Metro Weekly

Michaels arts and crafts store joins Open to All campaign embracing LGBTQ inclusion

North America's largest crafts store is "proud and thrilled" to be a leader in protecting LGBTQ employees and customers

Photo: Michaels Companies.

The largest arts and crafts retail chain in North America is taking a stand for LGBTQ inclusion.

The Michaels Companies, Inc., based out of Irving, Texas, is joining Open to All, a nationwide campaign in which major corporations, small business retailers, faith and civic engagement leaders, and nonprofits agree to embrace the principle of nondiscrimination by opening their doors to all customers, regardless of personal characteristics.

To join the campaign, companies must pledge to provide and maintain a welcoming and safe environment for all employees, visitors, customers, vendors and clients, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, immigration status, religion or disability.

The corporations also agree not to discriminate against any individuals or deny them goods or services based on their personal identity.

“We are very proud and excited to be announcing our alignment with the Open to All campaign,” Mallory Smith, the public relations manager at Michaels, told Metro Weekly in a phone interview. “We are a company that is truly rooted in diversity and inclusion. We have a firm belief here that anyone can make thread, and anyone should have the ability to be creative and express themselves, regardless of race, sex, gender, or other characteristics. We want to be known as a company and store that welcomes that, and make sure that everyone feels comfortable when they walk through our doors.”

Other entities that are part of the Open to All coalition — now more than 5,000 strong — include Gap Inc., Yelp, Levi Strauss & Co., Airbnb, Lyft, and Marriott International.

In addition to Marriott, members who have joined the campaign in the District of Columbia include Autograph Collection Hotels, Collective Conscience, DC Brau Brewing, Fairfield Inn, Moxy Hotels, O2 Collaborative Inc., Renaissance Hotels, Residence Inn, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, W Hotels, and Westin Hotels & Resorts.

Businesses who sign the Open to All pledge are featured publicly on the campaign’s website. Open to All has teamed up with Yelp to tout their membership in the campaign on their official Yelp pages.

To publicize its participation in the campaign, Michaels stores will feature the “Open to All” window cling in over 1,100 stores across the United States and Canada.

Asked whether the company was concerned about offending those who do not support LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws, or believe retailers should be granted exemptions from having to serve people based on their personal religious beliefs, Smith said the company decided to “lean into” its belief in inclusion rather than trying to appease everyone by avoiding taking a public stance.

“It was important for us as a company to make it known and be a leader in the space when it comes to protecting people, whether our customers or team members, from discrimination, and making sure we are a clear advocate for diversity and inclusion,” she said. “Those are policies we really lean into, from our CEO on down.

“This is a commitment that we are proud and thrilled to be a part of, and I think by having that seal on our door, hopefully it allows people to be comfortable and feel that Michaels is a safe place for them to shop,” Smith added. “I always joke, ‘We’re not curing cancer. We’re selling wiggly eyes, and glitter, and tulle and ribbon.’ It should be a fun place, and we also wanted to be supportive as well.”

Calla Rongerude, the campaign manager for Open to All campaign manager, praised Michaels for embracing the spirit of the Open to All campaign.

Michaels has been a champion around diversity and inclusion efforts,” she said. “They are taking a lot of steps both internally, with their policies, and in training their employees, and externally, within the community, by standing up and saying they treat everyone on the same terms and that they will not discriminate.”

Rongerude added that Open to All was “thrilled” to have Michaels join the campaign during Pride Month, particularly in light of the very public stance of its chief competitor, Hobby Lobby, in advocating for religious exemptions.

Hobby Lobby was the lead plaintiff in a 2014 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court finding that closely-held for-profit corporations can refuse to pay for insurance coverage of contraception if they have personal religious or moral objections to birth control or abortion rights.

The case’s broad definition of what constitutes “religious liberty” — and its treatment of corporations as if they were human individuals with personal beliefs — has emboldened some who seek to allow businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ people or same-sex couples.

“As a nation, we decided long ago that when a business opens its doors to the public, it should be open to everyone on the same terms,” Rongerude said. “But in this day and age, it’s very shocking that many Americans still can’t guarantee they’ll be treated equally when they seek goods or services in their local communities.

“No one should have to worry about whether they’ll be denied service or face hostility as they go about their daily lives,” she added. “Yet far too often, we hear stories of discrimination, such as a gay couple getting kicked out of an Uber, people of color facing abuse, policing and violence at a diner, Muslim women being ordered to leave a café, or people with disabilities being harassed in a restaurant. These incidents happen and are often times recorded and posted on social media. And we do have an administration that is working very hard to divide us as a country.”

Against that backdrop, Rongerude said its important that the business community send a message to vulnerable communities whose rights appear to be under attack or at risk of being eroded — including religious minorities, people of color, and LGBTQ people — that they are respected and welcomed.

“I have been inspired and deeply respect the bold risk-taking in the private sector, where you have companies taking a stand, doing the right thing, and pushing back against these instances of discrimination,” she said. “And I think Michaels is exemplary, in their market, and for saying everyone should be treated equally when they walk through Michaels’ doors, either as an employee or a customer.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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