Within the past few weeks, the story of Indiana Senate Bill 101, a superannuated piece of legislation that grants permission to private business owners in the state refuse service to anyone on religious grounds, has been met with fierce opposition, as many see it as directly targeting the LGBT community. While a private business technically has the right to refuse service to nearly anyone for any reason, the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 ensured that what business owners cannot do is discriminate against patrons on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. Unfortunately, the federal act has not been amended to be LGBT-inclusionary, meaning the decision to introduce anti-discrimination protections into law for LGBT people is left to the states, about 20 of which have them in place, along with some individual cities. So, as a societal denomination, the LGBT community is already legally allowed to be discriminated against by private businesses—both as potential employees and customers—in a majority of states. Of course, the intention of the bill wasn’t to be specifically invidious towards the LGBT community, it’s just a particularly detestable side effect (not to mention the slew of potential lawsuits).
Eventually, the national spotlight given to the legislation managed to sire a poster child for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act: Memories Pizza, a tiny restaurant in Bumfuck (also known as Walkerton), Indiana whose owners publicly stated they would not cater a gay wedding, though they reiterated they would never refuse service to gay people, they just didn’t believe in same-sex marriage on religious grounds. As so often happens, an interview with two ignorant people attempting to excuse their bigotry based on their misguided religious beliefs was picked up by national news outlets and begat a national firestorm. Their tiny shop in a rural town whose most noteworthy assets are literally that their post office is 150 years old and they produced a NASCAR driver became a national lightning rod. As a result, they received death threats, which in turn caused them to close their shop, thence garnering them more than $800,000 in donations from supporters.
It begs the question, when will we as a society stop turning prats into plenipotentiaries? Whereas a simple refusal to transact with an enterprise who has discriminatory business practices would result in being directly fiscally detrimental to varying degrees, bringing them to the forefront of a divisive political debate is going to bring out their supporters who, in this instance, are the religious loonies with seemingly bottomless wallets. More recently, a florist in Washington who was fined $1001 for refusing to provide a bouquet to a same-sex couple for their wedding, thereby violating the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws that provide LGBT protections, has, so far, received more than $171,000 from supporters. We’ve seen it happen time and time again, yet we masochistically continue in the same pattern.
When you consider the fame of people like the Kardashians, it’s generally understood they’re mindless people that are an ephemeral blip on the current pop culture landscape who pander to other mindless people. They serve no real purpose, but they also don’t really directly hurt anyone, aside from perhaps those of us who feel the need to occasionally bang our heads against a wall at the mere mention or sight of them. The issue of human equality, however, is one that is of great importance, so elevating these cacophonous, anti-gay hyenas to positions that wield some influence they’d otherwise not have allows them to further their feckless canard of intolerance, and only seeks to make the struggle for equality more Sisyphean. Eventually, of course, these individuals will become vestiges in the scheme of things, but the fact of the matter is that it’s not beneficial for anyone but them and their retinue when we’re singling them out instead of focusing on the larger picture.
In addition to increasing bigots’ hegemonic hold on the LGBT community, highlighting them brings out the worst in those who are on the other side; in this case, those in favor of both marriage and same-sex equality. Perhaps worse than the fact protesters are allowing these people to expend their hateful, ill-gotten message to others by inadvertently funding them is that they threaten them with violence. For a group of people who profess to be enlightened enough to realize that all humans deserve to be treated in an egalitarian manner, they certainly have no problem going so far as to threaten to kill them. Obviously, these people can’t be taken too seriously, but regardless, threatening people who already hold a negative view of LGBT people and their supporters only furthers their gormlessness and abjection towards the LGBT community. You may think you’re taking a stand, but realistically you’re hoisting your own petard. From a personal standpoint, when I hear someone spewing anti-gay nonsense, my innate inclination has never been a particularly apoplectic one, because the situation is most often (a) so much an argumentum ad lapidem that it’s not worth my time or energy, or (b) an opportunity to hear where the other person is coming from and have a rational, coherent debate, as opposed to transforming it into a futile shouting match, thereby rendering it a lose-lose for both sides.
All of that having been said, my conclusion is less a cessation and more so an appeal: kindly stop giving louts (and loutettes) unnecessary concentration and a widespread forum to expel their inanity. We’ll all be better off for it.