Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Forgive them, for they know not what they do

The day before yesterday I received an e-mail from Marc Shaiman, a composer and musical director, whose main claim to fame is as the composer of "Hairspray," for which he and his partner won the Tony. OK, Marc didn't send it to me, it was forwarded.

Shaiman was writing to inform the world of how the artistic director of the California Musical Theater company in Sacramento (I knew it as "Music Circus" and saw several performances there) had donated $1000 to the Yes on 8 campaign. Shaiman, rightfully incensed that a man who leads the creative process in a world where gay men make up a huge percentage of the creative talent both on and behind stage would so callously work against their interests, called for a boycott of CMT.

He got more than that. After a firestorm of e-mails and publicity, with many other theater professionals vowing to join the boycott, the artistic direction (Scott Eckern) resigned this morning. This is despite his issuing an apology yesterday and promising to donate an equivalent amount to the Human Rights Campaign.

As you can imagine, this has raised hackles on both sides of the issue. Those who support Eckern argue that he is entitled to express his personal opinion and that this has nothing to do with his job. Of course, those who were offended by Eckern's actions are also free to express their opinions by refusing to support his work.

My personal view would normally be that Eckern paid too high a price. He did apologize and match his donation, after all. Unfortunately, I think he deserves to lose his job -- not for his political opinion, but for sheer stupidity. Andrew Sullivan labeled him "Dumbest Man Alive" in a posting yesterday. I mean, really, you work every day with gay actors, writers, dancers, set designers, etc. and then you actively contribute to a law that would enshrine them in the Constitution as second-class citizens? It's not just stupid, it's thoughtless and cruel.

But wait, it gets worse. It turns out Eckern's sister is gay! That's right, he donated $1000 to help ensure that his sister and her partner could never enjoy the benefits of marriage. A man that displays that level of insensitive idiocy needs to find another job. Perhaps at a meat processing plant or a recycling yard or a toxic waste dump.

That said, let's move on to some more over-reactions to the Prop 8 vote. Apparently an activist group called "Bash Back" disrupted Sunday services at a church in Delta Township in Michigan. You can read the story here. You're not helping the cause, fellas. Hate can't be defeated with more hate. The only cure for hate and intolerance is love and understanding. Same thing is true for the morons who ripped a giant foam cross from the hands of an old woman who'd shown up at rally in Palm Springs protesting the passage of Prop 8. These idiots surrounded the woman, shouting at her and crushing the cross under their feet.

I wish I'd been there. We need to meet intolerance with understanding and hate with love and more love. We must counter stupidity with wisdom and fear-mongering with rationality.

We need to come together, not tear each other apart.



I think that Eckern is a good example of how you can have friends, family, employees and colleagues that are gay and still support traditional marriage. I admire him for going with his convictions. But if he announced it to everyone, that is where I agree he wasn't too bright, considering his employment. How did the information about his donation become public?

Tom said...

Sarahlynn -

All donations $1000 and above are public record. People have published lists of donors on both sides of the issue.

As far as having family and friends who are gay and still supporting traditional marriage, I think you have to expect consequences. When you work to take away people's fundamental rights, that tends to hank them off.

Employees and colleagues is one thing, family and friends is another. Any friends of mine who supported proposition 8 have forfeited the designation of "friend." Any family members who supported prop 8 would find I have no more desire for contact with them.

Eckern was stupid, thoughtless and cruel to so directly attack a group of people who contribute so deeply to his chosen field of endeavor. I think he will likely have to change careers.

The thing is, you can support traditional marriage and still support civil marriage equality. One doesn't preclude the other. You can still value traditional families while allowing same-sex couples to have full civil equality.

But it's impossible to advocate treating people differently under the law and then claim you love them equally. Just doesn't fly. Scott Eckern found that out the hard way.

Nate and Jessica said...

I think it is sad that people are now conducting a witch hunt to punish and embarrass anyone who didn't vote the way that they wanted them to. I know that both sides are responsible for some pretty stupid and hurtful things, but I think this has gone way too far. People have made huge banners that say "F**k Mormons" and are hanging them from their houses. Websites have been put up to try to get people to sign a petition to get the mormon church's tax exempt status taken away. People are threatened when they go to church. For a group that claims to stand up for tolerance, acceptance, and doesn't seem like it goes both ways.

