Friday, 5 December 2008

I Support Same Sex Marriage

My friend Tara Littman, the President of Support Shirts, is a designer whose work was picked up by Urban Outfitters a few months ago for sale in some of their stores and on their website. The style Urban chose was the work of her and her boyfriend Travis, a shirt that proclaims “I Support Same Sex Marriage.” Lots of my friends (mostly straight) own and wear these shirts. It’s a bold and blunt statement, so I was thrilled when she told me that Urban was going to sell them. When I asked how things were going, she told me that Urban had pulled them after only a week of sale, citing “bad press” that Tara and I soon found to be nonexistent. I told her I would like to help out, so I interviewed her about this and the subsequent lies that Urban Outfitters told to try and cover themselves, including to groups of customers looking for the freshly-pulled shirts.

Tara did not view the design as that of a bullying nature, but rather as an “obvious statement [simply] in support of same sex marriage.” Nothing more offensive or pushy than a shirt that says “I support Barack Obama” or “I support John McCain.”Tara and Travis “worked very closely with buyers from Urban Outfitters to create a custom color combination that suited their collection” and “after several months of back and forth discussions over colors and orders, we got the green light.”

But a week after the shirts had shipped to Urban to sell on the web and in the key market of California – where a law allowing same sex marriages had just passed when their discussions with Urban began – Tara, upon e-mailing the buyer for a sales report, was told that “they had been pulled from all of the stores and the web because of ‘too much bad press.’” Just a week before Proposition 8 was approved, her support shirt was removed from what she thought was “one of the most liberal, open minded stores.” At first she was disheartened at the thought of so much negative reaction to such a simple design proclaiming only the wearers’ personal positive disposition on a very timely and much-discussed issue. But after doing some research to find all this supposed “bad press,” all that came up at the time of the pull was one blog entry, which appeared on a small site devoted solely to combat gay marriage in the time of Proposition 8. Nothing more.

What Tara did find in her research, however, were “a bunch of articles on the president and founder of Urban Outfitters [Richard Hayne], his conservative views, and his contributions to [ousted homophobic politician] Rick Santorum.” Articles covering Hayne’s contributions to multiple conservative politicians and his personal conservatism dated back as early as 2003. This is not a crime by any means, but Tara did not feel that it was sufficient grounds to renege on an agreement. She told me “this is not a shirt with ice cream cones or puppies, it is a political shirt. With quite a few pro-Obama shirts in their store and even some anti-McCain products, this clearly isn’t a company that has a problem being politically aligned, so why?” She wonders if it is “just the homosexual community under attack here.”

Her frustration was further fueled by an e-mail she received regarding a group of California residents who went into an Urban Outfitters in Los Angeles to purchase the shirts. They wanted to wear them to a Proposition 8 rally following the election. The e-mail said that when they asked about the shirts, a sales rep told them that they were no longer carrying them “due to a dispute with the company,” a charge that Tara claims is simply a lie… and one that she believes is being perpetuated as a way of putting the blame for the absence of the shirts unfairly onto her company’s shoulders. The only dispute between Urban Outfitters and Support Shirts is this one, now, created by Urban’s remarkably flawed handling of the situation with this one harmless design.

“With the news of the approval of Prop 8 in California it has become clear that these shirts deserve a place,” Tara says. People need to hear this story and those who do support same sex marriage need to be proud of it and not be afraid to wear it on their sleeve. Our country needs these shirts more than ever, and I’m sorry that Urban Outfitters is too conservative or too scared to give this worthy cause a voice.”

Support Shirts is not giving up, though. The “I Support Same Sex Marriage” shirt will soon be available on their website along with their other designs. Tara, Travis, and Support Shirts are hoping that more retail outlets will step forward and show their support in this time for historic statements. Companies like Urban Outfitters – who have built a questionable reputation of being the mainstream, accessible retailer for hip and emerging ideas in fashion – do a great disservice to their customers, and to the massive queer population of America and its millions of straight supporters, by discontinuing the sale of this product and subsequently lying about the circumstances.

I urge you to contact Urban Outfitters by e-mail, phone, or mail if you are concerned by this story. You can also purchase one of the “I Support Same Sex Marriage” shirts direct from Support Shirts.

-brought to our attention by Greg Shapiro

1 comment:

  1. Urban Outfitters is such a sham. I've never liked them (okay, except for the shoes). (Except I could never fit into any of their clothes. I'm sorry, is a size 12 suddenly a fatty?)

    It's pretty clear that Robert Hayne enjoys making money off of his young liberal demographic (Urban Outfitters Co. also owns Free People and Anthropologie) and then donating his profits to some hateful Republican causes. For shame.