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You don't have to pounce on every less-than-pro-gay retailer, anti-gay conservatives!

by Jeremy Hooper

A lesbian couple in Canada went to a jeweler to purchase a pair of wedding rings. After a pleasant transaction, the couple put down a deposit and the jeweler began work on the rings. A short time later, a friend went to the same jeweler and discovered a posted sign that read, "The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let's keep marriage between a man and a woman."

Both the couple and the retailer agree that both parties were polite throughout their dealings:

The lesbian couple say: "They were great to work with. They seemed to have no issues. They knew the two of us were a same-sex couple," [Nicole White] said. [CBC]

The retailer says: “They’ve never been disrespectful in any way, or rude or hateful towards us, and we’ve done exactly the same. We’ve never, ever disrespected them in any way in that sense, directly. I think there seems to be a confusion,” he said. [Telegram]

Both the couple and the retailer believe that the retailer has every right to hold whatever beliefs he wants:

The retailer says: "I have been posting different aspects of my religious beliefs the last 11 years, and I've never had one single problem with any of my customers," he said.

"It seems to be a Canadian right to post what you believe."
The lesbian couple says: "I have no issues with them believing in what they believe in. I think everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But I don't think they should put their personal beliefs inside their business." [CBC]

But both have agreed that a refund is the proper course for reasons that both seem to find understandable:

The lesbian couple: “The ring symbolizes love, and just knowing that that’s the sign that they have up there — every time I look at my ring, yes, I’ll think of us, clearly, but also everything we went through. So I don’t want my ring from there anymore. I just want my refund,” Nicole White told The Telegram Saturday. [Telegram]
The retailer: “We understand now that these attacks have nothing to do with Nicole or Pam they have been really nice and just want their money back to go buy elsewhere so we are giving them their money back.” [Telegram]

It's a very cut and dry situation. I can't imagine any opposite-sex couple would want to spend the rest of their lives with a cherished love token that forever reminds them of controversy. And since the parties came to an amicable agreement, this is actually a pretty good example of how these things can play out. The retailer knows he can't deny goods to paying customers on the basis of sexual orientation, and he never tried. However, everyone now knows where he stands on same-sex marriage and can make future consumer choices accordingly. The lesbian couple is now free to choose an alternative that is happy to serve their love. It's resolved.

Except it's not among anti-gay conservatives in America, who are starting to seize on this Canadian story to score points here at home. Writing for the American Conservative, Rod Dreher is making it sound as if the lesbian couple acted like screaming bigots, and is framing the whole thing as a lose-lose for Christians:

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 At 7.06.02 PmYou understand, of course, that this is not about getting equal treatment. The lesbian couple received that. This is about demonizing a point of view, and driving those who hold it out of the public square. Just so we’re clear about that.

I bought some olive oil not long ago at a tiny grocery store owned by an Arab Muslim immigrant. If I find out that the merchant supports ISIS, am I entitled to declare my jug of olive oil tainted, and demand a refund? Is a fundamentalist Christian permitted to send her osso buco back to the kitchen if she discovers that homosexual hands cooked it? Of course not. Some delicate snowflakes are more delicate than others.

I’m sorry that Esau Jardon gave in to this intimidation, but I suppose if you are a small businessman, you have no choice once the mob turns on you. It does indicate, though, the next phase in the March of Progress. You must not only bake the cake, or arrange the flowers, or make the ring, you must hold the correct opinion when you do it.

FULL: Heads LGBTs Win, Tails Christians Lose [American Conservative]

This is such corrosive way of framing this. Intentionally so, just so we're clear.

It hits all of the conservative staples. Make the gay people seem angry? Check. Make the business owner seem persecuted? Check. Intentionally ignore the fact that some things, like wedding rings, hold a special significance that most everyone would like free of stigma and controversy? Check, check.

In truth, the business owner very much agreed on his own volition (no one forced him) to give the money back. No one involved has anything other than polite things to say about what went down between the two involved parties. Unlike Dreher, the business owner hasn't made any glib comparisons to osso buco or olive oil in order to undermine the symbolism of an engagement ring. Again, this is actually an example of a Christian getting to live out and express his faith and of a same-sex couple getting the understandable choice to take business elsewhere, where no one actually violated the law in doing so. It's the kind of thing that probably happens more than we know all across North America, with resolutions that never make headlines (and therefore never drum up the outside voices who so often muddy things).

I know that conservative Christians of the anti-gay persuasion are on constant lookout for anyway they can sell what they so desperately want to be their "Phase Two" of a culture war battle to which they seem dangerously addicted. But kids, seriously—you're starting to overplay/tip your hand!!

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