The Washington state florist shop that is already being sued by the ACLU for refusing to sell flowers for a same-sex couple’s wedding is now also being sued by the attorney general in that state. The lawyer for the shop owner says he believes it is an issue of freedom of expression and freedom of religion.
I think it’s interesting that the two people to whom the business owner refuses to sell wedding flowers are purportedly long time customers of the store. So apparently the proprietor’s self-expression and religious beliefs allowed her to condone the so-called “homosexual lifestyle”, but drew a line when her gay patrons wanted to act too “normal”? Or was it just her greed operating back then, back when it was likely no one would know she occasionally sold flowers to “that sort” of person, and now that bunches of people might reasonably ask “Wow, who did the flowers?” she’s afraid of being ostracized by other bigots?
Lunch counters and buses immediately come to mind, and I think “Someday we’ll look back as a nation and it will be hard for young people to comprehend that it was ever this way”. But then I think no, that this fight is inherently different from that one, that the thing that is sometimes cited as a boon – being able to pass in “straight society” – is actually an albatross. Wanda Sykes does a great bit about this, and I think she hits the nail right on the head. While it’s impossible to hide that fact if your skin is a different color than the rest of a group, there isn’t any way to know that a newborn child is gay, which creates this misunderstanding that homosexuality is not god-given, and that, I think, is the root cause of the strife. People think it’s a choice. They always have, and it seems likely that a large proportion of the population always will. Look, forty years on racism continues to quietly simmer and seethe, rearing its ugly head every now and then, despite racially integrated schools and neighborhoods, and businesses being made to sell their wares to whomever (based on skin color) wants to buy. Despite decades of folks being made to interact with people they can’t help but recognize are different from themselves.
There’s a more insidious kind of fear factor hampering the gay civil rights movement. No one ever appeared to be one color and then – apparently – “became” another. (Don’t make an MJ joke. Just don’t.) But some people believe that their sons/mothers/brothers/daughters/fathers were “fine” and then chose to be different. Chose to be Other. That they transformed and it was willful. Deliberate. I think for some people hearing coming out stories is nightmarish, sparking this fear that one day they will wake up with feelings they never had before, or more likely, will meet someone who “makes” them gay. I think that’s why in some factions homosexuality is lumped in with drug abuse. Thanks for trying, Lady Gaga, but the fear that you are born one way and “catch” being gay seems to be too deeply seated to be undone with song. For some people, the AIDS crisis was just the development of outward symptoms in what had hitherto been a silent epidemic.
Silence. Equals. Death. So, is this another place where Harvey Milk’s call to action will be the cure? Is it a matter of more gay people speaking out about when they first knew that they were gay? Will the beast be soothed if greater numbers of loving, accepting parents openly acknowledge what their child is telling them? Or is this just, at its core, a nastier ball of wax? Is this a boogeyman that can’t be eradicated from the psyche, similar to finding out that your child is a girl in places where that is seen as a failure on the part of the parents or evidence of a demonic curse on the family, a problem that has been with us since the inception of the species? Can we possibly hope to educate people to expect and accept the possibility that their child will be gay? Or is this battle for integration always going to be fought one life at a time?