Since Starbucks began its tradition of changing its cups for the holidays in 1997, it has drawn the ire of Christian groups who believe the coffee company is promoting a form of secularism synonymous with what's been called the War on Christmas. Twenty years later, it is no different -- people are questioning whether the cups have a "gay agenda."
Starbucks released an advertisement for its holiday cups on Oct. 31. The video, which opens with the caption "the holidays are meant for everyone," depicts a diverse mix of people enjoying festive, family activities.
Toward the end of the video, two women are seen holding hands with a coffee cup nestled between them. Many people immediately assumed the two women were a lesbian couple.
"We're loving Starbucks' new festive ad with a lesbian couple," the British LGBT Awards tweeted on Nov 6. "Can someone draw us a Lady Gaga cup please?"
The video itself didn't garner much attention, The New York Times reports. Rather, the controversy began when people began saying the two hands at the top of the cup also depicted two women.
On Nov. 1, a Twitter user asked "social media" whether Christians were "b***hing about Starbucks' red cup and inclusive message yet," and then added, "PS, I'm going w/the hand holders are gay."
A Nov. 15 article for BuzzFeed News supported the idea that the hand-holders were a lesbian couple.
"I can attest to the lesbianism of The Hands," said a gay BuzzFeed employee.
Starbucks has neither confirmed nor denied whether the hands were meant to represent LGBT customers, but that didn't prevent people from hotly debating the topic.
Fox News accused BuzzFeed of presenting the gender of the hands as fact when it was just a hypothesis. In addition to people who supported it, the news outlet highlighted a few social media users who took issue with the cup.
"The new Starbucks cup has lesbian couple on it," wrote one Twitter user. "Rom 1:26 ‘because of this, God gave them over to shameful lust'…"
Some people have brought back the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks, which gained popularity in 2015 and prompted then-candidate Donald Trump to criticize the chain for its secular cups.
But the cup controversy is less intense than it has been in previous years. The New York Times reports that conservative Christian activist Joshua Feuerstein, who called for the 2015 boycott, is not getting involved in the 2017 controversy.
"Everyone wants me to start a new Starbucks controversy this year!" Feuerstein wrote on Facebook. "Here's the controversy... I've been building a friendship and witnessing to a gay black man who works at the Starbucks. I'm supposed to be taking him to dinner soon... and hopefully sharing the rest of the gospel with him! There's your controversy."