'Gross,' 'Disappointing': LGBTQ groups slam Amazon for helping hate groups raise money

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Amazon is allowing anti-LGBTQ groups to participate in its charity platform.

Amazon, which has been praised by LGBTQ groups for its equality-affirming policies, has allowed bigoted groups to use its charity platform to raise money, a new report has found. In reaction to the news, LGBTQ groups in the U.S. and abroad called for Amazon to stop the practice.

According to the report from openDemocracy, a media organization that does reporting and analysis on political and social issues, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Focus on the Family, the Indiana American Family Association, and others have been found on AmazonSmile, which allows customers to give a percentage of their purchases to charities they support.

The group found that about 40 such anti-LGBTQ organizations benefitted from the platform, eight of which are partner organizations of the World Congress of Families network, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The report said it's unclear how much these groups have raised through the platform.

Accountable for Equality, an LGBTQ advocacy group that produces reports on opponents of queer and trans people's rights, said:

Clear as day in their Program Details, AmazonSmile states that 'organizations that engage in, support, encourage, or promote intolerance, hate, terrorism, violence … are not eligible to participate.’ Focus on the Family works side-by-side with ADF and Family Research Council who were banned from the platform. These organizations advocate for the marginalization of LGBT People. When there's an issue about equality, they are telling you you’re wrong, it's too soon, you're sick. It's gross and Amazon has to do better.

Robbie de Santos, associate director of campaigns and communications at Stonewall, an LGBT rights charity based in the United Kingdom, stated in a press release for the report, "It's disappointing to see organisations that campaign against LGBT equality platformed on AmazonSmile."

Amazon has given the boot to anti-LGBTQ groups before. In June, Amazon decided not to allow the Alliance Defending Freedom and Family Research Council to stay in the program. Both groups have been named as anti-LGBTQ hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center as well. But despite connections to hate groups and anti-LGBTQ missions, the other groups remain on the platform.

One of these groups mentioned in the report, Focus on the Family, has been a partner organization of the aforementioned hate group, World Congress of Families. The organization has opposed LGBTQ equality for many years and has published resources on its website that directs parents of LGBTQ children to groups that tell them their sexuality and gender are wrong.

The Indiana American Family Association, also found on AmazonSmile, is a state branch of the American Family Association, which is described as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The national organization's website published a Q&A that discouraged people from attending weddings of LGB people and claims Christians are being "bullied by the transgender agenda."

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, on the AmazonSmile platform as well, is led by Franklin Graham, the son of the late televangelist Billy Graham. On the day of the presidential election, Graham bemoaned the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency because he said it would welcome back a "gay lesbian agenda" to the White House.

Graham has opposed the Equality Act, federal legislation that clearly prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ people, in a piece published on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's website. He is also the head of Samaritan's Purse, a Christian humanitarian aid organization that requires its staff to agree to an anti-LGBTQ "statement of faith."

Amazon received a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index this year for its commitment to LGBTQ equality and inclusion, and Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder and CEO, accepted its National Equality Award in 2017.

"From our earliest days, we have been committed to equality in the workplace," Bezos said when he accepted the award.

An Amazon spokesperson stated in response to the report, "Charitable organizations must meet the requirements outlined in our participation agreement to be eligible for AmazonSmile. Organizations that engage in, support, encourage, or promote intolerance, hate, terrorism, violence, money laundering, or other illegal activities are not eligible."

Amazon added, "If at any point an organization violates this agreement, its eligibility will be revoked. Since 2013, Amazon has relied on the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Southern Poverty Law Center to provide the data for these determinations."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.