Gay people everywhere need to take a deep breath and brace themselves. I'm about to deliver some pretty bad news.
See, there's a pizza place in a little Indiana town that doesn't want to cater your damn gay wedding.
Shock! Outrage! Righteous indignation! Murmur! Murmur!
Now take just a moment to steady your moral compasses before I continue. I have something else shocking to tell you. Okay, are you ready?
But first let me say, of course, like everyone else in the gay communityand it's looking like a lot in the community at large ( thanks, NCAA! )I was pretty dismayed by Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It's regressive, unnecessary, petty, poorly written and plainly anti-American. The slapdash "fix," which Gov. Mike Pence later hastily signed in order to ameliorate discrimination fearsand stop the avalanche of boycotts his state facednotwithstanding.
Still, there are still real concerns about this lawand not just for gay people. The pharmacist who doesn't want to prescribe morning-after pills. The doctor who doesn't want to treat an unwed mother. All possible.
Sure, a part of me can't help thinking that the implications of the law are somewhat theoretical. As in: how many bakers-who-refuse-to-make-your-rainbow-wedding-cake can dance on the head of a pin.
But still, this is just bad policy. Most generously viewed, it's a ham-fisted attempt to balance individual liberty and public accommodation.
But know what is bad? The online bullying of Crystal O'Connor, daughter of the owner of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana ( population: 2,000 ), by the oh-so-rightfully-just mobs of Facebook, Gawker, Yelp, Jezebel and so on. I feel bad for her. I think you should, too. You might even owe her an apology.
Last week, South Bend's ABC57 "went into small towns tonight to get reactions to the Religious [Freedom] Restoration Act," according to their anchor. In other words, they went trolling for viral videos. And, boy, they got one at Memories, a place with Bible verses on the counter and crucifixes near their Pepsi cooler.
"If a gay couple was to come in, say they wanted us to provide them pizzas for a wedding," O'Connor said, with almost a sympathetic, patronizing lilt in her voice, "we would have to say no."
She didn't end with "sweetie," but you could almost hear it.
It's pretty sad that this poor thing imagines that a gay horde lies in wait, soon to ambush their spot with lucrative catering jobs. It's a weird, paranoid siege mentality. It's a little strange that she imagines two self-respecting gay dudes would want pizza at their wedding reception. Even noted gay-wedding authority Pat Robertson gets it, opining, "Most gays, if they're having a wedding, they don't want pizza. They want cake!" ( Side note: I would totally have pizza at my wedding reception. )
We live in a fully connected society, and your parochial, homespun ways are no longer sufficient excuses for prejudicesif they ever were. But still. I couldn't help but feel sad for her. She seems nice enough. Just simple.
Then I read the way-over-the-top comments hurled at her on their Facebook page. "Dead eyes." "Bitch." Threats of arson. Their website was hacked with pornographic pizza images. ( Don't ask. ) The bullying got so bad, the establishment had to close and police presence had to be beefed up.
Wait: I thought we were on the morally correct side?
Now, a right-wing campaign has taken them on as a cause celebre: It's netted $800,000 and counting in a donation drive for Memories when word of the bullying spread. Just great. Bigotry now has a big payday. And, naturally, Fox News wasn't far behind, publicizing the firestorm the pizza place found itself in.
The real object of scorn should be Gov. Pence and the Indiana Legislature. We shouldn't be stooping to conquer some random Indiana pizza maker who, at worst, is a victim of her beliefs.
So on behalf of less obnoxious gay people everywhere, I'd like to apologize to Crystal O'Connor. I'm sure that the almost $1 million that right-wing activists have raised to compensate you for your "financial loss" may be some relief to you. And though your politics and religion may be horribly muddled, but if you're ever in Chicago, I'd like to take you out for a pizza.
I think you'll like it.
I think you'll like me.
You don't even have to cater my wedding.
Chris LaMorte is a Chicago longtime food and nightlife writer and editor of UrbanDaddy Chicago. He is the son of a pizza maker.