Companies spend a fortune telling us they care about us as customers, they are ‘our good neighbors’ and even our friends.
The truth is, however nice the staff at these firms are, customers are not important loved ones in their lives. We are, at best, friendly, tip-paying, lucrative transactions. We represent income, and even their warmest heart-moving gesture is a business decision.
As consumers we are not buying approval from those serving us. The cashier at the local grocery store is not our equal partner in deciding how we feed ourselves. 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.
Proponents of the conservative ‘Religious Freedom’ strategy would have us believe differently. To them, a Christian business is beyond mere transactions and Christian business people are our intimates, with a personal say on the lives of their LGBTI clientele.
This ‘commentary’ 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 – breaching local non-discrimination laws.
Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Washington State, just lost in her bid to discriminate against two gay men. They had bought flowers from her throughout their relationship and wanted her bouquets at their wedding. Her rejection soured their betrothal.
Others are legal, but wrong. Pediatrician Dr Vesna Roi, rejected lesbian moms and their baby as clients. 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 actually encourage this kind of discrimination.
Here is my letter to Roi and Stutzman.
Dear Dr Roi and Ms Stutzman,
Your job is to serve the public. Some feel like friends. Others, the doctor needs to check their file to remember details, and the florist knows no more about than their credit card number.
I assume you went into business to bring happiness, comfort and a high level of satisfaction to all your customers.
Instead, you have gained infamy for doing the opposite. You both behaved heartlessly, and worse, called on Jesus Christ to justify it.
Your rationalization is as disappointing as your actions. You, Dr Roi stated you ‘prayed on’ your decision to reject. It is sad Christian theology is believed by some to supportive your lack of decency. Christ actually told us to ‘love ones neighbor as yourself,’ and admonished people for judging others.
Ms Stutzman, you claim selling a couple flowers for their marriage violates your ‘freedom to honor God doing what you do best’.
But you earned money by selling the couple flowers throughout their romance. Presumably this seduction included sex, not just floral displays. That income did fit into your ‘deeply held’ religious principles, apparently. In fact, you say you ‘kindly’ delivered and ‘would gladly continue to do so’. Your principles are not against gay sex, they are against life-long love, commitment, honor and responsibility.
I hope you both re-examine your ‘logic’. And I am asking for something more. I am asking you, and service providers like you, to stop humiliating LGBTI families at the moments that should be the most respected and wonderful of our lives.
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-determing actions an individual can take.
The process of bringing our families together – the details of marrying with the right flowers, the right cakes, the best photography are all integral to the memories we are creating.
Those things may seem superficial to observers. Most of the time for you, they are just another professional transaction. But 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 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. We understood these little lives were completely dependent on us.
A pair of lesbian moms came to you, screened you, and trusted you with their baby. 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 so did you.