Help me deal with bigots
October 29, 2008 8:49 PM   Subscribe

My bartender (and his wife) are voting yes on proposition 8 (the amendment to ban gay marriage). Help me figure out an appropriate response to this.

I live in a wealthy bay area suburb. Most of the clientele in this bar are wealthy gays (FYI, I am not). Yes, everyone has the right to choose how they vote (we are a democracy after all). But profiting from wealthy gay people when you oppose their lifestyle seems wrong.

I am thinking about standing outside the bar till Tuesday with a sign saying this bar supports prop 8. Tell me why this is wrong/inappropriate. If you have a better suggestion, I would like to hear that too.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (81 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
And you'll.... stop when they change their votes for you?

Let them vote, then find another bar. Tell them why.
posted by rokusan at 8:59 PM on October 29, 2008


Does your bartender own the bar? If not, picketing the bar doesn't really do him much harm, and it harms the bar's owner, who for all you know is blameless and is opposed to prop 8.

My advice is just let it go. The whole point of having an initiative on the ballot is for the people to express their opinions about what the laws ought to be. You have a right to your opinion; arguably, so does your bartender, at least until the 9th Circuit rules it unconstitutional.

More practically, you should let it go because you can't respond to it in a way that would be a) effective and b) legal. Even if your target owns the bar, there are probably local ordinances that forbid you from picketing on his little patch of sidewalk.

If you must involve yourself, flyers and/or personal conversations with the bar's clientele would probably be more appropriate, more effective, and less likely to involve you with the local cops.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:00 PM on October 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Perhaps you should talk to him before you passive-aggresively do your best to hurt his business. Would you like it if he stopped you earning money because of how you voted?
posted by twirlypen at 9:01 PM on October 29, 2008 [10 favorites]


It seems inappropriate to me because just because the bar tender supports Prop 8, it doesn't mean the owner/his boss does. I do understand where you're coming from, though.
posted by Airhen at 9:03 PM on October 29, 2008


I care what bartenders think.

I would tell him that you don't feel comfortable going to the bar anymore. Maybe write the owner if the owner is not the bartender. I'd let the word out to the other regulars.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:04 PM on October 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I agree with rokusan. You're not going to change their minds, and as others have mentioned you can't be sure who else you'd be hurting by picketing the bar. You can tell the guy that you're finding a new bar because you feel it's wrong for him to profit off gays while opposing their rights.
posted by Nattie at 9:06 PM on October 29, 2008


If he's not the owner, but you really like the bar, just don't tip him and/or buy drinks from him, and tell your friends exactly why. If he is the owner, stop going there and tell your friends exactly why. I don't know what your specific scene is like, but if word got out in Austin that one of the gay bars was run by an anti-gay bigot, that bar would close, and quick.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:12 PM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


When the part-owner of a gay gym in Philadelphia was found to have given sizable campaign donations to the neo-Nazi Rick Santorum, a threat to boycott the business caused the owner to sell his share. So boycotting does work.

If you're not going to be treated like a human being by the bigots of America, taking your dollars elsewhere has shown to effect positive change.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:12 PM on October 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


Whoa whoa whoa.

A number of good issues have been identified.

1. The bar's ownership. Who owns the place? This person is ultimately responsible for the hiring of the bartender and the bar's stance toward its gay clientele. You might want to just pick up the phone and call the bar owner with your concern. "Hi, you may not know me, but I am a regular at your place. I was in there Friday and talked with the bartender about Prop 8, and I was really surprised to hear that he was voting against it - particularly because so much of your clientele is in support and stands to lose their legal status to this amendment. Can you let me know what you think?"

2. The clientele. Do they know about this? How will you let them know? It's perfectly fine to print up 1/4 page fliers with a few facts and share them. Please be accountable and list your name and email address for inquiries.

3. Your alternatives. Where else can you take your business? Is there another neighborhood bar? Are they more gay-friendly? IF so, they should let people know. Do they have a specific outreach ad campaign to that effect? Do they advertise their stance in the bar or on the boards outside? You could let them know you're switching your business to them, and encouraging others to do it, too.

4. Your local press. After exhausting these initiatives, you'll have more information. Maybe you can write to either your neighborhood rag, your city paper, or your local gay media and say " I was surprised to learn that the ownership and staff of Bar A don't support Prop 8, though many in their clientele do. I'm moving to Bar B and hope you will give them your business."

Where gay-rights issues are concerned, the economic incentive is a huge weapon. Gay couples have more disposable income than any other kind of person in an equivalent class. Most establishments should be falling all over themselves to attract this demographic. If there is open political activity at an establishment discouraging gay attendance, owners will want to know. If they're in support of the discouragement, -- good that YOU know now, and can write them off.

You're the consumer, and so are your neighbors. There are plenty of businesses I do or don't patronize based on the owners and staff and their activities and positions. That's local life. It's all in the open. Ask, and act. Be clear about why you're taking the steps you are. You will piss some people off. That's all right.
posted by Miko at 9:15 PM on October 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


[a bunch of comments removed -- CHILL OUT - if you can't answer this question without being snarky or jerkish go straight to metatalk or take a six day nap, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:17 PM on October 29, 2008


[Update from anonymous]

Bartender and wife own the bar.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:21 PM on October 29, 2008


First of all, it's way too simplistic to say he "opposes their lifestyle." While people too often jump on the latest "you're a bigot if you don't agree with the latest progressive cause" bandwagon, keep in mind that most of Western Europe, which is well ahead of the United States on gay rights, has decided that marriage should remain a heterosexual institution - that doesn't make Europeans anti-gay. Many people who have no problem with gay couples think that marriage is about raising children, and that children do best with a father and mother, and that our laws should support marriage as an opposite-sex institution. I AM NOT ADVANCING THIS ARGUMENT SO DON'T DERAIL THE THREAD. I'm just saying that you shouldn't assume the worst about people because you know a little about their political views.

