Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mercury-News's Mangled Muddied Muddled Marriage Malarke

The San Jose Mercury News, the top paper of Silicon Valley, has gotten it wrong again. This time, it printed a presumptuous and somewhat insulting editorial about the present controversy around California's anti-gay Proposition 8. Most notable are some rather questionable assertions that the paper asserts as truisms:

Had supporters of gay marriage shown as much fervor for their cause before the Nov. 4 election as they have since, they probably would have defeated Proposition 8. But they will surely fail in their campaign to repeal the ban if threats and coercion continue to be among their tactics.

Threats and coercion?

Such as threatening to launch recall petitions against Supreme Court justices who vote in favor of the 14th amendment rights of gays and lesbians?

Or referring to peaceful protestors in last weekend's nationwide marches as "terrorists?"

some extremes we're seeing are just plain wrong. For example, the vandalism of Mormon churches might be interpreted as a hate crime if it were directed at gay and lesbian institutions.

Vandalism is indeed nasty. However, several investigations in California have suggested that the vandalism (and the various other claimed threats) was not committed by LGBT people at all -- but rather by Mormons themselves, in a bid to generate public sympathy and change the subject.

In fact, not one of the alleged "vandalism" incidents has been traced back to any member or ally of the LGBT community.

That doesn't stop the Mercury-News from presuming the community's guilt however... which is amusing since it then begins a lecture on the Constitution that is laughably inaccurate.

One ugly case was the boisterous protest by dozens of gay marriage supporters outside a small Los Angeles restaurant where the owner's daughter had contributed $100 to Proposition 8. The loss of customers threatened the livelihoods of employees, some of whom were gay and opposed the initiative.


the selective boycotts of small donors clearly is meant to send a message of intimidation and suppress the First Amendment right of expression.

Well, let's set the record, ehrm, straight here.

Firstly, the bar in question was a popular Mexican cantina in Los Angeles that catered heavily to the LGBT community in the area.

Secondly, the "small donor" was not merely the "owner's daughter," but a part owner of the firm in question.

Thirdly, there was not a "raucus demonstration," but rather a press conference called by the other owners, where the owner in question attempted to explain her contribution to the anti-gay initiative.

A majority of attendees at the gay-catering establishment rejected her argument, and a large number of people have decided to take their business elsewhere. Which is their right.

Let's ignore the fact that the Mercury-News has refused to criticize anti-gay boycotts conducted against firms ranging from a California pumpkin farm (for flying rainbow flags) to large institutions like Apple, Ford Motor Co., American and United Airlines, and Walt Disney Co. for having the "audacity" to offer domestic partner benefits.

Let's even ignore the fact that the Mercury-News has refused to criticize the pro-Proposition-8 campaign's tactics as "dangerous," despite the fact that it was the first party in this debate to play the boycott card, threatening anti-Prop-8 donors with boycotts back in October.

Both mulligans for the Mercury-News aren't difficult -- LGBT people are long used to a lack of even-handed treatment by the established media, and while that's rather inexcusable in this day and age, there's something far less excusable at play in the M-N's editorializing.

The Mercury News has demonstrated it has absolutely no understanding of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of individuals to express themselves free of government coercion or harrassment. It provides no guarantee to a comfortable living despite one's political opinions, nor does it provide a guarantee or "right" to avoid criticism and boycotts.

The business owner in question certainly had a right to donate to a gay-hating constitutional amendment. Just as she has the right to contribute money to a pro-racial-segregation amendment, or an amendment to strip women of the right to vote, or any other initiative that may or may not appear in the future.

However, she has no "right" to expect LGBT people, or African Americans, or women, or any other group negatively impacted by her actions, to continue to patronize her business. Her decision to support an anti-gay constitutional amendment was one she made as a result of her religious ideas, and part of that decision should include accepting the consequences of that decision -- including loss of business.

By making the donation, she indicated that she valued her ideals above her economic well-being (especially considering her heavily gay clientele), and the responsibility for the consequences lie primarily with her -- not her customers. Her decision to publicly make such a donation was an economically foolish decision for an owner of a gay-targeted business -- equally as stupid as the loan decisions of subprime mortgage issuers, or any other bad business decision.

Putting aside Hank Paulson's TARP bailout package, the last time we checked, there was no Constitutional right to avoiding the consequences of bad business decisions.

On an emotional level, much has been made of her tears and frustration. But the Mercury-News needs to consider the tears and frustration of families across the state of California tonight, many of whom have children who are now "legally bastards" (to use Dan Savage's inelegant yet accurate verbiage).

It's a pity that the Mercury-News isn't concerned about them (and their rights). Rather than mangling, muddling and muddying the First Amendment to invent a right to not suffer the consequence of bad business decisions, the paper would be better served defending the Fourteenth Amendment rights of all Californians.