Jeff Bezos, the Amazon.com chief, is giving $2.5 million to the campaign to defend Washington state’s gay marriage law from a fall referendum. Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer have both given money to the cause as well.
Shockingly, a marriage traditionalist like me will continue to buy books from Amazon, and continue to use Microsoft Word for Mac to work on my own book. Why? Because I like their products and services. That, and I am a tolerant person, and I believe that same-sex marriage is an issue on which people can disagree without removing themselves from the company of decent people. Second, I know that my own ability to participate in social and economic life depends on commercial tolerance from others — a tolerance I can’t expect to have if I don’t extend. Besides, to borrow a description from openly gay Chick-fil-A devotee Antoine Dodson, I believe Amazon.com’s service is bangin’.
Question to the room: Where do you draw the line on giving your trade to someone over a political issue? When I lived in NYC, there were a number of small businesses in my neighborhood owned by Arab Muslim immigrants. My guess is that their views on a number of things I cared about were rather the opposite of my own, but I still bought groceries from them. The only one I boycotted was a bodega in which I observed the owner laughing and smiling an hour after the 9/11 attacks. Didn’t feel right after that to buy anything from him. Otherwise, though, I had no idea what the political and cultural views of these business owners was, and as long as they treated me with respect and sold things I wanted to buy at a fair price, I didn’t care.
For me, the general boycott line comes in matters literally of life and death. I could see withholding my trade from a company that in some significant way funded abortion, but I can’t think of a single instance in which I do that.
UPDATE: Go Andrew Sullivan!:
Intimidating a business because its chairman expresses his perfectly legitimate – if to me, misguided – views, should have absolutely nothing to do with a civil rights movement. Civil rights movements are about expanding freedom, including for those with whom we disagree. The impulse by some well-meaning heterosexual allies to ban or shut down or somehow use the power of the state to police thought in this way is simply anathema to what we ought to stand for. There is no contradiction between marriage equality and a robust defense of the rights of those who oppose marriage equality – including maximal religious freedom and maximal free speech.In fact, it is vital that we eschew such tactics, as they distract from a positive argument that has been solidly winning converts for two decades.