Now, as to why you shouldn't try to ruin someone's livelihood over their political views. Wait, did I just answer the question? What kind of country do you want to live in? Is it one where neighbours erect signs in front of each other's property to denounce their politics? Where businessmen feel afraid to talk to their customers for fear of public shaming? If so, then you'd fit right in in the Cultural Revolution, or maybe some other Communistic nightmare. The desire to use public opinion to bring harm to others for the "incorrectness" of their views has a long and ugly history. When members of the public decide it's their role to publicize the private views of their fellow citizens, civil society breaks down, because respectful disagreement becomes impossible. Your little demonstration is not only rude, it's anti-democratic. Everyone has the right to make up their own mind. And to have their privacy respected. If the business treats its gay clientele equally and with respect, then its owner's or employee's private political views are not your business to make public. You wouldn't like it if you were in some redneck backwater and people put out signs that got you into trouble; don't do the reverse, just because you think you're right. It's discourteous, none of your business, contrary to the values of a free society, and could backfire in ways you can't even imagine.

If it really offends you, stop going to the bar, and when someone asks why, tell them. Other than that, leave well enough alone.
posted by Dasein at 9:22 PM on October 29, 2008 [37 favorites]


Just find another bar. People have the right to vote in accordance with their beliefs; and to live with the consequences. I would not find such a place salubrious - whether the bartender were owner or not.
posted by jet_silver at 9:22 PM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Chill, man. It's not like he voted for concentration camps. I think 90% of the opposition to gay marriage is conservative/fundie wingnut/republican religious based, and the Japanese have an excellent saying for that: 仕方がない -- shikata-gai nai -- it can't be helped.

My advice: if Prop 8 passes just stop going to that bar.
posted by troy at 9:23 PM on October 29, 2008


Where businessmen feel afraid to talk to their customers for fear of public shaming? If so, then you'd fit right in in the Cultural Revolution, or maybe some other Communistic nightmare.

Being coerced to patronize a business that hates you and the one you love, out of fear of offending the one you're paying (!), is the "Communistic nightmare" in this equation. Being able to choose to take your dollars elsewhere is true, Adam Smith-style Capitalism.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:30 PM on October 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


Whether Prop 8 passes or not, stop going to the bar if it bothers you. I tend to be friends with my bartenders, to a limited degree, and if I find one that has politics or habits that gross me out, I don't want them pouring my drinks. No one likes to feel like they're getting sneered at behind their back, and I know in this situation, I would certainly feel that way - their support of Prop 8 would make me wonder what other views they held of gay people, and it would make the place much less friendly to me.

I would also trust my friends to let me know if something like this came to light about the owners of my favorite watering hole, and yes, it would probably spread throughout the community VERY quickly. If it harms their business, so be it - that's what happens when you discuss politics with your customers.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:30 PM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


It seems inappropriate, because you can choose to go elsewhere, as can the homosexuals who visit that bar. You cannot choose for that couple, or for the people giving them business. You can only affect them insofar as your share of the money is concerned; as in, don't go there anymore.

If you want to do something about it, you MIGHT be able to write a letter to your local paper's editor, but it really is hearsay, unless they're publicly expressing all the time how they're going to vote. As frustrating as it is that people might be voting this way, it is their choice. You're not likely to sway them by making enemies with them, by trying to hurt their business.

The best thing you can do is privately inform gay people who are going there. Then it is up to them as to whether they want to continue going or not.
posted by metalheart at 9:37 PM on October 29, 2008


Er, Blazecock Pileon, could you clarify where I or anyone else is coercing anonymous or anyone else to patronize this bar? If he wants to his bartenders to pass a political litmus test, that's his business. But denouncing someone two privately holds incorrect opinions? Yeah, that sounds like one or two Communist societies I've read about.
posted by Dasein at 9:37 PM on October 29, 2008


They are citizens. Respect their right to disagree with you.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:42 PM on October 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


But denouncing someone two privately holds incorrect opinions?

Who said anything about denouncing private citizens? We're talking about a business that appears to make its profits off the backs of a largely gay clientele.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:42 PM on October 29, 2008


There are a lot of people in California who are going to vote in favor of Prop 8, despite having no opinion at all about gay marriage or gays in general.

They're voting for it because they don't like having judges make laws. They're voting for it in order to reverse what they see as an egregious case of judicial activism.

And they have that right.

For decades, gays were subject to social ostracism for their sexual orientation. Now that you no longer have that problem, you're going to ostracize someone who disagrees with you, even though they have a perfect right to do so?

I think it's better if no one ostracizes anyone for thinking or doing something that's perfectly legal.
posted by Class Goat at 9:59 PM on October 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


They run a business. That means they have a public role: serving customers. They have to do that in a non-discriminatory manner. They still have a right to their private views. Or do you think you have a right to investigate and publish the political views of every business person in America? How would you like it if anti-abortion activists started picketing baby-clothes stores run by people who are pro-choice? (If that sounds ridiculous, well, it's just the other side of the coin that makes sweeping judgments about people based on knowing their views on one hot-button issue. You're against gay marriage: you're an anti-gay bigot. You're pro-choice: you like killing babies. Hey, if you want to add to the poison in American public life, go right ahead.)
posted by Dasein at 9:59 PM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I guess I didn't finish that. You ask what you should do.

