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Further fallout for coffee chain after donation to anti-gay group

Mental health group moves to distance itself from the Gloria Jeans coffee chain while its main competitor launches a statement supporting gay rights

An Australian coffee chain is continuing to receive flak over a donation it made to an anti-gay lobby group, while its main competitor has come out in support of marriage equality to differentiate its brand.

The Gloria Jeans coffee chain donated $30,000 to the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) during the 2010 Australian federal election campaign but maintains that this was not to support its campaigning against gay rights.

After learning of the donation the Headspace national youth mental health foundation pulled out of the RU OK? Day mental health awareness campaign over Gloria Jeans’ role as major sponsor of the event.

‘We have a significant level of discomfort about the relationship between RU OK? Day’s sponsor Gloria Jeans and the ACL,’ a statement from Headspace read.

‘Too many young people seek help from Headspace for issues caused or exacerbated by entrenched discrimination, social isolation, bullying or negative attitudes towards difference … It is because of this that Headspace feels it has a moral and ethical duty to withdraw as a partner.’

Gloria Jeans made a statement following a launch of a boycott against it in which it apologized for any hurt or offense caused by what it now characterizes as paid advertising to promote its brand.

‘The paid advertising was undertaken on a commercial basis only, and it appears that there is now a perception that we endorse the views and values of the ACL - this is not the case,’ the company said in a statement.

In the wake of the controversy the Starbucks coffee chain released a statement touting its support for marriage equality.

‘Core to who we are and what we value as a company is our belief in equal treatment of our … employees and our customers,’ the Starbuck statement read.

‘It is with this in mind that Starbucks Australia would like to publicly announce our proud support of marriage equality for all.’

The campaign to boycott the chain received a significant boost this week when the mobile dating app Grindr sent an alert to its Australian users directing them to sign a petition in support of the boycott.

A study of the ACL's activity found that it had spoken out against LGBT rights reforms 122 times in the last six months whereas the next closest issue, prostitution and human trafficking, only rated a mention by it 25 times.

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