Going too far Against Prop 8

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November 16, 2008 @ 22:30 UTC

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As many of you know I am very disappointed with the passage of the discriminatory Prop 8 in California, which eliminated the right of gay couples to marry and in my view benefitted absolutely no one.

I am somewhat consoled by the fact that the passage of this Proposition has seemingly woken up the gay and gay-friendly communities, sparking the kinds of passion in favor of their rights that was previously held only by those who wish to deny them those rights. They finally had tasted victory, and are no longer content to accept “their place” below their heterosexual peers.

However there is such a thing as going too far. Protesting institutions that overtly supported the ban is fine. Even calling for boycotts against businesses that supported the ban is acceptable. Targetting individuals is not fine, and should stop immediately.

I’ve read a few examples of this happening already. Whole businesses being targeted for protest or boycott because some prominent member (usually a Mormon) donated to the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign. Though legally within their right to do so, I believe that it is fundamentally wrong (and counter-productive) to do this.

The case that sent me over the edge to the point I feel I must say something was the Coyote Restaurant in LA. The Coyote Restaurant is an establishment with 89 employees, some gay, and a very diverse clientele, overwhelmingly gay-friendly. So did the business donate to the Yes-on-Prop. 8 campaign? No. Did the owner do so of his own accord? Nope. Well did a large portion of the employees put money into the campaign? No again. Marjorie Christoffersen, who is the daughter of the current owner of the business, donated to the campaign.

Considering the All Hell that has broken out because of this you would expect the donation to be huge, something that could actually impact the campaign itself. But Marjorie donated a measly $100. Because of this people on the other side have called for a boycott of her fathers business, endangering the jobs of 89 people, almost all of whom are entirely gay friendly. Heavyweights in the blogosphere like AmericaBLOG have targeted the business directly.

The matter came to a head when a meeting was called by the restaurant to explain their position. The place filled to the brim with very angry members of the gay community and journalists. This is how it started:

A floor manager stood in the middle of the back room where the community conference and stated that “El Coyote DOES NOT share the same views as Marjorie.” He stated that 89 families were going to be affected by this boycott and one of the community members screamed out “18,000 families already HAVE been affected!”

It went downhill from there.

The worst part was when Marjorie came out, trembling with fear and sadness, to try to explain herself.

She asked for forgiveness for being SO emotional and said that “El Coyote is as diverse as it’s clientele. Customers are considered part of the family and I responded to the call of the Mormon Church to donate [towards the ban on same sex marriage].”

As she continued to speak it seemed even MORE clear that she was distancing herself from El Coyote.

Marjorie began talking about how much her Aunt had done to support gays and the plight of the GLBT Community since opening the restaurant and asked that “[she] personally take responsability for [the] blame and anger” because she said she was aware of the boycott and pending protest slated for Thursday (tomorrow 11/13) night outside the front restaurant.

The crowd harangued her until she broke down crying and was taken away by her daughters. A pitiful sight, and one that manages to anger me as much the denial of rights based on misguided notions of “protecting” the non-threatened institution of marriage.

The following is addressed to any gay marriage supporter who may be reading this and might be inclined to agree with those attacking this woman. What the HELL are you thinking? You are targeting what by all accounts is a gay friendly business because one single member of the 100 person group is opposed to you? They have pledged $5,000 to two different Gay Rights organizations to demonstrate their support of the community, and you are willing to hang them out to dry because of the actions of one person?

In what universe is this even normal? And the treatment of the individual is not much better. She is a private citizen and you are metaphorically lynching her for donating a modest sum to a cause you oppose. She sounds sincere when she says that she cares for gays. Though I’m aware of the insufficiency of caring for someone you are willing to strip of rights, we aren’t talking about a Fred Phelps here. It looks very much like a bewildered and frightened woman who never dreamed her donation would spark this much vitriol.

What exactly are you aiming to achieve here? Who are you trying to convince? People like Marjorie will not be convinced by an angry mob calling for her head. Her gay friends can and should confront her on a personal level and say how disappointed they are, how personally this hurts them. People who are on the fence will be 100% turned off by this. I’m 100% in the pro-marriage camp and my first impulse was to think that marriage licences should be taken away from everyone, gay or straight, who enjoyed ganging up on this lady. Undecideds can only look at this and decide you are a lot more about hate than love.

Being angry about this is good and normal. Refusing to patronize businesses that have made a clear statement against marriage equality, a perfectly acceptable form of free speech. Ganging up on a lone woman because she holds a view you disagree with profoundly and threatening the livelihood of almost one hundred marginally related people is totally unacceptable. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Note: I’d like to ask commenters to please not turn this into a debate on the issue of marriage itself or homosexuality generally, for good or ill. I am denouncing the tactic. I do not believe that the tactic itself reflects how right or wrong a movement is, but yes how civilized. As an exercise, picture this sort of thing with two different scenarios: one with a subject you feel passionately about in favor, and one against. Try to see if your opinion changes based on the underlying subject. Hint: it shouldn’t

NOTICE TO READERS: Unfortunately, due to the repeated posting of both express and implied threats of violence, we have been forced to close the comments thread.

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