Playing to Prejudice

April 12, 2012


Are there any circumstances that justify turning a national debate into an international boycott? I suppose I can think of a couple, but gay marriage isn’t one of them.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is at it again. Its most recent tactic in its war against allowing gay people to marry is to go international. This month it unveiled an aggressive campaign to appeal to people who have a strong prejudice against gay people (in such countries as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Malaysia, where being gay is a criminal offense) to boycott the Seattle, WA.-based company Starbucks. Why? Because Starbucks made a corporate policy statement of support for Marriage Equality.

That statement of support originally spurred NOM to call for a national boycott of Starbucks. It had a petition, too, which gathered almost 30,000 signatures, calling upon Starbucks to rescind its support. This activity prompted a counter-petition which quickly gathered more than 660,000 signatures and confirmed the Starbuck’s board of directors’ decision to publicly support Marriage Equality.

Unable to get any traction at home, the National Organization for Marriage decided to go international. Its followers seek to gain supporters for their plainly homophobic position and where better to find lots of supporters than in countries where homophobia is in the official religion and law of the land? Will a Saudi Arabian businessman really boycott Starbucks because the company supports Marriage Equality? Probably not, as they probably already think Americans are hopelessly decadent, but why would any 110% American patriot organization seek to make any group of people think Americans are even worse than they feared?

This is the same kind of slippery slope that starts with idiots telling lies on the radio and ends up getting doctors killed outside medical clinics. Will the NOM foreign agitators be happy when a couple of dozen people die in bomb attacks on Starbucks premises in the Middle East? Do they really think that inflaming the prejudices of other people in other countries against people in the United States will make things better? Better for whom?

When I travel abroad, I already wish I could pretend to be Canadian because it’s safer. I wish I had a big red maple leaf T-shirt to wear, just to make it clear that I’m not with “them” (NOM). What I don’t need is a bunch of church-going hoodlums inflaming people against me, and my country, for no reason, because they disagree with me about a political issue back home. Remember, the people they’re getting to be mad at Starbucks would get just as mad about interracial marriage as they would about gay marriage...  and they’d be pretty riled to think that women worked in these establishments.

Why should it come up? These self-appointed guardians of marriage want to hurt Starbucks international revenues by appealing to the irrational cultural prejudices of people whose official morals haven’t changed since our ancestors were burning witches and killing people for the crime of owning a Bible in English or French (instead of Latin).

And how does all this have anything to do with defending marriage? The people they’re appealing to the prejudices of have a completely different tradition of marriage, one that is much different from the contemporary Christian marriage than gay marriage is. I have a deep seated suspicion that if Islamic radicals sought to make Islamic polygamous marriage the law in this country, the NOM folks would be against that, too.

What this shows about the leadership of NOM is how utterly unprincipled it is and how willing its participants are to use the ignorance and prejudice of others to achieve their own short-term political goals. It is a clearly taking part in immoral acts. It deserves condemnation by any person of conscience, regardless of their own personal stance on marriage equality.

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