Not a damned thing. It's none of your business how they plan to vote.
posted by Class Goat at 10:00 PM on October 29, 2008


I don't know whether it's appropriate or legal (as ikkyu2 brings up) to stand outside with a sign. But if you are spreading the word in some way, I would suggest to people that instead of going elsewhere, they donate whatever they would have spent on drinks at that bar between now and Nov 4th to the No On 8 campaign. In particular, No On 8 just initiated a big push for donations between now and midnight on Friday. Put the office number & website on any fliers--or better, maybe call the SF field office ((415) 252-8132) first to see if they have or can set up a dedicated line for donations by phone during bar hours, since time is important and the main line can be hard to get through to. They could just set up a volunteer with a cell phone and give you the cell number.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:02 PM on October 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


Ostracize is a loaded word. Choosing where one does ones business, and the company one keeps, is a different matter.
posted by troy at 10:03 PM on October 29, 2008


Ask him just what other rights he is prepared to take away and from whom and why and why does he think that won't backfire?
posted by Freedomboy at 10:03 PM on October 29, 2008


Or do you think you have a right to investigate and publish the political views of every business person in America?

If a business person sponsors legislation that takes rights away from other living, breathing citizens, that goes beyond voting on laws that deal with, say, issuing bonds for public transportation or new sewer lines.

You're against gay marriage: you're an anti-gay bigot.

If you're against gay marriage and vote yes on Prop 8, you are taking rights away from a gay couple for no other reason — let's face reality — than that they are in a same-sex relationship. That makes you an anti-gay bigot. It's not rocket science.

Hey, if you want to add to the poison in American public life, go right ahead.

Utter nonsense. If the owner and his wife want to be bigots, that is their right. No one is obligated to fund their bigotry. They can keep being bigots on their own dime.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:07 PM on October 29, 2008 [13 favorites]


when you oppose their lifestyle

Opposing the legalization of gay marriage doesn't necessarily mean that the bartender opposes the "lifestyle." If he was opposed to the lifestyle, I doubt that he would be catering to gay people in a bar.

And I would bet that virtually every person who serves you a drink, or prepares you a meal, or sells you a product "opposes" something that is important to you. If you boycotted every business or person or product that was created, inspired, prepared, or sold by someone that you disagree with, well...now that wouldn't be very nice, would it?

It's called society. It's diverse, it's wonderful, it's bone-headed, but it's what we've got.

If the bartender's position is more important to you than whatever else you get from the bar - atmosphere, relaxation, food & drink, etc - then take your business elsewhere. Politely, discreetly.

Two cents.
posted by davidmsc at 10:21 PM on October 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


donate whatever they would have spent on drinks at that bar between now and Nov 4th to the No On 8 campaign.

Do this! And maybe let the bartender know what you're doing and why. I love protests like this, kind of reminds me of people pledging a dollar amount to gay rights orgs for every person who shows up at a Fred Phelps protest.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:30 PM on October 29, 2008


How about asking them why they're voting yes before you do anything? Whilst I see prop 8 as bigotry there might be another reason why they're voting for it.

Once you ascertain this you'll be able to act accordingly, although I think that the reasonable thing to do, if you don't like their answer is to find another bar and tell your friends why.
posted by ob at 10:32 PM on October 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


If it were my local, I would not continue to patronize it, and I'd tell the bartender why.

Now that you no longer have that problem, you're going to ostracize someone who disagrees with you, even though they have a perfect right to do so?

What? I'm ostracizing someone if I choose not to patronize their business because I disagree with the owner's political views, or their idea of what constitutes good service, or quality merchandise, or whatever other reason I choose not to shop there? Absurd.

You get to pick who gets your money, and why. They're offering something (beer, and a place to drink it), and you have every right to not go there for whatever reason you like, just like they probably "reserve the right to refuse service" to anyone. So, tell them why, explain to your friends (if you want to - I would), and take your cash and liquor-drinking skills elsewhere.
posted by rtha at 10:34 PM on October 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


I retained my voting rights in California specifically to vote on this issue. Gay rights is a subject I am passionate about. I voted an emphatic NO on my ballot, I encourage my California friends to do the same.

That said, this country is one built on democracy. It is their right to vote for whomever or whatever they wish. Are they voting against basic human rights? Yes. Are they voting on an issue that should not even BE an issue in America? Yes. The point is, however, that they are voting in a country that allows them to voice their opinion. I cannot help (with all the same fervency I believe gays should have the same rights all people do) but believe wholeheartedly that they deserve that voice.
posted by thatbrunette at 10:38 PM on October 29, 2008


If you do initiate a "why are you voting yes?" conversation with your bartender, maybe have a look-see at no on prop 8's FAQs for some handy arguments/pointers? Could be the poor guy's just drunk, and doesn't realise he's being a bigoted homophobe ;)
posted by tamarack at 10:51 PM on October 29, 2008


BP, from the talks I've had the pro-8 people don't want to condone the gay lifestyle since they think it is anti-biblical and thus wrong for society to encourage, over time turning our society away from its traditional moral strengths and into 1920s Weimar Germany or something.

This is a moral/religious issue being brought into the political plane. It's useless arguing about it, privately or publicly. We've just got to let the chips fall where they will.
posted by troy at 11:18 PM on October 29, 2008


Put the word out on Yelp.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:23 PM on October 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


To draw a parallel - if my bartender and his wife were going to vote for Jim Crow laws, while serving black customers at the time, I'd want to know about it too.

Of course he's entitled to his vote, but the fact that his vote shows a basic bigotry in supporting taking away human rights from his customers - that would mean I wouldn't want to be his customer any more. People get to avoid bars for as reasons as trivial as they support the wrong sports team, how the hell should bigotry against your entire existance not be reason for a boycott?

