The NYT has a story today about a North Carolina business that has suffered because of its stance in favor of gay marriage, leading up to the recent Amendment One vote there. Excerpt:

Hostile letters and e-mails poured into the company from customers canceling their business and demanding to be removed from its e-mail list. “I understand that your company donated $250,000 or so to the effort to ban the marriage amendment,” read one. “I am very concerned that with an increased visibility and acceptance of the gay and lesbian lifestyle, one of my children, who would have grown up and been happily married to a husband, could be tempted to the lesbian lifestyle.”

Another read: “I was excited to see your wares and expected a pleasant shopping experience. Instead I was accosted by your political views, which I do not share. It was very uncomfortable and unpleasant browsing with all those signs and T-shirts against amendment one, to the point where I had to leave.”

A third said, “Money you used to support this opposition came from my many purchases from your company and that is not O.K. with me,” adding, “I will look for my replacement pieces elsewhere.”

Several writers seemed more sad than angry. “Visiting Replacements Limited has always been one of my favorite treats,” said one. “I had the privilege of experiencing your beautiful store firsthand,” began another. Both said they would never return.

This goes both ways, of course. You will remember that in California, which is as socially liberal as North Carolina is socially conservative, business and individuals who supported Proposition 8, the referendum that successfully rolled back same-sex marriage (for a while, until the courts intervened), suffered in the same way. Remember the L.A. Mexican restaurant El Coyote, whose owner contributed $100 to the pro-Prop 8 campaign, and was subject to a boycott after that? It wasn’t just them, said the L.A. Times:

Bob Montoya, a manager at El Coyote, said customers have called and threatened to boycott the restaurant, but it does not appear to have affected business. Montoya said he thought a boycott, if one was called, was misguided, as the restaurant has a number of gay employees and has always been gay friendly.

“I”m gay and I work here, and I’ve been here for 31 years,” Montoya told The Times. “It’s gay friendly. People have been coming here for many years, gay and straight, families and everybody.”

Word of the boycott has spread around websites and Facebook. “We should put our money where our mouth AND support is AND NOT AT EL COYOTE,” says a posting on one activist’s website.

The Times also received a letter threatening a boycott of an El Pollo Loco whose owner apparently contributed to the Prop. 8 campaign.

Sonja Eddings Brown of ProtectMarriage.com said the boycott threats have extended beyond eateries.

“We have received calls today from our members in Greater Los Angeles and other parts of the state indicating that today their businesses are being hurt because they contributed money,” she said. “People who contributed have been receiving calls from people dropping their business with them.”

And remember the controversy at the California Musical Theater in Sacramento? A Mormon management executive there, Scott Eckern, had given $1,000 to the Prop 8 campaign, prompting a boycott call of the entire theater from gays. After making a groveling public apology, he still had to resign. According to the NYT story:

The Web site antigayblacklist.com published a list of data from electiontrack.com of anyone who contributed more than $1,000 to Yes on Prop. 8. The site calls for activists not to patronize the businesses for which donors work.

So yeah, this thing goes both ways. Don’t forget that. Though I favor traditional marriage, I wouldn’t cease to patronize a business whose owners took the opposite stance. I believe boycotts are certainly a morally licit form of political protest, but I think you have to have a pretty damn high bar to clear before you set out to ruin a man or a woman’s livelihood because you don’t agree with their political views.

People love to say, “I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” But they don’t mean it.

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