As Americans we have the right to free speech, but there is always a consequence to our actions. The debate over Proposition 8 still continues even after voters approved it over a narrow margin of the vote. The proponents are livid that people are finding out through public information that their supporters have donated to eliminate equal marriage for all.
Voting is secret, no one really knows who you voted for unless you yell it around the neighborhood. However political contributions are public record and people have the right to know who donated for and against each measure. The Yes side is not the only victims of political retaliation, even proponents of the anti-gay ballot measures this year have fired employees for either advertising that they voted against the side of the employer or they have contributed on the other side.
When people stood for the side of discrimination and hate the GLBT community and its allies have the memory of elephants. People still remember Anita Bryant and never drank a drop of Coors Beer even today. Today people are refusing to visit Utah, staying at a Hilton instead of a Marriot and refusing to watch a movie at Cinemark thanks to the donations from the Latter Day Saint community that helped to propel Proposition 8.
The donation that Scott Eckern made for Yes on 8 while being a director of the California Musical Theater in Sacramento made the news last week. Eckern’s donation made the news because he is the artistic director in a musical theater, where being in an industry dominated by gay men he does not realize the implications of his decision to donate 1000.00 against people who help make his industry what it is. When you are in a position of leadership or you are the owner of the company you have to make sure you do not alienate the communities you serve. If your store is in a Latino area you do not post signs thanking the Minutemen for patrolling the southern border near San Diego, just as much as donating Yes on Proposition 8 if your business is in the Castro district in San Francisco.
Just as like the Dixie Chicks, conservatives in the heartland had the right to criticize them when they were standing up against the Iraq war effort. If Matthew Cunningham thinks that Scott Eckern should be left alone from any ‘intimidation’, maybe we should of left the Dixie Chicks alone even though many of us thought they were more shrill than entertainment.
Scott Erckern was not just an artistic director, he was an officer of the non-profit organization. When his actions affect the bottom line of the organization where leading playwrights refuse to let him run their musicals at the California Musical Theater, then it is understandable that he was led to resign from his position.
It is ironic that organizations such as the American Family Association uses the same techniques that the No on 8 supporters use. If any business shows any favorable light to GLBT customers, Donald Wildmon will organize a boycott against them and most of them have been generally ineffective. And the Yes on 8 side in October used threats and intimidation as well. Four of the leading organizers of Yes on 8 tried to extort some of the leading donors of Equality California and told them to donate the same amount of money to Yes on 8 else we will spread the word that you are not for the traditional family.
Free speech is not entirely free. The talk show host has to be mindful of his audience and if he slipped up like Don Imus, he would be without of a job. Advertisers have the right not to sponsor the radio show of a talk show host that upsets a major demographic group. The wallet is mightier than the sword, in a weak economy businesses should understand that by alienating their consumers people have the right to take their business elsewhere.