Let your friends know in the bar that the bartender+owner supports proposition 8, by handing out fliers if there's a bunch of them. Then find another bar.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:08 AM on October 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


Let your friends know in the bar that the bartender+owner supports proposition 8, by handing out fliers if there's a bunch of them. Then find another bar.

this gets at the core issue: what's the ultimate goal?

to sway the bartender's vote? - this basically means 'blackmailing' him, or holding your patronage ransom until he votes No. Of course, unless you sneak into the voting booth with him (don't make on a move on him!) you won't know.

to sway the bartender's mind? - i'd venture that picketing and flyering won't help

to 'punish' him for his vote? - then the boycott makes sense

to avoid paying someone whose politics you find deplorable? - just pick up and find another bar. why bother even explaining it to him? will he really change his politics because he now knows you want him to? if he does say he'll change his politics - is this in any way genuine? does that matter?

in short, i'd identify what the ultimate goal is here before proceeding
posted by prophetsearcher at 1:51 AM on October 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'd draw a distinction between voting and funding; if they gave money to this cause I think I'd spread the word the best I could, be more interested in public or group action, and I would stop going.

If they're just voting for it, I think I'd stop going to the bar and leave it alone and I'd be open about why. I grew up in a crap area with lots of bigotty bigots, so I avoid surrounding myself with that kind of crap as an adult. It's one of the best things about being a grown up. (So--either way, I'd stop going there.)

I am not in a position, time-wise, to picket anything or put up flyers. I'm lucky I'm wearing pants. Also, it's not something I'm proud of, but I'm not that kind of person. Protests and groups in general make me uncomfortable (it's the group-think thing, I always feel weird about it, regardless of the quality of thought the group has.)

But yeah, I think corporations are worthy targets of political action when their actions exceed the reasonable reach of ordinary citizens because they have influence or gave a lot of money, or spoke out beyond the reach of their own personal, individual votes.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:01 AM on October 30, 2008


I don't think you've really given us enough details here. How do you know he supports Prop 8 - what did he say? Is there any chance you could have misunderstood? How do you know his wife also supports it? Do you know why? Does he actively seek gay customers?

I would say that it's your right to avoid the bar, just as it's his right to vote whatever he wants. You don't know his reasons for supporting Prop 8 - Class Goat made an excellent point.

I would find your picketing very... icky. Would you like him picketing your place of business because he personally disagreed with your politics?

I'm not sure what to advise. I can understand why you're upset, but I personally don't think picketing his bar is the best course of action. Have you tried having a non-judgemental conversation with him?
posted by badmoonrising at 2:27 AM on October 30, 2008


What should you do? Have another drink. At a different bar. But first, quiz the bartender on her political views and make sure they do not repulse you. If I were you and I thought like you sound like you think, I would quiz the gas station attendant too before he pumped my gas, the waiter at the restaurant I eat in needs to be vetted before I accept his service as well. We should probably test for intelligence too but that is another issue. Maybe you could turn this into something profitable too. Start a service whereby your clients tell you their political views and what services they want that the owners agree with that view and you could keep a list of the local merchants and their views and match them up for a fee. Take your dry cleaning to Acme dry cleaning, they are in favor of the school bond. What if one of the people answering this question would vote for prop 8? I am not living the dream in California so I do not know enough about it to say which side I am on, but I will state that I do not give a fuck who you want to fuck or which hole you want to fuck in. If you need a piece of paper from the government to legitimize your relationship whether for financial or emotional reasons, let them give it to you.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:04 AM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd go for contentious, but that's just me:

(Government line) Marriage is either a private contract or a government contract. I personally don't want the government in my marriage. Do you? By giving the government the power to define marriage you give them the power to control it.

(Legal line) Its a private contract, and everybody has the right to sign private contracts. You probably just don't want to pay health benefits to gay people.

(Hating is a Moral Failure Line) When it was black people who couldn't sign contracts (did you know that black people couldn't get married back in the day?) that was racism. So you are a homophob. So what. Nothing wrong with hating people, is there?

Play it loose. Watch the facial expressions. One of these will work better than the others, and let the others go to focus on the strongest line.
posted by ewkpates at 4:09 AM on October 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


If the bartender was openly campaigning for Prop 8 (i.e., he posted signs or was publicly quoted on the subject), you might be justified in picketing or speaking out in response.

But all he's done "wrong" apparently is this: he has an opinion on a political issue and will exercise his right to vote on it. There is something fascist about the idea that people are to be publicly ostracized/shamed for their private, personal political opinions.

Sure, it might be kind of backward to fear gay marriage, but unless he's an active participant in the public debate, you're way out of line in picketing or speaking to his boss.

Quit going to the bar if it makes you feel better.
posted by BobbyVan at 5:18 AM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would try to get his perspective first, then try to understand it. Picketing outside doesn't get your point across, that he shouldn't be voting for a ban on gay marriage; it simply hurts him and his owner's ability to earn money. Do you really want to punish him and his wife for their vote or try to convince them that their position is incorrect?
posted by wangarific at 5:19 AM on October 30, 2008


There are a lot of people in California who are going to vote in favor of Prop 8, despite having no opinion at all about gay marriage or gays in general.

They're voting for it because they don't like having judges make laws. They're voting for it in order to reverse what they see as an egregious case of judicial activism.

And they have that right.


Is it just a coincidence that they consider ensuring equal rights to be "egregious" in the world of jurisprudence?
posted by girlpublisher at 5:20 AM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would suggest to people that instead of going elsewhere, they donate whatever they would have spent on drinks at that bar between now and Nov 4th to the No On 8 campaign.

Yes! And make sure the bar owner knows that this is happening, of course. This is like the Planned Parenthood "pledge-a-picket" campaign against pro-life harrassment.

