At the end of March, we took our kids to New Orleans for spring break and there were two television screens in the lobby of our hotel that played news and sports continuously. That’s where our kids first heard about Indiana Senate Bill 101, allowing individuals or businesses to cite religious reasons when sued by private parties. It's also where they heard about Memories Pizza, the first business in Indiana to say it would refuse service to LGBT couples because of religious beliefs.
It was easier to explain the nuances of “legal” versus “right” than it was to later explain that, after Memories Pizza was forced to close due to the outrage over that decision, people raised over $840,000 for the owners. Why was it hard to explain? Because the lesson there is that bigotry is rewarded.
Before Memories Pizza, it was Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Oregon, which cited religious beliefs as the reason they refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. That case has remained in the news as the bakery was ordered to pay $135,000 in damages to the couple in question. Once again,supporters came through and raised over $350,000 for the owners, much more than needed to cover the fine.
And now, we have Kim Davis, the publicly elected official in Kentucky who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to LGBT couples because of her religious beliefs. How much money will conservative Christians raise for her defense? How much money will they give to her beyond that? My guess is that it will be hundreds of thousands of dollars this time around, too.
The fact is that it pays to be a martyr these days, at least for white conservative Christians.
As a lesbian, I come to this with an obvious bias. But that doesn’t mean I take these incidents personally. In fact, I don’t take them personally at all. I know there is always backlash after progress. I can see how far we’ve come in terms of LGBT rights just in my lifetime. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the Moral Universe Is long, but it bends toward Justice.”
The truth is that discrimination in Indiana and Oregon and Kentucky won’t impact my daily life in Minnesota. I will continue to live as I always have, loving my partner and raising a family. The real danger lies in the public response to these cases, in turning people who discriminate against others into heroes by giving them a platform, money and their 15 minutes of fame.
My partner and I work hard to teach our kids to respect others -- even those with whom they disagree -- because respect is one of our family values. If current events are any indication, the going rate for that one seems relatively low. Clearly, some family values are worth more than others.
PHOTO CREDIT: TIMOTHY D. EASLEY, ASSOCIATED PRESS