Saturday, November 15, 2008

Boycotting Those Who Supported Prop 8?

A Sacramento theater director resigned recently after patrons learned that he'd contributed $1000 to the Proposition 8 campaign and they threatened to boycott the theater. On a radio talk show soon after, the host and numerous callers, even though many of them opposed Prop 8, expressed sympathy for the director and disagreement with those who sought to punish him for freely exercising his legal right to support a cause in which he believed.

At first, I was inclined to agree with this stance. In fact, I guess I still am. But I've read about this story and done some thinking about it since then, and I'm a little more equivocal about where I stand than I was at first. For one thing, I'm sympathetic to the argument that he earned money from the productions staged at his theaters and used some of this money to support Prop 8. So, how could someone, in good conscience, continue to put money in his pocket that he could end up using to deny people their basic human rights?

Suppose the director, Mr. Eckern, had supported a ballot initiative to constitutionally ban interracial marriage or same-sex couples joining in "civil unions" granting the same rights to them that married couples enjoy. Or imagine that he were a NABMLA member who supported a proposition to legalize pederasty. Would and should we be so quick to sympathize with him and to criticize those proposing to boycott his work from which he earned money to support these dubious causes?

You might say that these hypotheticals, expecially the NAMBLA one, are not equivalent to supporting Prop 8, but if you were homosexual and fervently believed in same-sex marriage, you might well disagree. I'm not gay, but I still have some difficulty comprehending a clear difference between my hypotheticals and Mr. Eckern's support of Prop 8.

So, to be consistent, I'd have to say that I wouldn't boycott someone for supporting a ban on interracial marriage (even though I'm a Caucasian man married to an Asian woman) or for supporting the legalization of pederasty (even though I find pederasty appalling) any more than I would for his supporting a ban on same-sex marriage, despite the fact that it would be my legal right to boycott him for exercising his legal right to use the money he earned from my patronage to support any of these causes. But I'd darn sure want to.

What about you?


Tom said...

A very difficult question. Like you, I'm conflicted. My ideal of free speech butting heads with my ideal of equal rights.

In a photo finish, my ideal for free speach wins out here, however. I tag the voters for making a mistake at the polls, and have to allow Eckern to believe whatever he does and to use his money as he wishes, even if I am not happy with the cause he supports.

So, I end up sitting with that talkshow host and his callers. Not a comfortable spot for me.

Nagarjuna said...

Nor with me, Tom. But I agree with your stance.