It is very bizarre the number of people in this thread who seem to think that people have a right in a democracy to vote how they like and to declare it publicly without anybody else exercising their freedom of speech, assembly, etc, in response to it. This is an inconsistent view of democratic freedom.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:26 AM on October 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


Society is discriminatory: we pick friends and associates on the basis of prejudices and preconceptions. The law ought not to mirror society in this regard: it is only legitimate insofar as it is just.

There's nothing wrong with picking up and moving on. But if you make an issue out of it, turn it into a campaign by picketing, you're politicizing that social relationship. Politics is for making good law, and No on 8 is good law. Using your political energies to campaign against a bartender when there is real injustice in the world is itself unjust. Therefore, you should picket for No on 8, and leave the bartender alone.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:49 AM on October 30, 2008


If you feel better withdrawing your business and telling your friends why, by all means do so. I think picketing is a little extreme.

I mean, given that neither the Obama or McCain campaigns support gay marriage, are you going to picket 95% of all the places you shop at? Are you going to picket Obama's inauguration? No?

I am in favour of same-sex marriage (and am currently in Canada where it's kosher all over), but picketing a single individual for expressing an (as far as I know) legal viewpoint in a democracy seems like a dangerous approach.

The only reasonable approach is to simply take your business elsewhere, and inform the bartender and others why.
posted by modernnomad at 6:05 AM on October 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I feel like I've entered bizarro world.

Boycotting a business is a time-honored tradition, and has been used by the left and the right. I spent years not eating grapes (farmworker's rights) and not drinking Coors beer (Adolph Coors' anti-gay stuff). In past decades, buses were boycotted, lunch counters were boycotted, etc. And it doesn't matter if the bartender is voting against Prop 8 because he thinks straight marriage would be harmed (???) by gay marriage, or because he hates "judicial activism" (code for "judges did something I disagree with!" and used, as far as I can tell, exclusively by those on the political right), or because he thinks the number 8 is unlucky - the end result is that he's voting to take away/deny rights. In fact, he's voting for "special rights"...for straight people.

I don't have strong feelings about picketing in this instance. If I were you, I would, at the very least, tell my (gay) friends/fellow patrons about why I'm changing bars.
posted by rtha at 6:32 AM on October 30, 2008 [8 favorites]


It seems like you can apply the simple "do unto others" rule here. Imagine that a homosexual person was running a successful business in an affluent conservative neighborhood. Some locals discovered the homosexuality, which they believe is morally and socially wrong, then picketed in order to warn their friends about patronizing the business.
posted by defreckled at 6:33 AM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd put it on Yelp in a non-dramatic way. "Owner told me he supported Prop 8." It isn't defamatory or irrelevant, since it's true and it goes directly to their feelings about their primary clientele.

This is capitalism, folks. Right now the guy has access to a pool of money due to the fact that his clientele doesn't know that he is the kind of person who would make time to vote to change his state constitution to remove their rights. That is an inefficiency in the market: he has more info about his clientele on this political issue (which is huge to them) than they have about him. If the inefficiency is addressed by the patron sharing the info, another businessperson will have an opportunity to access that pool of money instead. The owner can of course vote however he likes, and he can be as private about his vote as he likes, but if he chooses to tell his gay clientele how he is voting, they don't have any obligation to treat it as a state secret. Everyone individual affected by the question can use their freedom of speech, and the market can become more optimal.

It used to be the default case that gay bars were owned by people who didn't like queers and saw them as easily-manipulated cash cows. These days, there are way too many unreservedly gay-friendly bar owners of any orientation to waste your Sapphire & Tonic money on a bigot, and you don't have to keep stumm on the topic to make sure he is protected from any negative consequence as a result of the conflict between his beliefs and his business.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 6:38 AM on October 30, 2008 [7 favorites]


I say, yeah, seek a new bar but I think it's important to talk to the bartender, too. Probably you don't convince him of anything, but your calm reasoning (you will be calm, won't you?) and conviction will be a bit of evidence in his brain, filed away with many roughly parallel bits of evidence that are, over time, making the case that that line of thinking is bad. Not because he is scared to lose the business exactly, but because he sees that it is reasonable, estimable, and mainstream to be inclusive and tolerant. He's seen that attitude modeled by people he can relate to (you) and, well, eventually he'll come around and not even realize it.

Of course, some people don't ever change.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:52 AM on October 30, 2008


How do you know their voting plans? Are (were) you friends with them, and they told you? Did they say it in the bar? Is it gossip/rumor?

I think the particulars would change the reaction. If they were/are your friends, I suppose you've already tried to persuade them that prop 8 is wrong, that it's also wrong for them to profit from people whose lifestyle they oppose, and they ignored you. At that point, whether honey or vinegar is appropriate is something only you can know.

If they said it in the bar, or demonstrated it publicly, rally the overhearers or what have you.

If it's rumor or gossip or you didn't hear it first hand, think twice about it. You might be wrong. Someone having a bad day who overhears an off-hand joke devoid of comment and takes it the wrong way can make a big mess of things. It's not always the case, but if you hear rumor or gossip, check it out before doing what you're thinking about doing.

If I was a bartender who was against prop 8, and you stood in front of my bar with a sign and hurt my business (and my feelings!) sufficiently, I'd see this equation: you + false sign + lost business = slander.

Even if it were a true rumor, and I were a jackass bartender* who got irritated, I might see this equation: you + true sign + lost business + I'm the only one who was in the voting booth and the only one who can testify to how I voted* = $$.

4. Your local press. After exhausting these initiatives, you'll have more information. Maybe you can write to either your neighborhood rag, your city paper, or your local gay media and say " I was surprised to learn that the ownership and staff of Bar A don't support Prop 8, though many in their clientele do. I'm moving to Bar B and hope you will give them your business."

