Are We Being Bullies? Debate Rages Over Boycotts

by Steve Weinstein
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Nov 25, 2008

On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Scott Eckern, the long-time artistic director of Sacramento's oldest and most important theater group, resigned under pressure after it was revealed that he had donated to the Yes on 8 campaign.

On Tuesday, Nov. 25, Richard Raddon, the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival, decided to resign because of pressure from gay bloggers and others incensed over his donation to Yes on 8--this despite his popularity in Hollywood and what many said was a firm commitment to diversity.

These are only the best-known examples of people--all Mormons--who have been "outed' as supporting the successful campaign to pass an amendment to California's state constitution banning gay marriage.

The campaign to weed out anyone who remotely has any connection to, or makes money from, gay consumers has reached far down the food chain. Marjorie Chrisofferson manages El Coyote, a modest (some would use more perjorative terms) Mexican restaurant on the West Side of Los Angeles that is popular as a late-night rocker and gay hangout.

When it was found that she had donated to Yes on 8, there was a slew of angry bloggers and L.A. activists who called for a boycott of the restaurant. At a hastily called news conference, as reported by Queerty, the manager of El Coyote promised a generous donation to Lambda Legal and L.A.'s LGBT Center.

When Chrisoferson came forward, she was asked if she would donate to No on 8. When she said she could not and started to cry, the meeting generated into chaos. While Eckern and Raddon had donated four figures to the campaign, Chrisofferson's was less: She had given $100.

A Civil Rights Issue or a Free Speech One?
Such scenes are causing some hand-wringing among gay activists. The Los Angeles Times' Rachel Abramowitz and Tina Daunt wrote a story published on Nov. 23 that generated discussion. The two interviewed several well-known Hollywood gay creative types and others.

There was no consensus. Gregg Araki, one of the founders of "the new queer cinema," was unapologetic in his insistence that this was a fundamental battle of good and evil and that anyone on the wrong side should be fought by any means possible.

"The bottom line," he said of Raddon, "is if he contributed money to a hateful campaign against black people, or against Jewish people, or any other minority group, there would be much less excusing of him. The terrible irony is that he runs a film festival that is intended to promote tolerance and equality."

Bill Condon, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Dreamgirls" and a well-known gay activist, disagreed: ""If you're asking, 'Do we take discrimination against gays as seriously as bigotry against African Americans and Jews?' . . . the answer is, 'Of course we do.' But we also believe that some people, including Rich, saw Prop. 8 not as a civil rights issue but a religious one. That is their right. And it is not, in and of itself, proof of bigotry."

Condon may be accused of divided loyalties, since he is on the board of the governing body that oversees L.A.'s film festival. But Christine Vachon, a venerated figure in gay circles as the producer of movies like "Velvet Goldmine," "Happiness," "Boys Don't Cry," "Go Fish" and "I Shot Andy Warhol," said she "can't quite stomach the notion that you fire somebody because of what they believe. It doesn't feel right to me."

But Patrick Range McDonald, in a response in the alternative L.A. Weekly, painted this as a generational conflict. He makes fun of Condon's reference to the more vociferous gay activists as the "off-with-his-head" crowd, "as if," McDonald writes, "they're a pack of out-of-control crazies."

Gay Rights Goes from Top Down to Bottom Up
Even more than a generational shift, however, some see this as a fundamental shift in the way that the gay rights movement is evolving. The huge protests against the passage of Proposition 8 came about, not top-down, from gay organizations and leaders; but from the bottom up, through bloggers and social-networking sites.

Some see the Obama campaign and the entire evolution of the Democratic Party as a kind of template for this new activism. The "netroots" first flexed their muscle when they propelled an obscure Vermont governor into a serious contender for the presidency in 2004. Even though Howard Dean didn't become president, he did lead the party into the 2008 election.

