage additional financial support from others. Byrne said the state's stance on same-sex marriage is an impediment to economic development. Utah's reputation as a great place live and be an entrepreneur, he said, is marred by its role in the national debate on gay rights.

Byrne said he hears concerns "over and over" from potential out-of-state job applicants about what it is like to live in Utah and its stance on equality.

He recalled that more than a decade ago, after his company hired its first openly gay employee, Overstock executives took "about five seconds" before making a commitment to having the most "rainbow-friendly" workplace in the state. The company provides full benefits to same-sex couples, makes special accommodations for transgender employees and provides diversity education to all workers.

Interesting to have differing opinions from two execs from the same company out in the public forum like this. I've worked there and it is a pretty liberal company, especially for Utah. Church does have a lot of influence on state here though so not surprised at the statements from Johnson.

We can all make our own decisions to support or boycott a company. As a former employee who is also gay, I can tell you that I never felt discriminated against and i did feel like I was in a pleasantly diverse environment. However, they treat their employees like crap and Stormy is the worst of the group. Underhanded, sneaky, dishonest and unintelligent, she is a poor ally for LGBT rights.

Just as Overstock has voiced their opinion in favor of supporting the LGBT Community, an executive who doesn't share that opinion should also be allowed to voice his opinion for what he believes, right? Overstock has expressed their beliefs, but just because one person that works for them doesn't... is that really a reason to boycott them? It may not be a favorable opinion, but he's still entitled to it. Any company that doesn't stand by their employees sharing their beliefs, shouldn't be a company. I for one think it's amazing that Overstock stands up and speaks out for the LGBT Community. Just because one person that works for them doesn't, is that a reason to hate? Personally, I don't see a reason to hate, a company that allows their employees to think and feel and express themselves.. in my opinion is a good company. It's just funny that there all this hate towards one man expressing his beliefs, when you on here are expressing yours (but no one is really hating on you). It's a double edged sword, we're all entitled to our own opinion. We shouldn't be penalized for sharing it or expressing who we are. So, neither should Overstock... the company stands by the LGBT Community, and from what I can see.. there was a time when that would have been abhorrent. I commend them for standing by an employee with a different opinion, it shows character..
 

my concern lies with the employees of the comp. As a former emp, I know a very large chunk of the csr's are lgbt, overstock should focus on losing them, not customers.

Well said 

You know, any other employee who makes public statements that reflect badly on their company would be immediately dismissed.  Annnnnnd, let's stop this use of "freedom of speech" baloney--- that only applies to governments passing laws against speech--not social intercourse where ostracization is important; and if that fool wants to be a sh*t, then let him be a sh*t somewhere else.

She's right about one thing for sure; the church has no business in state affairs! And the state issues marriage licenses! The church and its' adherents need to stay out of marriage issues. Period!

Now I have a good reason not to shop with Overstock.com. There are hundreds of retailers that are LGBT friendly and it will be easy to cut out going to Overstock. I'm over them.

You have no idea what you are talking about.

I think this level of respect towards those of the LGBT community is a level of respect that many will never have for people with differing beliefs. I am ashamed to be part of the LGBT community as a whole because all I ever see on these comments sections is "insert esoteric reason why I hate this person for not believing the same way as me". There's so much venom from the LGBT community toward those who don't agree with them for there to be any productivity from either side. I entirely agree with her statements and I will continue to shop at Overstock.com because I enjoy their services as a company, not a political soapbox for people that don't think critically.

I think you need to work on the critical thinking, bub. The bottom line is that that VP gets paid mega-bucks to keep his mouth firmly and completely shut about his personal views on the record. That's part of the gig - thou shalt not smear the name of the company with you foolish and nonsensical opinions. I've never met a gay person in my entire existence that cares what an individual views (personal, religious, whatever) on any subject are - as long as it's not spilling onto other people, causing, harm, or trying to interfere with their lives and their rights. Such spillage SHOULD be immediately, harshly, and doggedly dealt with. Personally, I've never used overstock.com, but I certainly won't - not because they a VP I fervently disagree with, but because they don't seem to be able to manage their staff in a modern, acceptable way. On a purely business level, the fellow should be canned immediately for tarnishing the company name by being foolish. That's not an employee any business can afford to retain.      

I think she completely sidestepped what the First Amendment really is. She needs to go back and fully study it in its entirety.

I think if you knew or completely understood the first amendment you'd see she didn't sidestep anything.

You need to re read her statement you stupid twat

THANK YOU FOR THAT REPLY I THINK TOO MANY PEOPLE COMMENT BEFORE COMPLETELY READING AN ENTIRE ARTICLE OR FULLY UNDERSTANDING WHAT HAS BEEN SAID.

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