Unless you are utterly sure of the bartender's opinions, then this would be a pretty rotten thing to do. If you are utterly sure, consider that this is slapping a "sue me" sticker on your butt and wiggling it. Which is fine if you've got evidence and don't mind a lawsuit. Encourage your local press to look into it, if you want, cause maybe they'll get a quote from the guy.

Even if your target owns the bar, there are probably local ordinances that forbid you from picketing on his little patch of sidewalk.

Sidewalks are public fora. Apply for a permit.


*N.B. - I'm anti-prop 8, anti-perjury, and not actually a bartender. Just so we're clear.
posted by averyoldworld at 6:59 AM on October 30, 2008


Find a new bar, bring your friends with you.



For decades, gays were subject to social ostracism for their sexual orientation. Now that you no longer have that problem


Really? Reaaaallly? Maybe not in, you know, Chelsea or the Castro, but come on. It's not "no longer a problem," even if it's not quite the problem it once was.
posted by liketitanic at 7:23 AM on October 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Considering youre not gay, why do you feel the need to attack these people? You obviously have not talked to them about their motivations. Imagine if one of your boss's friends walked by your desk and saw your Obama sticker and did his best to get you fired. Youre doing the same thing to these bar owners.

I think the principled thing to do falls into two categories:

1. Do nothing.
2. Stop going there.

But profiting from wealthy gay people when you oppose their lifestyle seems wrong.

Is it? Ive run my own business and have worked with businesses that have customers I absolutely hated for various personal political reasons. I didnt see this an excuse to suddenly put my nose in their affairs. Afterall, its just business.

Youre also quick to call them bigots. I think youre misusing the word. I can imagine more than a few scenarios where non-bigots oppose gay marriage that makes perfect sense. Heck, Obama and Biden oppose gay marriage. Are they bigots too?
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:30 AM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Please ignore the people who are saying, "It's none of your business!" or "You're being a meanie for sticking up for basic decency and fairness!" Imagine how straight people would respond if there was an organization that had enough power to credibly threaten to forcibly end their existing marriages and prevent them from ever being able to get married--do you think they'd keep going to a bar owned by a member of that organization? Do you think they'd want to give their money to someone who respected them so little they wanted to use the state as a weapon against them?

I think that it's certainly reasonable (and maybe even ethically required) to somehow inform the gay clients of that bar of the owner's active bigotry. I do think it's also worth thinking about your ultimate goals. If you do want to try to talk with the bar owners, I'd suggest following (Metafilter's own) John Scalzi's advice:

...every single potential supporter of Proposition 8 should be looked square in the eye and asked if they are truly and seriously ready to say that that they personally are prepared to destroy already existing, already legal marriages — if they are truly and seriously ready to say that they know better than the people in a marriage whether that marriage should be allowed to exist — if they are truly and seriously ready to say to two married people, “you two don’t deserve to be married, and I intend to kill your marriage now.”
posted by overglow at 8:05 AM on October 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


I would like to expound on a point that seems to be going largely unaddressed (except by Your Time Machine Sucks) and yet seems relevant to many of the arguments in this thread.

We do not know how the OP knows that the bar owner/bartender supports Prop 8. Let's give the benefit of the doubt to the OP and say that the information is accurate, and was freely provided by the bartender.

Does he have a right to that political opinion and that vote? Absolutely.

Does he have a right to publicize and share that political opinion? Absolutely.

Does he have a right to provide goods and services to the community as a business owner while also having an unpopular political opinion? Absolutely.

But he doesn't have a right to have all these rights, all at once, successfully. The bar owner's right to both have that political opinion and also not have his livelihood affected by having it ended at the point where he shared his opinion aloud. His vote is private in the booth, and he could have kept his intent equally private -- but he chose to voice it. Now he's likely going to experience the cost of that choice.

Same for the hypothetical "Is it fair for a person to be penalized at work for putting an Obama sticker on his desk?" Well, yes. This is America. Yard signs get stolen, and boycotts happen, and cars with the wrong sticker get vandalized. Largely, as a society, we have been conditioned not just to disagree with the opposite political opinion but to actively judge the opinion-holder's worth as a human being. Political preference is not one of the classes protected from discrimination by the EEOC. Supporting an unpopular candidate can affect your life and your workplace. This isn't new.

If one wants to run that risk because one feels that strongly about Political Issue X or Candidate Y, fine -- but it's still a risk. To analogize a popular metaphor from another social issue: the safest political opinion to express in the workplace is no political opinion. The only method with 100% guarantee of no repercussion is abstinence.

So I disagree with any argument based on the notion that it's somehow wrong or un-American to challenge the bar owner's beliefs in any way, including by taking one's custom somewhere else. The bar owner could have kept his mouth shut, but chose not to. His choice, his consequences.
posted by pineapple at 8:12 AM on October 30, 2008 [6 favorites]


I think you should just matter-of-factly tell the bartender why you won't be patronizing his bar anymore, and encourage others to do the same.

(I'm with rtha and Blazecock Pileon -- since when is boycotting inappropriate? This is how capitalism works.)
posted by desuetude at 8:20 AM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


One important piece of info that is missing is HOW the information was passed. Casual conversation between friends? Loud proclamation while drunk? Furtive comment to a guy he thought was on his side, being one of the few straight patrons? The last possibility is the clearest indication that this owner is a bigot and needs to be outed as such. The first is a sign that he may be convince-able, go back and talk to him. In between there's a lot of uncertainty, but I think letting other customers know, without starting a witchhunt of some kind, is totally appropriate. A sign or some flyers or an email list or notice online (Yelp, Craigslist or something) isn't a Communistic denouncement, it's the result of having (public!) political opinions.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:42 AM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


It seems like you can apply the simple "do unto others" rule here. Imagine that a homosexual person was running a successful business in an affluent conservative neighborhood. Some locals discovered the homosexuality, which they believe is morally and socially wrong, then picketed in order to warn their friends about patronizing the business.

