Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tolerance on both sides

My last post addressed the attempts by some conservative Christians to be able to separate themselves from contact with LGBT people, in particular by asking for religious exemptions from pending employment non-discrimination rules regarding gay employees,  that would apply to federal contractors.

This comes on the heels of several efforts at the step level to codify the right of businesses to refuse service to anyone -- broadly written, but intended to target gays.  The most prominent one, in Arizona, did not pass.

I wrote,
But the cost of this separatism in the public square is a fundamental attack on the tolerant pluralism that is supposed to undergird our social contract.
You might reasonably ask, how is my scolding of the right-wingers any different from the politically correct purges by the left?  Yes, it is, I think--in many, but not all cases.

Part of it is because active discrimination against fellow citizens is wrong. I may be a gay businessperson but I have no right to discriminate against Christianists in a secular business role any more than I can discriminate against Republicans, blacks, Jews, or women.

But I agree, a few of these knee-jerk reactions  are very troubling.  You may recall that I argued against the hounding of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, reasoning that his advocacy for a ballot measure 6 years ago was not relevant today.  I don't think that someone's private political views from years ago, at a time of great social change, should be relevant to whether or not he can function today.  Now, if he were actively advocating against equality NOW, or discriminating against his gay employees,  my views would be different.  But he's wasn't.   I'm a big believer in letting people evolve.  Or at least have the sense to stay quiet.  And Eich was being quiet.

There's another case that is also troubling, up in Portland, where a store owner opening an organic market got nailed for writing on her facebook that she disagrees with marriage equality for religious reasons.  And then she wrote that she thinks businesses should be able to discriminate against people they don't want to sell to.

Well, not surprisingly, people in Portland are a little upset. They would prefer not to buy from someone who would prefer not to sell to them or their gay friends.  Awkward, given that liberals are more likely to be going in the organic market.

This one is a little more nuanced for me.   I'm less troubled by someone saying they aren't personally in support of marriage equality, than someone who actively campaigns against it, or who actively supports discrimination. On the one hand, she's entitled to disagree about equality, since we're all evolving. On the other, she's also supporting active discrimination (the "religious freedom to sell to whom I want" meme), which is an expression of unwillingness to tolerate others. Marriage equality just recently arrived in Oregon by judicial decision, and if it hadn't would have been a ballot initiative this fall, so it's still quite raw.  I assume she would have worked to prevent equality.  Would she have expected gays and allies to patronize her store if she were funding an anti-gay campaign?

We saw that in California, where the attitude of the community was  "I'm not paying you my money to campaign against my rights."  No businessman has the right to anyone's business.   I didn't have so much of an issue for this with owners (like hotelier Doug Manchester) but I did NOT agree when businesses were boycotted for the private act of an non-owner employee.

 How is this any different than a store owner writing on his facebook that he won't serve blacks or Jews?  We would be outraged at that, wouldn't we?   We wouldn't want to patronize him. Yet somehow, being publicly anti-gay is still justifiable, especially if you claim a religious motivation.

Is she entitled to her bias?  Of course she is.  But her mistake is putting it out in public, especially the part that she should be allowed to discriminate. We haven't got to the point where it is recognized that being publicly anti-gay is like being publicly racist.  You can be privately racist -- no one can police your thoughts, nor should they-- and you can decide not to vote for the black guy, as clearly many do.  But we recognize that being publicly racist , or anti-semitic, is not acceptable. Why is being anti-gay still okay?  Just because she can point to her idea of God?  I'm sure white-Christian identity groups and fundamentalist Muslims can point to their idea of God to justify their bigotry as well.

Here's the thing for practical peace in the polis.   If you have a socially discriminatory instinct, have the good sense to keep it to yourself. I don't live in the gayborhood and I don't care if the people I do business with are gay or straight, atheists, or Mormons.  But even  I won't pay my money to someone who i perceive actively works against my equality.  On the other hand, I'm unlikely to ask them if they are pro- gay rights.   If you want to make a Thing out of it, you are expecting to be a martyr.  So, anti-gay photographer, or baker,  why not just tell the gay couple that you're already booked that weekend?  But if you make an Issue out of it, especially in the face of anti-discrimination laws, don't be surprised if you get pushback.

The Portland company made a small donation to a gay charity as a fig leaf, to say they are sorry.  Is this repentence? Redemption?  But the buycott continues.   I don't like political correctness, and I might be inclined to accept the token at face value and let them off the hook at this point,  if I lived there, in the interest of the social contract.  If they keep their bias private.

But any more anti-gay eruptions and I'm outta there.

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