Monday, November 13, 2006

His Gaze Always Passes Through Rose Coloured Glasses

Last week I read this story about a landscaping company in Houston, Texas that turned down clients because they happened to be gay. The clients were shocked and forwarded the email to their friends. The story got picked up first by blog sites and then major media. The fact of the matter was the landscapers didn't do anything illegal by refusing to do business with this gay couple. If the couple were African-American or Jewish, they could sue them for discrimination because the race and religion (along with age and disability) are protected groups in the law, federal, state as well as municipal. While there are some places that offer gay people the same protections (the entire nation of Canada for example), most places in the United States can legally refuse to do business with you if you are gay.

My first response to this story (and similar one) was pretty laid back. I feel that religious beliefs are as much a part of the fiber of one's being as their sexual orientation. On their website they are very clear about being religious. Why FORCE someone to do something that is against their religious beliefs? Besides, would you really want to have people who feel that way work for you? I think I would appreciate them being direct and upfront with me. Furthermore there are TONS of fab-friendly companies and businesses (I'm sure landscaping would be in the mix! It's like being an interior designer for the outdoors, right?) who not only would love to serve all people but solicit their business by supporting gay-related publications, events and charities.

However an experience yesterday made me see things in a different light. I was at Mass watching people receive communion. Now, I don't take communion at the Catholic Church for a number of reasons. First of all, I'm not a church member and it's limited to just members. Second, communion is symbolic for me. I don't believe the bread and the wine are holy nor have they actually transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. So although I could easily get in line and have had Catholics suggest to me that I do so (They don't have bouncer with a "list" like some nightclubs do!) , I don't out of respect for the Church and its beliefs.

Sitting there watching people hold open their hands and respond to the priest, I saw this precious little girl come up the line. She was clearly not old enough to receive communion and yet the priest bent down, laid his hand on her head and blessed her, making the sign of the cross. I had this sudden flashback to an experience in Wichita when I attended St. Alban's Anglican Church and when up with my boyfriend at the time to receive communion (which is open to all believers). The priest was a woman that I had met several times before at Integrity meetings and I really held (hold) her in high regard. As I knelt at the altar in front of the church, she made the sign of the cross on my head and served me the bread and the wine from her wheelchair. I got really teary and had to contain waves of emotion as I returned to my pew. Here was a beautiful person, flawed with that frailty all humans (including Christ Himself) possess, blessing my being in its entirety with joy, love and total acceptance.

Hence here is my epiphany (if you will). Exclusion by discrimination is ugly and it hurts. Acceptance of our fellow human beings is the best metaphor for what Christ was trying to do by "bending down" to our level and blessing us with His love. The landscape company may have profited monetarily from their decision, but humankind is a little poorer because of it.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, Dan. I agree that people should not be made to serve those they do not want to serve. But it is always amazing to me how powerfully the Spirit is felt in the atmosphere of acceptance - not just of gay people, but acceptance of all people as they are.


Jolie said...

Luckily in Oregon, sex is considered a protected class. So the landscaper would have been in the wrong legally here if he denied clients based on their sexuality.

I also really enjoyed this post. I think it's amazing what a little tolerance can do to make the world a much better and more livable place.

abogado-david said...

I once had a potential client come to me and describe the following situation: At a used auto parts/salvage store, the owner consistently berates and insults him, calls him names, etc. The client's question: What could be done about this situation. My reply: Ummmmmmmm.... Don't ever go back there and tell all of your friends that this store has horrible customer service and should be boycotted. If the fellow acts this way to everybody, he'll be out of business in 6 months. Client's reply: Yeah, but he has the best prices around. *Sigh*

I subsequently declined to represent the fellow on the basis of his (a) having no case whatsoever and (b) apparently valuing his dignity at whatever the price difference is between this store and others... yet expecting a lawyer to somehow magically keep the store owner from being a jerk.

Both the parts store owner and the idiot landscaper are prime candidates to be the recipient of a Darwin award of the free market system.