[UPDATE: Comment on this post here.]
Ian Reisner, one of the two gay hoteliers facing boycott calls for hosting an event for Senator Ted Cruz, who is adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage, apologized to the gay community for showing “poor judgment.”
Mr. Reisner put the apology on Facebook, where a page calling for a boycott of his properties, the gay-friendly OUT NYC hotel and his Fire Island Pines holdings, had gotten more than 8,200 “likes” by Sunday evening.
“I am shaken to my bones by the emails, texts, postings and phone calls of the past few days. I made a terrible mistake,” wrote Mr. Reisner.
. . . .
Mr. Cruz faced some backlash among conservatives over the event, but it was nothing compared to the criticism both Mr. Reisner and Mr. Weiderpass faced from the gay community.
“I was ignorant, naïve and much too quick in accepting a request to co-host a dinner with Cruz at my home without taking the time to completely understand all of his positions on gay rights,” Mr. Reisner said.
“I’ve spent the past 24 hours reviewing videos of Cruz’s statements on gay marriage and I am shocked and angry. I sincerely apologize for hurting the gay community and so many of our friends, family, allies, customers and employees. I will try my best to make up for my poor judgment. Again, I am deeply sorry.”
Mr. Reisner’s apology came before a scheduled protest march tomorrow evening in front of Out NYC.
It’s tempting to see this purely in the light of thuggery (sorry, Ken White) by the gays who brook no opposition to their views. But in truth, I’m torn on this one, as I often am with threatened boycotts.
On one hand, this business owner caters to the gay community. To the extent that his actions or words offend his clientele, he is alienating his clientele. As for the clientele, they certainly have the right to spend their money where they like, and it’s hard to blame them for not wanting to spend their money at a business that they believe is fighting an issue that is important to them.
On the other hand, the actions to punish Reisner seem to spring from an illiberal impulse: the desire to punish opposite viewpoints rather than debate them, or persuade someone that they are wrong.
Last night I listened to an episode of This American Life, and in one of the stories, a team of activists set out to go door to door and change people’s minds on gay marriage in California. If the reporter in the story is to be believed, they appear to have had some success — but only when the activist was gay and turned the discussion away from abstractions to personalizing the issue in a non-aggressive way that involved a lot of listening. Surprisingly, studies supposedly indicate that the changed attitudes in those cases are lasting and not feigned, though I don’t necessarily accept that at face value.
My main reaction to the story was surprise at the naivete of the activists. Why try to change people’s minds when you can go to the courts and ram the changes down people’s throats?
That is the illiberal way, and boycotts and organized letter-writing campaigns feel more like pressure than persuasion. You might bully people (sorry, Ken White) into claiming they have changed their views — but one wonders whether the claimed change of heart will be genuine or lasting.
Where you come out on this probably depends on whether you think opposing gay marriage is a reasonable view or an affront to decency. Gays and many leftists see it as the latter, and feel perfectly justified in bringing out the big guns of societal disapproval and training them on the offenders. For example, to go straight Godwin on you, who cares about persuading Nazis that they are mistaken? The proper thing to do with them is to denounce them and shun them.
I don’t feel that way about opposition to gay marriage, and I don’t think that Ted Cruz deserves to be shunned. But I think gay citizens should be able to spend their money (and vote) in whatever way they think benefits them.
UPDATE: Ha! Looks like Dana already did a post on this. I am cutting off comments to this post, and encourage you to leave your comments on her post, where the discussion has already started.