Gay marriage opponents launch Starbucks boycott, company CEO reiterates marriage equality support

During the Q & A session at the end of the meeting Schultz was asked by a shareholder who also identified himself as a member of the National Organization for Marriage, a group that opposes same-sex marriage, about the company's position.

"The board discussed this and it was, to be candid, not a difficult decision for us," answered Schultz.

Loud applause from other shareholders followed that answer.

Schultz said the board of directors had made the decision to publicly support same-sex marriage with great thoughtfulness.

"We made that decision in our view through the lens of humanity and being the kind of company that embraces diversity," said Schultz.

Later another shareholder asked a follow up question of Schultz regarding the issue. This question related to the concern that same-sex marriage is a political topic that could alienate customers, especially in more conservative regions and foreign countries where Starbucks is aggressively planning expansion. The questioner even raised the issue of possible economic boycotts.

Schultz said in response that the company made the decision in part because the board wants Starbucks employees to be proud of where they work.

"There are 200 thousand people who work for Starbucks," said Schultz. "The equity of the brand has been defined by our relationship with them."

Schultz then said the decision was the right one for the company and one he believed to be a defensible one.

Schultz also answered the economic and shareholder value concern raised by the questioner.

"Candidly there hasn't been any dilution of our business and shareholder value has increased significantly," said Schultz.

After the shareholder meeting was over the National Organization for Marriage announced a boycott of the company.

"Corporations should not take sides in a culture war that pits a company against the majority of the American people, and nearly all its consumers in some international markets," said Brian Brown, president of the group.

In the statement Brown also directed supporters to a new website called Dump Starbucks.

In January Starbucks joined several other prominent regional companies, including Microsoft and Nike, in support of legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington State. In response some conservative religious leaders called for a boycott of the company.