2 Weeks After Election, No on 8 Tries to Reign In Supporters
Nearly two weeks to the day after the passage of proposition 8 in California, Gay leaders try to reign in supporters who are going after businesses with determined fervor. These efforts have already cost beloved Music Circus director, Scott Eckern his position of 25 years, and he’s not alone in the hot seat. Most recently Leatherby’s Icecream Owner, David Leatherby Jr. has been the focus of local protests:
“At one point, Dave Leatherby Jr. greeted the protesters and shook some of their hands. Leatherby said he doesn’t have any animosity or hatred toward anyone.
“Our vote was not a vote of hate. It wasn’t a vote against them,” Leatherby said. “It was a vote to support something that we though was good. I have no animosity toward anyone.”
Leatherby said since his family’s donation has been made public, they’ve received threats and hate mail.
“Sending mail that said, ‘We’re going to put you out of business, you’re hate mongers, you people are evil,'” Leatherby said. “That was startling.”
In the wake of some pretty ugly events including protests, vandalism, violence and even domestic terrorism, activist gay leaders were surprisingly silent until today. Boycotts targeting individual’s campaign contributions are considered by some to be attacks on free speech. Donor rolls, originally made public for campaign finance purposes have been used by the opposition to target and blacklist those who contributed to proposition 8’s passage. Regarding the use of boycotting to intimidate businesses, there is a question of propriety:
“Organized boycotts in particular to punish that speech does at least raise some questions in my mind under the First Amendment,” said Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition.
“It’s a very, very strong consumer tool, but like anything else, it can be abused,” said Fred Taub, president of Boycott Watch. In this case, he believes it is misused. “This is not a matter of civil rights,” Taub said.
Still silent are our elected leaders and officials who ought to have been first to condemn these excessive tactics, most notably Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dianne Feinstein and other public officials who all came out recently in support of these groups. In a time when California has a declared emergency on it’s hands, both with the fires and in economic security, our leaders are ominously silent in their efforts to heal the rifts of this election.
Beetle Blogger applauds the efforts of gay groups who are now promoting peace, but for many, it comes a day late, and a dollar short.
Stung by passage of a ban against gay marriage, some California gays and lesbians marshaled online resources to promote boycotts aimed at businesses where key executives financially backed Proposition 8.
Leaders in Sacramento’s gay community, however, are urging their supporters not to go in that direction – exhortations that may get drowned out by the online groundswell.
Lester Neblett, executive director of the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center, advocates spending with businesses that support gay rights, as opposed to the kind of protests that targeted the Music Circus and Leatherby’s ice cream.
“The gay community has a lot of discretionary money available to them. They can use this wisely,” he said. “We’re continuing to encourage people to support people who support us. That’s been the word that we’ve tried to get out to the community all the time.”
While acknowledging the pain and anger caused by the proposition’s ban, Outword publisher Fred Palmer said he was against boycotting a business because of an individual’s contribution.
Positive spending, he said, is more effective. “That’s when we can speak the loudest,” said Palmer, who is president of the Rainbow Chamber of Commerce.
Boycotts as political statements have history.
The Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott of the 1950s and the California grape boycott begun in the 1960s are examples. In those cases, protesters targeted abuses of minorities such as segregation and oppressive working conditions.
The current boycotts, however, target people and businesses because of political donations, and these contributions are protected as free speech.
Californians Against Hate, a group founded in Southern California, made use of state databases to produce its own “Dishonor Roll” of donors to the anti-gay-marriage campaign, even before the election.
The group already has spearheaded successful boycotts, including against the Manchester Hotel Group, said Fred Karger, founder of the group and a longtime political activist.
“If people stand in our way,” he said, “there’ll be consequences – economic consequences.”