The intense, well-deserved flap over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act has produced, as these stories often do, a perfectly satisfying subplot involving Walkerton, Ind.-based eatery Memories Pizza, whose owners stepped up to defend their own right not to ever cater a gay wedding. It’s a great story, because it allows supporters of gay marriage to make vigorous sport of an easy, seemingly deserving target, while the inevitable death threats (from parties unknown) make them the perfect martyr for anti-gay conservatives.
In the former category, Yelp users have completely tanked the restaurant’s average score, and someone else bought the domain name “MemoriesPizza.com,” and turned it into a shrine to dick pizzas (they have since replaced that with a text-only splash page). In the latter, a GoFundMe campaign that has raised over $56,000.00 (allegedly) for the owners.
At a glance, it’s tempting to decide that these folks deserve the non-criminal abuse they’re getting, because after all, they’re the ones who decided to stick their stupid bigoted noses into this issue. That attitude is reinforced by the reporting on this story, which has the eatery “declaring” that it is the “first business to publicly deny same-sex service,” because while they happily serve gay customers, co-owner Crystal O’Connor says, “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no.”
This is orders of magnitude more stupid than it is hateful, because of the narrow subset of people who might ever have their weddings catered by a pizzeria, and the even narrower subset of gay people who might ever want to serve pizza at their weddings, none of them are holding out for the taste sensation that is the Indiana Slice. Even if that mythical pepperoni-stain-loving gay couple existed, they cold easily acquire the pizza by just not telling the O’Connors it’s for a wedding. They never said they wouldn’t cater an orgy, so tell them that’s what it’s for.
But most importantly, it’s stupid because it defies even their own professed belief system, which holds that gay marriage is a sin, and which clearly instructs them to deal with gay marriage the same way they deal with every other sinner who darkens their door: with forgiveness. The provision of pizza cannot possibly constitute an endorsement of behavior, or they’d never sell any pizza. They are just being dicks, and for that, they deserve to be taught a lesson.
Or maybe they don’t, and not just because they’re only being dicks to pretend people who will never exist. This entire “Memories Pizza” controversy comes to us not because the O’Connors put up a sign, or protested a gay wedding, but because some news editor told his or her reporter to go get some good bumpkin reax. Can you imagine any other scenario in which a journalist would say, “Here’s a serious public policy debate, so let’s go get some input from the pizza-slinging community”? That’s what ABC 57 did, as their anchor states in this report, and after scouring the countryside, they came up with one business that supported Indiana’s RFRA law:
“That lifestyle is something they choose. I choose to be heterosexual. They choose to be homosexual. Why should I be beat over the head to go along with something they choose?”
If you’re like me, the first thing you’re wondering is what, exactly, an “X” in a root beer means, and why you would need nine of them. But after that, the fact that these people can’t spell “triple” might have prepped you for their extraordinarily stupid opinions, like those expressed by owner Kevin O’Connor, who equates being paid for a large quantity of his product with being “beat over the head,” and who could go gay any day now because he “chooses” to be heterosexual.
The fact that they are so dumb is all the more reason to forgive them, only in part because they obviously weren’t prepared, and didn’t intend, to become the epicenter of debate on this issue, while the news crew that sought them out definitely did. Even the average non-stupid person lacks the media savvy to know when they’re being used like this, which is why it falls to journalists to show restraint (sorry about the coffee all over your keyboard).
There was nothing preventing these people from giving even marginally thoughtful responses, but it seems patently unfair that opinions which will never affect anyone anywhere have become their ruination, while a bastard like Tucker Carlson gets to brag about people beating up in a gay panic, and is rewarded for it. The more immediately satisfying solution to that contradiction is for Carlson to be ruined, too, but there’s a key reason why he deserves everything Memories Pizza is getting, and they maybe don’t.
Carlson knows better, but the O’Connors obviously don’t, and the best way to teach them a lesson is to follow the words of their Savior even when they don’t: “Forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
The fact of the matter is that our country protects people with all kinds of stupid, horrible beliefs, and there is no way to change those beliefs except by persuasion, which, in the case of gay marriage, often takes the form of acclimation. When someone in the O’Connor clan decides to get gay-married someday, they might even change their minds. The issue here isn’t their dumb-ass beliefs, it is whether or not this country will also protect people from those dumb-ass beliefs.
Update: You really can’t make this stuff up. Conservative radio host Tammy Bruce was on Fox News just this morning telling gay people not to be bullies. She was speaking to literal gay-basher Tucker Carlson at the time.