When is a purveyor of locally sourced produce and free-range organic meat not welcome in Portland? When it's owned by individuals who don't support marriage equality. So this is really a thing we're doing now, huh folks?
Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich's resignation has dominated online discourse for the last week or so. Eich was hit with an onslaught of public disapprobation after being outed by dating site OK Cupid as a supporter of California's now moot same sex marriage ban.
The situation in Portland is interesting because it captures a lot of the same sides and themes as the Eich story on a much smaller scale. Here's some background, from The Oregonian:
Facebook and other social media sites have exploded over a soon-to-open fresh meat and vegetable store called Moreland Farmers Pantry. Neighbors and nearby business owners, once excited by the prospect of the new shop, are now backing away.
"They're choosing to open a business in a very open-minded neighborhood," said Tom Brown, owner of Brown Properties and president of the Sellwood Moreland Business Alliance. "I think their personal views are going to hurt."
There's something beautiful about a man unironically pointing to a community's open-mindedness by way of explaining its commitment to shun those with different viewpoints. Another neighbor called the store's owner naive for thinking someone who doesn't believe in same sex marriage would be able to sell free-range eggs in such a tolerant neighborhood.
The Pantry's owners, husband and wife John and Chauncy Childs, are self-described Christians and libertarians who believe same-sex marriage is wrong. This came to the attention of neighborhood residents though a Facebook wall post from Chauncey. In it, Chauncey expressed some stereotypically misguided beliefs about marriage equality (that it will lead to pedophilia, etc.). She also linked to an article about the right of business owners to refuse service to gay people.
In a telephone interview with The Oregonian, Childs said she never thought her Facebook views would become public and that they don't have anything to do with the store she's trying to open.
"We aren't discriminating," Childs said. "We have no anti-gay or anti-racial bias or anything like that. We have members of our family who are homosexual."
But as with Mozilla's Brendan Eich—whom colleagues and employees both described as being tolerant and supportive of gay employees—the Childs' measurable or material actions don't seem to matter to detractors. Neither Eich nor the Childs believe the right things, and that is enough to get one ostracized in "open-minded" communities.
One of Moreland Farmers Pantry's neighbors, Sean O'Riordan, posted a seven-minute video to YouTube tarring the Childs and their beliefs. In it, he lamented that local children would be forced to walk by a business with discriminatory beliefs. He removed the video after Mr. Childs met with him and agreed to donate money to a local LGBT foundation. However, O'Riordan noted, he will still be boycotting the store.
There's certaintly nothing wrong with or novel about choosing to patronize businesses you find more agreeable (for whatever reason) at the expense of those you find distasteful (for whatever reason). But poke anyone's brain hard enough and you'll likely find something with which to disagree. Do we really want a world where everything from our web browsers to where we buy our milk have to be in proper ideological alignment? At The American Conservative, Rod Drehrer makes one of the most effortless and eloquent cases as to why this is so undesirable:
When we lived in Brooklyn, we routinely shopped at a local food store owned by Yemeni Muslim immigrants. If I had to bet, I would guess they held strongly anti-gay views, strongly anti-feminist views, and probably strongly anti-Christian views. But you know what? They were always polite to us — friendly, even — and their products were good. They were good neighbors. Who cares what they think privately, as long as they treat customers with respect?
When we lived in Philly, we shopped all the time at a local organic food co-op that was fairly Portlandish in its progressivism… If they had known that they were dealing with a right-wing Christian troglodyte every time they saw me at the register buying food, it probably would have appalled them. … But you know what? They were nice and we were nice and we enjoyed sharing the same neighborhood with them. Who cares what they think privately, as long as they treat customers with respect?
[…] At the Baton Rouge farmer's market, the best local milk comes from Mormon dairy farmers, and the best chicken comes from Muslim chicken farmers. You think they are pure enough for Portlandia? In my town, which is fairly conservative, some of the most beloved businesses are run by liberals, and employ gay people. Nobody cares. Nobody should care. You are a bad neighbor if you care, and not just a bad neighbor, but an asshole.
Portland business ownr Nick Zukin* made similar comments on Facebook. He asked those boycotting the Childs' store if they had researched the religious and political views of other local shop owners. "What about your dentist, your doctor, your wine vendors? It's a bad way to live," wrote Zukin. Naturally, community members announced that they'd be boycotting Zukin's business now, as well. Tolerance—or else!
Bullying "intolerant" individuals into more progressive beliefs is the wave of the future, apparently. Mind you, gay couples still can't marry in many states. "Fag" is still one of the worst insults young men can hurl at one another, violence against trans women is common, and I doubt Eich's or the Childs' views on marriage equality have shifted much. But at least everyone on Twitter is learning to signal progressivism properly! And fewer Portlandian children will be exposed to non-genetically modified ramps sold by someone with differing beliefs. Good work, modern liberalism! The world is that much safer for assholes.
*Originally misidentified as Nick Zulkin.