Is the business owner is this scenerio selling homosexual services (whatever those may be)? Is he advocating against straight rights (whatever those may be...oh, wait - like marriage)? If the douchy people are picketing his store just because he is gay, then they are douchebags. If they are picketing his store because he is publicly advocating for something they disagree with - cat declawing, criminalization of decorating one's house with velvet Elvis paintings, etc. - then sure, they can picket all they want.

Your analogy fails. The bartender is not just a straight guy running a business, and the OP is not suggesting that he should remove his patronage because of the bartender's sexual orientation (or the color of his hair, his choice of shirts, etc.).
posted by rtha at 8:44 AM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


He has his right to vote how he likes, you have the right to not want to spend money at an establishment where the owners are voting to deny you and your many of friends a civil right.

Stop going there. Tell all of your friends (gay and straight) who go there why you're leaving. Find a gay-friendly establishment and spend your money there instead.
posted by emd3737 at 8:53 AM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ask him how he would vote if they were banning black marriages. Or Mexican marriages. Then stop going there. This is a slippery slope. Next it will be your marriage they are banning.
posted by charlesv at 9:07 AM on October 30, 2008


I am really shocked at all of these people telling you to mind your own business. People boycott companies for reasons like this one all of the time. If you, as a business owner, are going to make a stand on a touchy issue, this is the price you'll pay. The bar owner could have kept his voting plans to himself, but he didn't. I wouldn't patronize a place that wanted to limit my civil rights, that's for damn sure. I think you should first confirm that the bar owner is pro prop 6, and if so, spread the word far and wide. Write a letter saying that he's lost your business and why, and that you're telling your friends. I wouldn't picket the place because I'd worry about creating an ugly confrontation, but the letter will get your opinion heard.
posted by chowflap at 9:12 AM on October 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


If you want to have a society where businessowners live in fear of anyone finding out their political views on contentious issues, then go ahead, find a new bar.
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:36 AM on October 30, 2008


I'm blown away by the answers on this question. There's absolutely nothing wrong with picketing the bar. He has the right to vote how he wants, and you have the right (maybe even the personal duty) to protest. People who consider this extreme should consider how they would feel if they could not marry.
posted by xammerboy at 9:39 AM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nthing that you should find another bar, and tell every one of the patrons that you can that they're being thrown under a bus by the owners.

I wouldn't hold up a sign or picket, though. That could get you in trouble, or even buy you some physical harm.
posted by Citrus at 10:00 AM on October 30, 2008


[Comment removed - PLEASE do not turn this thread into an open discussion of prop 8, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:09 AM on October 30, 2008


"Live in fear"?

If they don't want anyone to find out their political views, they are free to not discuss them. Likewise, they can abstain from donating money to a campaign, since that is a matter of public record. If they feel strongly enough about an issue to do either of those things, then they should understand that other people may exercise their constitutional rights to disagree.
posted by rtha at 10:18 AM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll try re-phrasing: This bartender is, for ethical purposes, your employee. So far he's [presumably] been serving you well enough to maintain your business. Since [presumably] you wouldn't fire someone because they had a political position you disagreed with, you also shouldn't boycott him on the basis of his political beliefs. To do otherwise is to deny the rights of people with odious political views to be self-employed. If there were a checkbox on your ballot that for a law that prevented people with upsetting political views from starting and running their own businesses, I don't think you'd check it. In fact, you might consider boycotting a businessowner who was in favor of it.
posted by 0xFCAF at 10:20 AM on October 30, 2008


"I live in a wealthy bay area suburb. Most of the clientele in this bar are wealthy gays (FYI, I am not). Yes, everyone has the right to choose how they vote (we are a democracy after all). But profiting from wealthy gay people when you oppose their lifestyle seems wrong."

Single folk drink more—you can argue that it's in his interest to keep gays from settling down and marrying.

As far as what to do, well, first I'd try talking to the guy, giving him the ol' "Y'know, this is gonna hurt a lot of people and not do you any good. Why do you wanna do that, especially since these people are your friends and customers?"

If that doesn't work, well, yeah, it's time to tell everyone, "Hey, this guy's voting for Prop 8. Let's not go to a place that's not gay friendly."

One final note for everyone here—Prop 8 will REMOVE gay marriage rights. I saw a lot of confusion above regarding whether the guy was for it or against it, and which way was the path of the angels, so I want to clarify for my brothers and sisters voting in California that "NO" on 8 preserves gay marriage and "yes" takes it away. It could be that this guy, depending on how his support was phrased, doesn't know that. I've had to lecture a gay guy here at the office because he was for 8 and wanted to get married after it passed—don't make that mistake, and don't discount the possibility that the 'tender and his wife have made that mistake.
posted by klangklangston at 10:28 AM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Gays getting married, haven't they suffered enough?

I want to go out and eat and drink and talk with people who only agree with me. Especially when I go out drinking in fact I want everybody to drink what I drink.

Prop 8 is a shitty idea for a law, but it has given many the reason to further think about their feelings on this particular issue. Tell the guy why you think he should change his vote but don't bust his nuts over it. Give him a break if he's straight and married he's suffering enough, trust me I know.
posted by pianomover at 10:42 AM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


[If this needs metadiscussion, please take it to metatalk. The whole topic is obviously contentious, but, among other things, calling people douches is not the way to make an argument, and discussion about moderation needs to not happen here.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:46 AM on October 30, 2008


OxFCAF, if you truly think so, then take it to MetaTalk. Don't evacuate moderation quibbles into the AskMe thread.

To do otherwise is to deny the rights of people with odious political views to be self-employed.

