In the more than 20 years I have lived in the Los Angeles area, some of it in West Hollywood, I have never been to Barney's Beanery. Until 1984, when they were forced to remove it, they had a sign on their entrance proclaiming, "No Faggots Allowed." Why would I go where I'm clearly not wanted? Why would I support a business that doesn't want to be in business with me?
I feel the same way about El Coyote, the venerable Mexican eatery that is suffering the effects of its owner donating to the recent "Yes on 8" campaign. You can't swing a dead cat in this town without hitting a Mexican restaurant. So am I really under some obligation to give El Coyote money that may eventually be given to groups that oppose my civil rights? I think not. I will guac elsewhere.
Ron Prentice of ProtectMarriage.com disagrees with me. He is quoted in today's Los Angeles Times as saying that boycotters were, "unabashedly trampling on the rights of others." I find this particularly ironic since it's coming from a man and a group who have no qualms about kicking my rights in the cajones.
Funny how the radical right had no problem when Southern Baptists attempted to boycott Disney and other enlightened companies for offering same-sex health benefits. That was alright. When we use the same tactic we're all wrong.
From the time I began my own business I have been involved in the gay rights movement. My first client, in 1989 (pro-bono I might add), was a young man named Joe Steffan who was kicked out of the U.S. Naval Academy for his sexual orientation. In the nearly 20 years since then, I have had the honor of working with and representing virtually every major and minor GLBT organization.
Because of my work, which I stand by proudly, I have had clients who chose to go elsewhere for their public relations needs. I was and am willing to accept that judgment -- the things I am fighting for are far too important for me to ignore the needs of my own community. But unlike El Coyote and other "Yes on 8" supporters, I am willing to stand by and own my political beliefs -- even when they may cause me economic harm.
To my brothers and sisters in the GLBT movement and our friends, I urge you to use every legal and moral tool at your disposal to change hearts and minds. Peaceful protests, boycotts and community organizing are the tools of our trade and ultimately the things that will win this struggle.
Tomorrow you will see me protesting at City Hall, but don't expect to see me sipping a margarita at El Coyote. I will not fund my own demise and I won't go where I'm not wanted.
Follow Howard Bragman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HowardBragman