Has our LGBT Rights Movement, “Jumped The Shark?” I am old enough to remember the days of ACT UP and other LGBT organizations that were just fed up with government and people simply ignoring our Community, or actively working against it. The idea was just to be so loud and in your face, that the public would have to at least notice and acknowledge our existence, and it was a strong tool in rallying, but also brought a lot of ammunition to those working against us. The “Indiana Pizza Incident,” is an example of right thinking gone wrong.
If you aren’t familiar, as the Indiana legislature and Governor Mike Pence put through their Religious Freedom Bill, our LGBT Community and one of the biggest outpouring of Allies that I can remember, immediately called the Bill what it is, a bigoted response to the current same-sex marriage wave, allowing individually owned businesses to discriminate against us gays. A small town Indiana pizza shop co-owner, along with her co-owner father, was interviewed by a local television station and said they were in support of the Bill. They said that although they have no problem serving our Community in their restaurant, they would be unwilling to cater a same-sex wedding under the new law, as it goes against their Christian beliefs. Adding more naive insult to the injury, they made it clear they thought that being gay was a choice, just as they thought being a heterosexual is.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way, most gays are not going to cater their wedding with pizza and beer. (Not saying that’s a bad idea when you’ve lived together as any couple for quite a few years, and just want to have a party with your friends to celebrate gettin’ hitched, lol). Also obvious to us, is that being LGBT is not a choice, just how we were born. However, we had a good chance to use this as an example of what the Bill is really about. A way to showcase that you wouldn’t ask if a couple was divorced, have a child out of wedlock, or any other of the sins of the Bible that Christians routinely don’t care as much about. It is discrimination, pure and simple, but instead of illuminating it for what it is, we blew it. Big Time!!
Backlash against the store owners started immediately. Their YELP customer comments were deluged with many bad reviews, but it didn’t stop there. Some of the Internet comments started to get just plain nasty. There were threats to burn their business down, and even more brutal threats. Their phone was blowing up off the hook with nasty comments. Our LGBT Community and allies went from taking the high road and using these store owners as an example of how bad the Bill is, to instead, bringing national attention to how low we will go if you don’t support us.
The owners decided to close the pizza shop after all of the attention. Is that really the victory we wanted?Did we want some naive at best, ignorant at worse, small town business owners to lose their lively hood for not catering pizza at our weddings? Soon, religious Conservatives rallied to the pizza owners defense. They began a GoFundMe Internet fundraising campaign to help the owners out as their doors are closed. At last glance, and in less that two days, the owners are now sitting on a treasure chest of over $500,000 dollars that has been donated to them, and they plan on re-opening the shop in a few days.
Our LGBT Community and allies, by taking the low road of intimidation and threats, have made this stand against our rights, an example and rallying point for those trying to pass similar Religious Freedom Bills across the country. Worse yet, the pizza shop owners are calling all of this money a certain blessing from God, for standing for their religious beliefs, and are creating a case for all Christians of the same belief to think that if they dig their heels in and spout ignorance, they will be rewarded as well. I don’t think that is the outcome we were hoping for in making them a bad example. They have turned it around completely.
I think this battle in Indiana and following in Arkansas and others, was starting to tip the war in our favor as an LGBT Community. We have business leaders, allies, and individuals who stood up and noticed that this so-called Religious Freedom Bill, was just a smokescreen to promote bigotry and discrimination. But as we charged forth, we lost another battle and might have taken us a step backward in the fray.
We should never remain silent in our call to demanding full equality for our Community. We should never let anyone try to relegate us as second class. However, in order to win the war, we must keep these battles at least civil. Personal threats and physical force will make us as bad as those we are fighting against, and not do us any favors in the meantime. Be Vocal, but offer the same respect we are trying to achieve.