Sorry, this is just wrong.

Unless you meant, "to do otherwise is to deny the rights of people with odious political views to put heaps of your cash into their own pockets."

But nowhere is this bartender being asked to give up his self-employment.

Voting with one's pocketbook is just as constitutionally protected as voicing one's odious political view.
posted by pineapple at 10:47 AM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


To do otherwise is to deny the rights of people with odious political views to be self-employed.

No, it's not. They are free to solicit clientele who share their views, or keep their views to themselves. And I am free to vote with my dollars and not patronize their businesses.
posted by rtha at 10:55 AM on October 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'll try re-phrasing: This bartender is, for ethical purposes, your employee. So far he's [presumably] been serving you well enough to maintain your business. Since [presumably] you wouldn't fire someone because they had a political position you disagreed with, you also shouldn't boycott him on the basis of his political beliefs. To do otherwise is to deny the rights of people with odious political views to be self-employed. If there were a checkbox on your ballot that for a law that prevented people with upsetting political views from starting and running their own businesses, I don't think you'd check it. In fact, you might consider boycotting a businessowner who was in favor of it.

No, no, no. The bartender is not the employee of the customer in any sense, ethically, metaphorically, or otherwise. All relationships in which money is exchanged are not equivalent.

Anonymous's business relationship with bar owner does not exist unless anonymous is sitting at that bar with a drink in front of him. Anonymous has absolutely no obligation to visit this bar, or to spend any money there.

(If this situation were of a client and business owner who have a formalized relationship, such as a contract, your comparison would be more relevant. Still debatable, though. )
posted by desuetude at 11:08 AM on October 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Look, this guy's betting on a losing horse, first of all. After next week, this particular issue will be closed, and his stupidity or bigotry will return to under its rock, for a time. Why fight a loser? Pity him. His train has sailed, his people are dying off.

If you feel like learning that these are his politics make you unable to give him your custom, that you can't unlearn them and that they leave you with in distaste, I for one support switching bars 100%. It's just your bar. Find another bar. My ONLY local hippie food chain is apparently a big donor to Prop 8, owned by some kind of Mormon reactionaries. It is a serious impact to me to have to leave them over this, but for now, I feel I have to. It's a dealbreaker.

Also, you don't mention whether he has given money to Prop 8, which seems entirely relevant. Can you find out? If he's not a political activist or contributor, who cares what he does with his vote? Like I said, if the very thought of being near someone bigoted or who doesn't value equality is a dealbreaker for you, so be it.

But don't stand out in the street to make your point, that's escalating the issue and asking for a conflagration of police/press attention which won't cast a good light on you or him.

Considering youre not gay, why do you feel the need to attack these people?

Objection, relevance. Opposing Prop 8 doesn't necessarily have anything to do with being gay or even giving a crap about gay people. For me, it will go far to prove that marriage is not a religious institution, an assurance that I, as an atheist, feel required to obtain before considering my participation in it. (Of course, I do loves teh ghey.)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:21 AM on October 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


This bartender is, for ethical purposes, your employee.

What a ridiculous argument. Do you consider that mathowie is, for ethical purposes, your employee because you gave him $5 (assuming you did)? Patrons of any establishment have a perfect right to boycott it, and this is a fine example of a case where that is an entirely appropriate response. (Unless, of course, klang's suggestion that the bartender doesn't actually understand how the proposition works is accurate, which seems unlikely but possible. Here's hoping you explain it to him and he says "Damn, then I'm against it!" In that case you can buy him a drink and relax.)
posted by languagehat at 1:57 PM on October 30, 2008


Gauge your response to the level of the bartender's actions.

If he just happened in passing to mention it, but isn't publicly demonstrating speaking out against gay rights, then your response should be rather subdued. Stop going there; tell your friends.'

If he's donating money, or otherwise going public with his views, write to newspapers, post on the internet, whatever.

If he's actually treating gay patrons in an unequal way- which I doubt since many of his customers are gay and they seem to keep coming back- then go into full "we shall overcome mode". Picket, get really public, whatever.

Boycotting a business is a time-honored tradition, and has been used by the left and the right. I spent years not eating grapes (farmworker's rights) and not drinking Coors beer (Adolph Coors' anti-gay stuff). In past decades, buses were boycotted, lunch counters were boycotted, etc.

Sure, but you know those instances involved direct oppression/discrimination or political activism for unequal treatment. I do think bigotry towards sexual orientation is as bad as racism, but this man's private vote is not equivalent to being sent to the back of the bus. This is an important issue, and an emotional one, but that doesn't mean reason and restraint can't be factored in.
posted by spaltavian at 3:47 PM on October 30, 2008


This is an important issue, and an emotional one, but that doesn't mean reason and restraint can't be factored in.

I agree, which is why in my other comments I said that picketing etc. was not mandatory, by any stretch, and I don't know if I'd do that myself. "Boycott" can mean I don't go there/buy that stuff, and it can mean I don't go there/buy that stuff, AND I picket, AND I write letters to the editor or op eds, AND I tell everyone I know, etc.

His vote, incidentally, stopped being private when he started telling people about it.
posted by rtha at 4:04 PM on October 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, OP: If you want to see if he's given money to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign, you can look it up here.
posted by rtha at 4:11 PM on October 30, 2008


Dude makes his living off gays but wants to vote that they can't marry? Uhh yeah, help a fellow homo out. I'd want to know that kind of shit because he'd certainly not be getting another dime more of mine. We flew halfway across the country to get married in California and while they ain't taking my piece of paper away, it would be very disheartening if Prop 8 passed.
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:48 PM on October 30, 2008


Find a new bar.
posted by paultopia at 6:09 PM on October 30, 2008


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