Barack Obama proved that the Internet was a way to solicit donations, get volunteers, counteract rumors and generate excitement. Similarly, gay activists have used the Net to call for a series of boycotts and to put pressure businesses.

Next: Casting a Wide Net


  • , 2008-11-26 09:23:26

    You radical homosexualists see the kind of moron animating your overwrought outrage? Gregg Araki - who thinks the issue of gay marriage equal to the killing fields of Cambodia or the extermination of the Jews. Kids, this thing is not going to be resolved by running and hiding behind the skirts of the judiciary - it’s ultimately going to be about hearts and minds and if you adapt the stupid and puerile posture of ignorant baby radicals like Araki who envision themselves looking smart in their designer fatigues as they run around acting like junior street warriors, the silly radical game is over. Nor is trying to mainstream homosexuality about co-opting the struggle of blacks. Homey definitely don’ play dat. Witness how blacks themselves responded to your trespass on their heritage. Climbing up from slavery and gay marriage are not morally equivalent and only self-indulgent vacuous idiots like Gregg Araki believe it to be so. Those who actually know something of the world and don’t have their heads up their asses know that gays in the United States enjoy a visibility and celebration unknown almost anywhere else on earth. Playacting at militantism, destroying people’s lives with boycotts and campaigns of terror is going to make millions of new enemies for a group that throughout history has needed all the friends it can get. And you’re going to need them again. This pouty spoiled brat nonsense needs to end. Now.

  • , 2008-11-26 09:56:33

    It’s not about punishing people for their religious beliefs. It’s about not contributing to our own oppression by giving them our time, money and resources.

  • , 2008-11-26 10:37:16

    "Our own oppression?" Go down Moses - Way down in Egypt land - Let my people go. THAT kind of oppression? Gays celebrated in media, on television, our opinions sought, our company delighted in. Oppresion? Good God, child, would you get some damned PERSPECTIVE? What a vain, spoiled brat, childish thing to say. Oppession. Go visit Malaysia, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Malawi, Tibet - them come talk to us adults about "oppression." Jesus, you have no fucking clue just how good you have it. Oh wait - you can’t have GAY MARRIAGE so you’re OPPRESSED. My god, what a simp.

  • , 2008-11-26 11:44:28

    Very good article Steve, since it touches on the very important issue of new thinking replacing the old school of thought and the devout loyalists who are clearly unwilling to give up the power to allow a new way of doing things to be brought to the forefront. As bitter as this movement might seem to those status quo followers, it describes one word, "CHANGE". Personally, I think that the movements could have been undertaken a bit more peacefully, however, I clearly understand the hurt and the anger of those in the GLBT community when they find that some of our very own have not supported us. Unfortunately this is a growing problem among successful corporate and political Gays and Lesbians who have bought into the "straight" model of "get ahead for yourself and enjoy the fame and successes like us and to hell with the rest of "those" people......." . I feel that this movement should extend further towards those successful Gay and Lesbian corporate, political and business people and hold them accountable for not doing their jobs to support the rest of us and to replace the "leadership" who is doing nothing but riding the celebrity gravy train to make a name for themselves. To them I say its time for you to go so that some all-INCLUSIVE people can get in there and finally get things done. Perhaps then, we wouldn’t have to organize from the ground up to get our voices heard.........

  • , 2008-11-26 12:10:47

    Why should gay people give their hard earned money to the ones who use that money to discriminate against gay people?

  • , 2008-11-26 12:42:58

    Then don’t give your hard earned moneyh to the ones who use that money to "discriminate" against gay people, but when you threaten and actually harm the livelihood of their employees who turn around in anger afterwards and vote against gay interests so that things like Prop 8 win even larger majorities, then let’s see what brilliant tactics you come up with then. What? Maybe urban warfare? Pipe bombs?

