Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tolerance is a two-way street

This weekend Seattle is flying the rainbow flags high and taking to the streets for the annual Pride parade. This year’s celebrations are sure to be extra festive as it was announced on Friday evening that New York has legalized gay marriage. Anyone who knows me knows I am extremely passionate and opinionated on this issue. I am more confident debating it than any other issue you could throw at me and I am fairly certain I will shoot down any argument against equality you can think of with logic and facts. So rather than spend my time preaching to the choir or trying to change the minds of those that are set in their ways, my topic today may come as a surprise. Today, on some level, I find myself defending The Other Guy.

Tolerance is something the more liberal-minded in this country love to preach, but some get so involved in fighting for others’ rights that they forget that tolerance works both ways. Just like we ask those who disagree with us to at least respect our rights to have our views, we must show them the same respect or this whole equality thing just isn’t going to work.

On June 13, two gay men placed an order with a print shop in Kent for flyers to promote their gay bar, Diesel, which will open this summer on Capitol Hill in Seattle. The next day, they received an email from an employee canceling their order. She said the owners had decided they couldn’t print the flyers knowing they would be promoting a kind of lifestyle that goes against their morals. “Not that we’re against homosexuals in any way,” she specified. Right. Needless to say, gay-friendly Seattle went ape shit. The bar owners scrambled to find someone else to print their flyers. Angry columns and blog posts appeared. The ACLU got wind of the incident and offered to help the bar owners with a case against the print shop.

And to all that I say… we’re doing this wrong, people. This isn’t the way.

This is not a big corporation… if it was, I’d tell them to get over it and just print the flyers already. This is a small print shop owned by a conservative Christian family just trying to pay their bills. Granted, owning a business means sometimes having to do things you don’t necessarily agree with. But where do you draw the line? I immediately imagined what I would do if I owned a print shop and someone placed an order for flyers for a pro-life rally calling women murderers or something. I have nothing against people who believe in the things I’m against, but I honestly don’t think I could bring myself to print the propaganda and further their agenda. I just don’t see it happening. And shouldn’t that be my right, as a small business owner? I think it should.

I saw on the news that the owner swears it wasn’t necessarily about homosexuality itself but the somewhat suggestive flyer and the fact that his kids are in the print shop and would potentially see it. I saw the flyer and while there is absolutely nothing profane about it, well, it’s not exactly something you’d show at church, either. I’m sure as hell not going to teach my child that there’s anything wrong with being gay nor will I tolerate anyone else doing so, but I can’t in good faith say I’d show that flyer to a kid who may be just old enough to get the implied suggestions on the flyer, either. I’m no prude, but I get it.

This is quite the gray area because, as the director of Equal Rights Washington says, “We would not tolerate it if a business were being denied services because its customers are Jewish, African American or Latino. We should be equally vigilant when services are being denied to LBGT establishments.” Point taken. Discrimination is discrimination and we are fighting for equality here.

But again, where do you draw the line? I have no doubt that these print shop owners didn’t refuse to print the flyers just because the people placing the order were gay. I also have no doubt they’re good people just trying to earn an honest living who just had a moral conflict over both the content of the flyers and the lifestyle they promote which, to them, is wrong. I may not agree with them, but I don’t think making them out to be the devil is the right thing to do. 

I’ll be the first to say I truly don’t understand those who are against homosexuality. I won’t even get into the Bible thing (though I could) because this would become a ten trillion word post. Why people are so damn concerned with something that has no effect on them personally is beyond me. However, I know there will always be people who don’t support it. That’s just life and people have the right to form their own opinions.

By fighting to legalize gay marriage, aren’t we asking them to tolerate it even though they personally don’t think it’s right? We certainly are. We’re asking them to look beyond themselves and see the big picture, that everyone deserves equal rights even if they don’t fit the mold of who you’d choose to be yourself. I have to do that with Mormons every day, and I do. The owners of this print shop deserve that same respect. Yes, it’s a gray area. Yes, on some level it probably is discrimination. But it’s their right to feel the way they feel and print what they feel is appropriate for their business. Forcing them to do something they aren’t comfortable with or attacking them with a lawsuit defeats the entire purpose of freedom and makes us, the fighters who I believe are in the right, look bad.

Tolerance isn’t one sided. It goes both ways. Let’s remember that.


Annie said...

This is a wonderful post. It is much easier to promote your mindset and ideals than to "try on the other shoe" and defend their POV. Bravo to you! I think you did a terrific job.

Lyn said...

A very rational and fair assessment of that case, Jessica. Thank you for a little bit of sanity. Sometimes people are so stupid, it's hard to believe.

mom said...

You're right Jess. Sometimes we may not agree with something but we need to remember...we all have rights. Wouldn't this world be so much nicer if we respected one another's opinions, beliefs and lifestyles?
Big hugs sweetie! Great article!

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