Thursday, December 17, 2009

Donors, boycotts, and mercenaries

Have you ever noticed that those opposed to GLBT rights employ boycotts regularly? They seem to have annual boycotts of Disney and its gay family days. There have been boycotts of Ford , Pepsi, Apple Computer, and Wells Fargo Bank, for daring to be at all friendly to GLBT people.

Of course, like bullies everywhere, they shriek "unfair!" when the same tactics are applied to them. But what's good for the goose, as they say, is good for the gander.

After Prop8, the GLBT community also resorted to boycotts. The targets were mostly businesses whose owners gave donations to Prop8. This prompted a complaint from the Forces of Evil that we shouldn't know who was donating money against us, that we should do business with them anyway. They raised the specter of marauding gangs of homosexuals vandalizing their property to justify keeping donations secret. (There seems to be a lack of evidence of this ever happening, but when did the truth stop them?) Please, what do they think we're going to do, paint their houses tastefully pink in the middle of the night?

Still, our community was divided over the boycotts and the collateral damage. Free speech means we absolutely must respect the rights of people to disagree with us. But do we have to do business with them?

For example, a theatre director in Sacramento resigned, because GLBT and gay-friendly playwrights refused to allow his theatre to use their work any longer. Gay and gay-friendly actors and staff were also very uncomfortable discovering that their co-worker actively opposed their rights. A woman who co-owned a restaurant in LA that was very popular with the GLBT community was boycotted. Both of these donated money to pro-Prop8 because they are Mormon, using religion as a justification for actively hurting other people. They were both understandably upset at the reaction, with the equivalent of, "but it's not personal, some of my best friends are gay!" (Not any longer, I bet.)

I feel sorry for them at some level; but they are effectively using my money to take away my rights. You know what, this isn't a disagreement about health care reform or how to fight a war, something that is external to who we are. This is denying the fundamental equality of another human being --and that human being is supposed to smile sweetly and work with you closely? So while they are perfectly entitled to have their view, and to choose to donate money to that cause, I'm just as entitled not to do work with them. Just like Jim Dobson and Focus on the Family are entitled to boycott the LIttle Mermaid every year.

Then there's the larger order of magnitude of donors like Doug Manchester, owner of the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. A conservative Catholic, he felt that marriage needed defending from the awful gay people so he gave $125,000 to the bad guys. (Now that he and his wife are engaged in a very nasty divorce with accusations of theft and draining bank accounts, I wonder who will defend marriage from him?) Manchester tried to "make nice" with the GLBT community after the election, claiming that he'd made an equal donation to our side. Actually, he made this "donation" by offering discounts if the GLBT community used his hotel, which doesn't in any way equal, or undo the damage he's done. (I wouldn't go in his hotel if he paid me, personally.)

At least those people actually believed at some level in what they were doing. But surely there is a special circle of boycott hell for the mercenaries who are attacking our rights merely for money. An article in the NY Times last weekend pointed out the industry that has grown up in California, businesses taking Maggie Gallagher's money as consultants for bigotry.
As the political battle over same-sex marriage plays out in state capitals across the country, several California companies have emerged as the go-to players for opponents of the marriages.....

Of the $2.7 million spent to pass the Maine measure, about 75 percent flowed to companies in California, according to campaign disclosure documents. And while large chunks of that money were subsequently paid out to television and radio stations in Maine, California companies billed hundreds of thousands of dollars for consulting work, phone lists, printing and other services.
Frank Schubert, the public face of the campaign with his firm Schubert Flint Public Affairs has even received an award for his vicious "contributions", much to the dismay of many of his colleagues. Schubert claims his campaigns represent Christians, which is a surprise and an afront to many gay Christians, let alone the Unitarians, the Episcopalians, and the Quakers.

Schubert uses a firm called Mar/Com, which the NY Times investigation found only reachable with a PO Box, but is apparently owned by Bill Criswell, of Criswell Associates. This is an advertising agency in San Francisco. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't hire any of them, and I think that anyone who does, should be well aware of the attacks they have authored and the bias that they enable.

These mercenaries fighting marriage equality are perfectly entitled to take anyone's money and conduct their business. But I have an equal freedom to choose the firms to whom I give my money. Just as I may choose to put my investments into socially responsible corporations or green energy, just as many organizations refused to do business with South Africa in the era of apartheid, and, yes, just as Christian Conservatives are currently boycotting Pepsi for being "pro-gay", so do we all have a right (if not a responsibility) to choose with whom we do business, and to choose to do business with those who share our ethical and political values.

Schubert Flint Public Affiars, Mar/Com, and Criswell Associates are actively working against my equal rights. They have told lies, fomented hysteria and attacked our families, because they were paid to do it. And they are very good at it. Those who value equality and social justice should know just who is working against us, and should consider hiring firms with more progressive values rather than lining Frank Schubert's and Bill Criswell's pockets.

And as for boycotts, if you lie down with dogs, don't be surprised if you wake up with fleas.

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