  • Rico, 2008-11-26 13:20:30

    11:44. Listen, kid. Those "devout loyalists" of the GLBT community who hold powerful positions owe you and your agenda nothing. They, as Americans, are free to think and behave as they please within then law. Nor does every homosexual have to run around screeching and pumping their fists in the air about "gay marriage" or otherwise hand in their pink membership cards to you. The very notion of you "holding them accountable" because they don’t support the agenda of the radical fringe of the GLBT world goes beyond laughable - it is impotent. Those people have positions of power because they have achieved. That’s how you get there, not by being young, dumb and full of cum and imagining you just waltz in and "take over" things. When you have achieved something beyond writing anonymous letters to EDGE, perhaps you too will wield some influence, but right now you’re just a kid pretending he’s a big time revolutionary and making grandiose pronouncements. It’s tedious.

  • , 2008-11-26 18:33:35

    13:20, I am extremely disheartened that your posting exemplifies the very issues of bullying tactics displayed in the title of this article, the very same tactics which prevent our community from becoming united to have leverage over legislation........ I’m not sure of the power you are trying to "achieve" here.......

  • , 2008-11-26 19:58:59

    "Young, dumb, and full of cum." What an enlightened view of the gay community.I am so sick of hearing about the "gay agenda." Since when is wanting to be given the same rights as the rest of the citizens of your country an "agenda"? I will agree that the plight of GLBT americans is not analagous to that of african americans (in actuality it is probably most similar to the fight for women’s equality) but it is frustrating when you witness another minority that you support not willing to support you. It’s besides the point anyway--prejudice and oppression are what they are no matter how comparable they are to other instances of such. It doesn’t make them any less valid.We’re celebrated in the media (by some,) as long as we are willing to be campy expressions of what society at large thinks all gay people are. Our opinions are sought (by some,) but they’re outrageous or moronic unless they agree with the majority opinion. Our company is delighted in (by some,) as long as we don’t expect to be deemed equivalent as human beings to those enjoying our company. I am naturally very much a lover, not a fighter, and don’t get any joy from hearing that people like Marjorie Chrisofferson are crying over their decisions. But bigotry in the name of one’s beliefs is still bigotry. Religion has been used to justify innumerable mistreatments of people throughout the ages, and it seems we rarely learn much from history. It seems that it takes a minority really expressing some outrage through "radical" action to get people to start seeing what they are doing to fellow human beings.

  • , 2008-11-26 20:42:40

    Boycotts have nothing to do with freedom of speech. No one is suggesting the government should prohibit bigots from speaking their minds; rather, we are saying that bigotry has consequences. That said, love always wins. Treating our persecutors with respect is the shortest path to mutual respect.

  • , 2008-11-26 20:51:21

    There’s not really a lot of difference between boycotting anti-gay businesses and focusing on pro-gay businesses, is there? And our free (consumer) speech is triggered by their going beyond free speech and taking direct action that affects us (and, ironically, not them at all). If they have the right to express themselves by taking away our rights, then we are at least equally justified in not not giving them our discretionary retail business. No one’s free speech is being limited on either side of this debate. In fact, they got to turn their religious speech into law, so they still aren’t anywhere near suffering the consequences of free speech that we are.

  • , 2008-11-26 21:52:37

    We’re not the bullies, we’re the bullied. Bullied under the guise of protecting family values, traditional marriage and religious beliefs. I have as much pity for Marjorie Chrisofferson and her crocodile tears as she has for the thousands of couple’s whose rights she helped squash. And freedom of speech is not being compromised, the Yes on 8 crowd spoke loud and clear and so will my money. I have the right to support which ever business I see fit. Or what, did we loose that right too?

  • , 2008-11-27 09:04:34

    Christianity lost slavery. Christianity lost alcohol and women. They lost abortion and now they are going to loose homosexuality. What a bunch of loosers.

  • , 2008-11-27 10:51:04

    I beleive that if it is a regulious issue that stright people hide behind than lets start taxing the churches . I pay taxes and have my rights taken away by the non tax paying churches . Than I say , They pay! and I will shut up . otherwise give me my rights as the consitution gives me . IAM " WE THE PEOPLE" .

