A quick Internet search on the matter will find any number of relatively recent news instances of businesses and business owners facing a lot of self-inflicted hell for mistakenly believing it’s appropriate for them to pick and choose who they serve, in their public businesses, based solely on religious views.
Most recently, because of a ruling by the Supreme Court, county clerks are resisting their obligation to serve the public by refusing to issue marriage licenses to two people of the same gender. To some, it might be arguable that a business owned by a private citizen should operate under whatever that citizen / business owner understands to be morally correct. Truly it’s not arguable. In short, there’s nothing inherently moral or immoral about baking a cake (period!) for a paying customer. If you’re selling something to the public then anyone who is a member of the public and can pay you for what you offer shouldn’t be refused – so long as they aren’t being disruptive to business or other customers, etc… And in the instance of employees of public / government institutions, this shouldn’t even be on the table for discussion. The government is a non-religious entity and is funded by everyone who pays taxes and so if you have employment in that sector, it is literally your job to serve the entire public, within the confines of your job description – as mandated by your boss, the government. The clerks refusing to issue marriage licenses to gays because it goes against his / her personal religious convictions are off their damned rockers thinking they have any legit ground to stand on while they behave so delinquently and with so much insubordination.
All that aside, I think I’m experiencing what might could be the flip side of this dumb mess.
One of my brothers currently lives in the fucked up state of Kansas. He and his family will be changing this situation soon enough, but before that happens he and the fam’ will be coming to Indiana for a week-long vacation. During their visit, as part of a request from my mom, we’re all getting together for family photos – something we’ve not formally done in quite some time.
I was talking to my mom recently on the phone and she was pretty thrilled at having located a photographer for our photos. It seemed especially novel to my mom because the photographer she has her eye on is a high school senior – a recent graduate, I believe. I now forget how she said she found this young lady (if she even told me), but she gave me the gal’s “business” Facebook page and told me to check her out.
Of course I did that – and the girl seems as talented as any photographer I’ve seen. So… here’s where things start getting uncomfortable, though. While I did start off on her “business” page, it was quite easy from there to access her personal page, the settings to which are not very private at all. So, out of natural curiosity, I clicked my way onto her personal Facebook page and started to electronically wander around. There were three things I recall noticing immediately, and I’ll share them in the order they came to my mind…
1) She’s gorgeous.
2) All of the most recent posts to her timeline were of a very “Christian” nature and specifically related to the recent Supreme Court decision.
3) She has a boyfriend who is just about as gorgeous as she is.
Obviously, #2 weighed quite heavily on me and has since caused some thoughts and questions to come into my head. She’s so young (I well remember being her age) – is this going to mean acceptance of me and my husband or rejection? She’s so Christian – is this going to mean acceptance of me and my husband or rejection? And due to her youth and Christian faith, even if she doesn’t throw a fit about me and my husband (and I seriously doubt she will) will there be that usual, awkward, judgment-y vibe coming from her? Will she rush through or half-ass the photos taken of me and my husband? If Christians don’t want to bake a cake for me and my husband and are willing to risk going out of business to “take a stand” for their beliefs, will she feel convicted enough in her “heart of hearts” to refuse what we’ll be asking of her professional self?
There were other questions that came to mind also and I can admit that one of my first knee-jerk reactions was the thought that I should call my mom up and strongly request that she find a different photographer. If Christians don’t want to bake a cake for gays (sell to, do business with, etc…), then why should gays (me!) at all want to give our money to them in the first place? For about a day I was uncomfortable and grew very unsettled. A number of times I really and truly came close to calling my mom to discuss this.
I think the truth of the matter is that our session with her will almost certainly come and go without hitch – and may even be fun. But part of that truth is knowing that she’s a young (likely naive) Christian person from a very small town – there’s about as much reason for concern as there is reason to not worry at all.
When all the hubbub is cycling through the media, there are always people saying, “If they hate you, just don’t give them your money.” And there are just as many people who, on a regular basis, find one reason or another for boycotting a place or product. For example, my husband and I never eat at Chik-Fil-A and we never shop at Wal-Mart. Ever. We don’t like the way one treats its employees and the other is a Christian terrorist organization that actively funds anti-gay efforts. That much makes sense.
But this situation somehow feels different. I know without even asking her that nowhere in my mom’s brain is the idea that she should even consider this young photographer’s religious background. After all, we’re not hiring her to be a priestess or nun or … anything religious. So her religion doesn’t factor in – AT ALL. In my mom’s brain and heart, you treat people the way you want to be treated and everything usually works out. And she’s right – usually.
But I’m almost 35 years old and for 34.75 of those years I’ve been – quite literally – a second class citizen. There have been a number of times when people actually took effort to make sure I understood this. Do you know what that feels like, dear reader? If you’ve never been kicked out of a church for being gay, been denied the right to marry, felt your safety threatened, worried about whether you came off as “too gay” in a job interview, or been hissed at (by a human!) just because you were walking through your neighborhood, then you may not know what I mean. And even with the Supreme Court in my back pocket, I can still be discriminated against and harassed in many areas of normal life and I can still be fired from my job – just for being me.
That kind of life can really leave a taste in one’s mouth and when one consistently experiences the same or similar taste from one kind of food, it quickly becomes tough not to develop an aversion to that food. Makes sense, right?
I’m not going to ask my mom to find a different photographer because our selection of the right professional for our need shouldn’t in any way be based on that individual’s personal and private religious choices – in the same way that the decision to sell a cake to someone shouldn’t at all be influenced by the sexual orientation of the buyers.
Some would have you believe that turn about is fair play. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? I think often what’s good for the goose is, indeed, good for the gander – but never out of spite. It isn’t my place to decide… Karma takes care of that for me. If Christians want to jeopardize their own livelihood because of misguided and mistaken religious conviction, then they will certainly have the chance to sleep in the bed which they’ve made. My family, though? We just want a good, talented photographer.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti