I love Ellen DeGeneres. I think she’s incredibly talented and possibly the most hilarious female stand-up comedian I have ever seen. (No offense to her, but as far as the best stand-up over all, I’d have to rate Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld and Brian Regan ahead of her. But, I mean, these rankings are the highly subjective opinions of one guy so…) For the first time in years, I tuned in to see a good portion of the Oscars and was highly entertained by her unique hosting style. Again, I think she and Steve Martin would probably qualify as my favorite hosts. And seeing her have the success she has today makes me happy.
Because it all could have been very different.
The first time I ever heard of Ellen DeGeneres was on New Year’s Eve in 1990. HBO was having an all night marathon of stand up comedians doing a half hour show each. I remember laughing so hard my stomach hurt when she came on. Within five years, she had gained enough popularity to have her own television show. And my wife and I watched it fairly religiously (no pun intended here with regard to what follows.)
However, as the show prepared to enter its fourth season, rumors were flying fast and furious that Ellen was a lesbian. She, herself, refused to confirm the rumors for quite some time, but eventually she came out, as did her character on the television show. Within a year, her show was cancelled.
What saddened me was that I never got the idea that Ellen wanted to be the poster child for what would become the LGBT movement. It seemed to me that she accepted that role when it became impossible for her to do otherwise, but doing so was never her first choice. Since that time, she has been outspoken at times, but still seems relatively low key when it comes to her political activism on the subject. I could be wrong, but I get the sense she just wants to be herself and entertain people who are gay, straight or otherwise. Which in a perfect world, is exactly how it should be.
But in the mid-nineties, her gamble at coming out and then portraying a lesbian character on national television could have been career ending. She was brave at a time when bravery truly counted. No offense to those coming out today. I believe it is probably a very difficult decision and something that is very personal, but momentum is at their backs and history is in their favor. It wasn’t that way for Ellen.
So with all that in mind, I was so glad to see Ellen being Ellen at the Oscars. It warmed my heart to know she had come through everything and is now the personification of success. And her sexual orientation doesn’t matter. Yes, I suppose to those who see her as a role-model it probably matters, but to the public at large, it truly doesn’t. Again, in a perfect world, this is as it should be.
Sadly, even in 2014, this is not a total reality. I am fully aware that there are probably many Americans out there who won’t watch Ellen’s show because it “promotes the gay agenda in America.” I also know many who feel that shows like, Modern Family are to be avoided for the same reason. Personally, I can respect that some might not watch that show because it crosses some lines of decency, but holy crap is it funny. And those who avoid it strictly because of its gay characters are seriously missing out.
But either way, the culture has come to the point that both shows, and others like it, have found enough of an audience to be successful. At the same time, if a person holds religious or personal convictions that keep them from watching those programs, that is their right. This is, once again, how it should be.
And this idea should carry over into the public marketplace. If a person doesn’t want to seek the services or products of a company or person for any reason whatsoever, that should be their right. However, I truly believe that business owners are not afforded the same privilege. If an individual seeks services or products from a business owner, they should be provided those services or products regardless of how the business owner feels about them personally. It is part of the package that a person accepts when they enter the marketplace.
Now in my conservative heart of hearts, I actually believe that if a person wanted to refuse service, they should probably be afforded that right strictly because we claim to be a free country. In that same heart, I believe that in a perfect world, the free market would take care of discrimination should it occur. Sadly, we learned in the century following the abolition of slavery, this theory doesn’t always work when put into practice. So, with that knowledge in mind, I have adopted the belief that I hold and espoused in the previous paragraph.
Which is why I was so appalled when Arizona chose to pass SB 1062. At its core, I understand the reasoning behind the bill’s introduction, but that reasoning doesn’t make it right. Proponents of the bill have repeatedly stated that the bill was mischaracterized and in no way referenced gays, but that is a load of garbage. Even the bill’s sponsors were quick to point to lawsuits involving gay individuals in other states as their motivation. I also read the law, and despite what many of its supporters want to say, it did exactly what the opposition said it would do. It was vague and could be interpreted exactly as it was characterized.
Now, to be clear, I think there are some issues that need to be addressed regarding the protection of religious freedoms. Some examples include Hobby Lobby being forced to provide birth control and the “abortion pill” as part of their health plan. That specifically infringes on that employer’s right to practice their religion. If they spend one dime to provide what they view as the destruction of a life, their religious views are being infringed upon.
A second example is not-for-profit charities being forced to again provide for abortions (whether by medical procedure or by a pill) in their health plans or being forced to adopt children to gay couples. While I personally believe children being adopted into loving gay homes is highly preferable to the possible disaster of an upbringing in a dysfunctional home presided over by heterosexuals, I fully respect a religious entity’s right to deny that service based on religious convictions. There are other avenues to adopt children available beyond religious charities and organizations. So if a church believes the traditional family is the best solution for an adopted child, it should be their right to work towards that end. To do otherwise would infringe upon their religious convictions.
But much beyond that, it gets too murky for my taste to legislate. I have used examples of the problems that could arise should 1062 have passed and I will not do so again now. But suffice it to say, if you open a for-profit business, you open a business to everybody. Get over it.
Because this is how I believe, I was happy to lend my voice to those both in the LGBT community and those without that called for Governor Brewer to veto SB 1062. It was the right thing to do. I believed it then, I believe it now. But today, I am wondering where the outrage is now that the tables have been turned.
New Mexico Governor, Susana Martinez, personally believes in the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. This belief stems from her religious convictions. As such, she also opposes gay marriage. It is her right to do so. Whether a person believes she is on the wrong side of history or not is beside the point. As an American citizen, she is entitled to her beliefs.
So in light of the events that occurred with SB 1062, I find it very disconcerting that within days, her hair stylist, Antonio Darden, a gay man who owns a salon in Santa Fe, has decided he will no longer provide service to the governor because of her opposition to same-sex marriage.
Is he really that stupid? Does he not understand the extreme slap in the face he just gave to each and every one of us who belongs to a faith that holds a strong belief in traditional marriage but still chose to stand with those who opposed SB 1062? Maybe he does and just doesn’t care. What’s even more disconcerting about his decision is that he has styled the governor’s hair three times previous (all while she still held the same personal and political viewpoint and also while I assume he was still gay) but has decided in the aftermath of SB 1062 that he will do it no more.
The ultimate cake topper on this, if you will, is that one of the lawsuits that prompted SB 1062 occurred in NM where sexual orientation is protected from discrimination. The business owner lost that suit. To me, it seems conceivable that this idiot has opened himself up to a lawsuit as well. But we all know that no politician in their right mind would open that can of public relation worms. So maybe that’s why he’s chosen his victim so carefully. Bottom line, this is bad form and flies in the face of everything that was avoided by Governor Brewer’s veto.
So my ultimate question is this: where is the outrage from the people of the LGBT community? In my humble opinion, he is making you look like hypocrites. And if nothing is made of this, he is ultimately justifying in the minds of many, the actions taken by the AZ legislature. If a business owner in NM can be successfully sued for denying services to a gay couple, but a gay business owner can deny services to a person of religious conviction with no repercussions whatsoever, then all the fear and concern on the part of SB 1062 supporters seems justified.
Now many will point out that he is just one guy and should just be ignored. But sorry, he chose a high profile public figure to make his statement over. He made this a big story. It should be, and must be addressed.
Because at the end of the day, I believe the majority of most people in the LGBT community and a large faction of religious people just want to live side by side in freedom and equality. For many of us on the right, we are still working amongst ourselves trying to figure out how that works. Is that fair to gays and lesbians? Probably not. But many of us are doing the best we know how to achieve what we believe is the common goal. And this man’s actions do nothing to further that aim.
And neither does a collective silence from those he would purport to represent.