  • , 2008-11-27 10:53:04

    Funny how things get to this point, the Gays want to be accepted, but don’t like it when some others say they don’t want to back something that they are not confortable with. People who work for a living and have business to support them and others also have rights. The Gay Community needs to either learn to respect others, or go back into their closets and grow up a little more. Just keep doing what you are doing as Gays and pretty soon, you will have no one helping you, and no I don’t believe you are right, but I do believe in freedom, as long as it doesn’t take away the freedom of others, which you do when you start boycotting business’s that are run by good people! Have a happy Thanksgiving!

  • , 2008-11-29 12:36:34

    I support gay rights. My boss is gay and is one of the most mature skillful and level headed bosses I’ve ever had. He and his partner just got married before Prop 8 was voted in. I was thrilled for him.That said I cannot support vilifying and attacking people for their beliefs. That is not the way to bring people around. I think the prohibition against gay marriage is wrong. I will not attack you for your beliefs. I will try to talk to you reasonably. However, I do understand that some people’s religious beliefs prohibit them from supporting gay marriage. I hope, with time, discussion, and being exposed to gays who are out, that we can move beyond our divisions and our limitations and lack of knowledge, and embrace all people equally. However,I believe a lot of the language used in these comments will only polarize. Yes, march in behalf of gay rights. Yes, give speeches and money for organizations that lobby and educate. Yes, boycott businesses. But do not use hate speech, nor try to crucify people for their beliefs. This woman who donated $100 clearly felt strongly about this issue. I believe her belief is wrong and hurtful. I do not believe she should be vilified for it. How do you bring people around to your side ? By calling them jerks and stupid? Anyone knows that will not work. So let’s discuss these issues with an eye to changing opinions. Unfortunately, I think the presidential campaign overshadowed Prop 8. I gave all of my energy and money to the presidential campaign and for that I am sorry. I did not think Prop 8 would pass. I hope we will revisit the issue, and I can give my voice and my time to making sure all people have equal rights, and that we continue to ensure the separation of church and state. Religion has done more damage in this world than any other single movement or political system or ideology. Let’s keep religion out of our government.

  • Rico, 2008-11-30 10:09:56

    Just as you cannot have a driver’s license if you insist on sitting in the back seat and facing the rear window, so you cannot have a marriage license if you will not take a person of the opposite sex. That is the law. At present. Marriage is not a "right," it’s a license. Even so, society was working towards an accommodation with the notion of civil unions, a notion that had it been allowed to mature might have brought all such licenses, including those of straight into equality by recognizing that "marriage" ia s holy sacrament, and that "union" is a civil registration for civil benefit. But no, a petulant and spoiled bunch of radicals decided to invade the religious side of the equation with the insistence on "marriage" and in so doing brought upon itself a religious war unnecessarily. Look at the hate filled comments above deploring religion and the religious. That, my dears, is a loser. You call religious people stupid, bigoted, and unenlightened, then you attack the majority of humanity. Some moron above demands we even tax the churches - that person would throw out the United States Constitution just so’s he can "marry" his boyfriend. How far do you think you’re going to get with that?

  • , 2008-11-30 23:49:30

    The fact that marriage should be for all notwithstanding, it would be less of a big deal (to me, anyway) if civil unions were at least legally equal to marriages. They are not. There are legal rights given to married couples that are not given to those joined in a civil union. I wonder if proponents of civil unions rather than marriage even realize that.

  • Gabe Coppinger, 2008-12-02 16:06:44

    When my parents found out I was gay, they cut me off completely. I lost my family. When was the last time a black person lost their family for coming out black? I take offense when a spoiled gay person who was lucky to have been born into an accepting family (a minority, if you’re from my neck of the woods) tells me I have no right to compare my struggle and the discrimination I’ve faced with that of blacks or Jews. Give me a BREAK.

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