You know, the mormons are being singled out as the ones responsible for prop 8 passing and I think that is what is stupid. We are just an easy target. People want to claim that we don't see gays or lesbians as equals or full citizens because we support traditional marriage. I do see you as equal, and I see a domestic partnership as equal to a marriage. I keep hearing you say "seperate but equal doesn't work in America," but why not? So marriage is definied between a man and a woman. Find a term to describe the love between people of the same gender and call it that. Why can't we find a solution that everyone can support. Instead of fighting and calling each other evil, getting people fired from their jobs, and protesting churches, we should get together as a group and really fight for equality. Not just equality in California, but equality accross the country. We should work together in those states where a homosexual can still get fired from their job for being gay. We should be fighting together to make sure that every state gives gay people the same rights as straight people. Why can't we find a compromise that each side can agree on.

Many mormons, and many religious people in general do see you as equal, but also support the traditional form of marriage. So lets find a compromise and meet in the middle. It doesn't matter if the term marriage is written into too many laws. If enough Americans get together, we can do anything and we can change those laws to include the term for same-sex marriage. So if religious people are set on having the term marriage be between a man and a woman, let them have it. The name isn't what matters, it's the rights and the love that go along with it. I believe in traditional marraige, but I want you and every other same-sex couple to have the same rights as me. There has to be a way to make the majority happy.

If the Mormons, the Catholics, the African American community, the Gays & Lesbian community, etc. all got together under one general idea, that is when you will get a peacefull change that doesn't bring hate.

Tom said...

N&J -

I'm mostly with you. I'm not a fan of the scapegoating that's going on. There are plenty of people responsible for the passage for Prop 8 -- including the gay community, which was too fractured and too apathetic until it was too late.

However, the LDS church played a HUGE role in the passage of this awful bit of discrimination. If "marriage" is just a word, why can't people of faith do the compromising and realize one word can have two meanings? No one "owns" a definition. It's not like a brand. It doesn't fall under intellectual property laws.

That said, if we can work it out so that a new form of civil union is created that ALL couples -- same-sex or opposite sex -- must enter into to gain the legal benefits of marriage (and to take on its legal responsibilities), then I could live with that. Grandfather in all existing "marriages" so they would be valid under this new law and then move on. Separate the rite of marriage from the civil aspect of attaining a license for it. After all, states issue birth and death certificates, but they don't officiate at baptisms or funerals.

Why isn't "separate but equal" OK? Because it NEVER works out that way. This is America -- that's simply not the way we do things.

Marriage equality is coming in this country. It's a simple matter of demographics: young people have overwhelmingly come to realize there is no reason to deny it. So in 2010 or 2012 or 2014, Proposition 8 will be repealed. People will have seen that the marriages performed in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey (those states will likely approve marriage equality through legislative action in the next two years) and the 18,000 performed in California do not affect traditional marriage, and that the moral sky has not fallen.

What's more, the Supreme Court could rule -- as it did with Colorado's Amendment 2 -- may strike down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.

Jessica (I think it's probably you), I truly appreciate your openmindedness on this issue, and your desire to achieve an equitable solution. That is very admirable. And as I said, I agree with you that there's too much "hatelash" going on. I'm ashamed of some of things our community is doing, as I said in this post. But I understand the motivation behind the admittedly bad actions. The straight community, of which Scott Eckern is simply a one-man microcosm, didn't realize how important this issue was to us. How could you? We certainly didn't act as if it was so vitally important. As one commentator wrote, where were all these marchers when he asked them to volunteer for the No on 8 campaign? Too caught up in their own lives to step up and do something important for their broader community. I went to the wedding of friends six weeks before the election and ran into a gay acquaintance there, a very successful business man. I hit him up for a donation, but he was "donating to my 401K". He couldn't be bothered to volunteer, either. You probably know some LDS folks who opted out of working on the Yes side, but it didn't directly affect their lives the way it does ours, does it?

There is a huge action planned for Saturday, nationwide. This issue is not dead yet. No fight for equality is until equality is achieved.

Nate and Jessica said...

Tom--Prop 8 is something that I've been very passionate about. It breaks my heart every day to keep hearing about all the horrible things going on. Maybe I'm naive, but there has to be a better way to work things out here. There has to be a way that these two opposing groups can find a way to communicate with eachother, see where the other side is coming from, and find a peaceful solution. I'm all for finding a way to do that. Are you? If so, email me.