Friday, April 3, 2015

Should Mom-and-Pops That Forgo Gay Weddings Be Destroyed?

The attack on Memories Pizza and its implications
 

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
What do white evangelicals, Muslims, Mormons, blacks, conservative Republicans, and immigrants from Africa, South America, and Central America all have in common? They're less likely to support gay marriage than the average Californian. Over the years, I've patronized restaurants owned by members of all those groups. Today, if I went out into Greater Los Angeles and chatted up owners of mom-and-pop restaurants, I'd sooner or later find one who would decline to cater a gay wedding. The owners might be members of Rick Warren's church in Orange County. Or a family of immigrants in Little Ethiopia or on Alvera Street. Or a single black man or woman in Carson or Inglewood or El Segundo.
Should we destroy their livelihoods?
 
 
If I recorded audio proving their intent to discriminate against a hypothetical catering client and I gave the audio to you, would you post it on the Internet and encourage the general public to boycott, write nasty reviews, and drive them out of business, causing them to lay off their staff, lose their life savings, and hope for other work? If that fate befell a Mormon father with five kids or a childless Persian couple in their fifties or a Hispanic woman who sunk her nest egg into a papusa truck, should that, do you think, be considered a victory for the gay-rights movement?

Before this week, I'd have guessed that few people would've considered that a victory for social justice. And I'd have thought that vast majorities see an important distinction between a business turning away gay patrons—which would certainly prompt me to boycott—and declining to cater a gay wedding. I see key distinctions despite wishing everyone would celebrate gay marriage and believing Jesus himself would have no problem with a baker or cook acting as a gay-wedding vendor. A restaurant that turned away all gay patrons would be banning them from a public accommodation every day of their lives. It might unpredictably or regularly affect their ability to meet a business client or dine with coworkers or friends. It would have only the most dubious connection to religious belief.

Whereas declining to cater a gay wedding affects people on one day of their life at most, denies them access to no public accommodation, and would seem to signal discomfort with the institution of same-sex marriage more than animus toward gay people (so long as we're still talking about businesses that gladly serve gays). I also suspect that the sorts of businesses that are uncomfortable catering a hypothetical gay wedding aren't uniquely averse to events where same-sex couples are celebrating nuptials. I'd wager, for example, that they'd feel a religious obligation to refrain from catering an art exhibition filled with sacrilegious pieces like Piss Christ, the awards ceremony for pornography professionals, a Planned Parenthood holiday party, or a Richard Dawkins speaking engagement.

A faction of my fellow gay-marriage proponents see things differently.

The latest opponents of gay marriage to be punished for their religious objections to the practice are the owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana.

Matt Welch lays out what happened:
1) Family owners of small-town Indiana pizzeria spend zero time or energy commenting on gay issues.
2) TV reporter from South Bend walks inside the pizzeria to ask the owners what they think of the controversial Religious Restoration Freedom Act. Owner Crystal O'Connor responds, "If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no….We are a Christian establishment." O'Connor also says—actually promises is the characterization here—that the establishment will continue to serve any gay or non-Christian person that walks through their door.
3) The Internet explodes with insults directed at the O'Connor family and its business, including a high school girls golf coach in Indiana who tweets "Who's going to Walkerton, IN to burn down #memoriespizza w me?" Many of the enraged critics assert, inaccurately, that Memories Pizza discriminates against gay customers.
4) In the face of the backlash, the O'Connors close the pizzeria temporarily, and say they may never reopen, and in fact might leave the state. "I don't know if we will reopen, or if we can, if it's safe to reopen," Crystal O'Connor tells The Blaze. "I'm just a little guy who had a little business that I probably don't have anymore," Kevin O'Connor tells the L.A. Times.
The owners of Memories Pizza are, I think, mistaken in what their Christian faith demands of them. And I believe their position on gay marriage to be wrongheaded. But I also believe that the position I'll gladly serve any gay customers but I feel my faith compels me to refrain from catering a gay wedding is less hateful or intolerant than let's go burn that family's business to the ground.

And I believe that the subset of the gay-rights movement intent on destroying their business and livelihood has done more harm than good here—that they've shifted their focus from championing historic advances for justice to perpetrating small injustices against marginal folks on the other side of the culture war. "The pizzeria discriminated against nobody," Welch wrote, "merely said that it would choose not to serve a gay wedding if asked. Which it never, ever would be, because who asks a small-town pizzeria to cater a heterosexual wedding, let alone a gay one?" They were punished for "expressing a disfavored opinion to a reporter."

To what end?

Proponents of using the state to punish businesses like this often draw analogies to Jim Crow. Julian Sanchez has persuasively addressed the shortcomings of that argument (even presuming that opponents of gay marriage are motivated by bigotry):
Read more at http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/should-businesses-that-quietly-oppose-gay-marriage-be-destroyed/389489/?utm_source=SFFB

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