A popular insurance company pays a great deal of advertising money to let everyone know that they are in fact “our good neighbors.” They populate commercial after commercial with cheery, miraculously at-your-service agents who care about their clients above all else. While I am sure their real agents are customer relations friendly, the reality is they are likely no more so than any other public facing company. The associates, employed by the company, who personify saintly best friend types the most, are the actors in the ads.
The truth is, customers are not important loved ones in the lives of service people. We are, at best, friendly, tip-paying, lucrative transactions. We don’t represent go-to shoulders to cry on, we represent income, and even the warmest heart moving gesture is a business decision.
Likewise, as consumers, we are not buying advice, approval or input from those serving us. The cashier at the local grocery store is not our equal partner in deciding how we feed our family and whether we are good parents or not. He or she does not get a vote in how we run our lives, instead, we look for that person to treat us professionally and with equal courtesy as they would all others.
Proponents of the conservative “Religious Freedom” strategy would have us believe differently. To them, a Christian business person is not only beyond a transaction based relation, they are an intimate who should have a personal say, and commentary on the lives of their LGBT clientele, lives in which most would say the business person has no stake. This “commentary” usually comes in the form of rejection, judgment and the refusal of service. It is rude, and it is humiliating.
In some of these cases, these behaviors are not only mean-spirited, they are illegal and go against local non-discrimination laws. Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Washington, just lost in her bid to discriminate against two gay men wanting to marry. Her flowers had been sentimentally important to them in their romance, and her rejection soured their betrothal.
Others are legal, but wrong. In a recent case a pediatrician, Dr. Vesna Roi, rejected lesbian moms and their baby as clients. She had been vetted and the couple felt protected and validated, then she shamed them for being who they were as parents. The family had no legal protection due to a failure in Michigan’s laws. Such actions are legal in most states. Arkansas and Indiana have recently made moves to not only make sure discrimination is legal; they have taken steps to encourage it.
Refusing service to LGBT families when it happens is cruel and demeaning. The couples it happens to are blindsided. The rejection seems to be rigged like stink bombs going off in the moments that should be positive milestones in the family’s experience.
My letter to two who felt it was their place to degrade LGBT families:
Dear Doctor Roi and Florist Stutzman,
At this point, you have each served dozens of individuals, if not hundreds. Some of those you feel personally about, and intimate — they feel like friends. Others, the doctor needs to check their file to remember details, and the florist knows no more about them than their credit card number.
Looking back to the day when you each decided to work with the public. I have to assume that you went into business to bring happiness, comfort and a high level of satisfaction to whomever stood before you.
Instead, you have gained infamy for doing the opposite. You both behaved in completely heartless ways, and worse, called on Jesus Christ to justify it.
Your rationalization is as disappointing as your actions themselves. You, Dr. Roi stated that you “prayed on” your decision to reject. It is sad that Christian theology has earned a reputation as being supportive of your lack of decency even though the Christ behind it dictated “loving ones neighbor as yourself,” and to do no harm to little children. He made these pronouncements in between the times he was admonishing people for judging others.
Ms. Stutzman, you claim that the act of selling a couple flowers for their commitment to marriage and declaration of life long love violates your “freedom to honor God doing what you do best.” You earned money from the couple as part of their romance and seduction (and presumably sex). That income did fit into your “deeply held” religious principles, apparently. About those transactions you say you “kindly” delivered and “would gladly continue to do so.” Your principles therefore are not against gay sex, they are against life-long love, commitment, honor and responsibility.
While I do hope you re-examine your “logic” behind your actions, I am asking here for something more. I am asking you, and service providers like you, to stop attempting to humiliate LGBT families at the moments that should be the most respected and wonderful of our lives. Quit trying to take away our precious moments.
The Declaration of Independence, as Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore has pointed out, is about a principle that precedes our rule of law. He, of course, wants that principle to be about a God that Roy Moore defines, but his overall point is valid. We each have the human right to pursue happiness in our personal lives, and we do not have the right to attempt to disrupt it in others.
When the Supreme Court of Massachusetts became the first judiciary to declare same sex marriage a constitutional right, they did so by making a significant observation. They pointed out that in a person’s lifetime, the spouse that person chooses is one of the most profoundly, self-determining actions that an individual can take. Likewise, as we go through the process of bringing our families together, the decisions around the details of marrying including the right flowers, the right cakes, the best photography are all integral to the fabric of the memories we are creating. Those things may seem superficial, and in truth they ARE superficial to observers, and they have likely been so to YOU in most of your professional transactions. They are NOT superficial to the people involved. The young men wanted your flowers because of the role your arrangements played in their romance. Your flowers did not bring meaning to the men and their love, their love brought meaning to your flowers.
Likewise, Dr. Roi, every first event with a baby is golden to new parents. The first laugh, the first burp, and especially the first forays into parental responsibility, the first doctor visits. Both my sons were adopted out of the foster care system, and all our “firsts” were done with a back drop of pretty dire and dramatic events. Even with that, the moments were precious as we took on the profound understanding that these little lives were completely dependent on us, and the most important responsibilities we would ever have. A pair of lesbian moms came to you, screened you, and extended you trust in their journey of parental responsibility. Their coming to you did not validate their parenthood, their patronage of you validated you as being worthy of trust.
God did not bring these couples to you so you could judge them. His intention was for you to experience your humanity by serving them. He intended to give you the gift of bearing witness to significant moments in their lives. His intention was to enrich you,
He failed. And, in being the professional you intended to be, so did you.