An Issue of Conscience or Discrimination of Sexual Orientation?

Here’s my take on a story that’s been trending the headlines recently.

The Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Gresham, Oregon, is a private business. So long as it did not receive any public funding to operate or support being in business, it had a right – and should be respected for having the right to refuse service to anyone based on religious beliefs if it has made clear that they are refusing service based on those beliefs. Personally, I’m fine with that. Why?  Because this is a free-enterprise country and people have a right to have and run business as they see fit – so long as they are not violating certain laws which cover legitimate business operating and hiring practices.
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Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakeryThere are many non-LGBT friendly businesses like Sweet Cakes situated all over the country and the world. Word about such places does – and will indeed spread rapidly throughout not only the gay community but to those people who are LGBT-friendly or who are LGBT allies. If such business is set in a community where gays and gay-friendly people frequent and do business, it is an almost sure bet that many non-LGBT friendly businesses will suffer.  Here’s why:  If they are smart, the LGBT community and its allies would not protest or make any significant noise against any non-LGBT friendly business.  The LGBT community and its allies and supporters would quickly pass the word in and out of the area to simply boycott that particular business.  With social media being what it is, word would spread fast. No laws have been broken and the business cannot sue in court for loss of business and revenue for there is not yet any law that forces people to shop or do business at designated places in a community.
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Melissa and Aaron of Sweet CakesNow, the owners of Sweet Cakes have apparently made a conscious choice NOT to support same-sex or gay marriage based on their religious beliefs. When this story first broke in January, the owners stated very clearly that there not being discriminate against gay and lesbian people; only against same-sex marriages. At that time, they stated (as they repeated recently when news hit that they were closing the store to operate from home), that they did not want to do anything that remotely suggested or supported the same-sex marriage issue, implying that baking a cake for the lesbian couple would have violated or compromised their Christian beliefs/position.

Now see readers, I don’t have a problem with that. The owners made their position clear to the lesbian couple and the lesbian couple should have respected the bakery owner’s position on the issue.  That should have been the end of it. I don’t think anyone should have to be forced into doing something that clearly violates their moral position (even though there might be negative consequences) and no one should attempt to force someone to do something against their will anyway simply because they do not agree or have the same point of view. In the twenty-first century, people who have private property and a private establishment still have certain options to avoid certain controversial issues. People also still have an option to not support or to boycott any business or establishment whose business dealings are questionable or seem non-supportive of what one stands for or believes.  One can boycott such a business and take his/her patronage elsewhere.  For example, in November 2011,No to Applebee's Grill and Bar I chose to boycott Applebee’s Grill &Bar until they changed certain inflexible rules/policy regarding their annual Veterans Day Free/Discount Meal Program. Since I had an issue with their policy, I simply and quietly decided I would not patronize that business nor recommend it to anyone I know as a place to dine. It was my personal boycott…and I’m still boycotting them. The lesbian couple could have done the same thing.  In the instance of the dispute under discussion, I see a two-way street of mutual respect that is needed.  I should note there are some LGBT people who do not support the same-sex marriage issue. Don’t ask me why that is; you’ll need to go find your friendly “gayborhood” anti-gay marriage homosexual(s) and ask him/her/them why they don’t support same-sex marriage. Their reasons may astound you!  Let’s keep in mind that just because an issue or cause involves a sub-society or subculture of people does not automatically or necessarily mean that everyone in that subculture will or ought to support it!
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Now let’s get more real!
If you feel or find that any business refuses you service based on your race, gender, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, why not simply take your money and patronage elsewhere?  Yes, that establishment may be breaking all kinds of laws but if YOU know the law, you can still spend your money elsewhere and have your personal boycott and/or get others in the community to boycott the joint. Perhaps this is what the lesbian couple should have done.

Please understand: I am not suggesting that you sweep the possibility or the fact that you were dissed by that business or establishment under the rug;  No; only that you need to be very sure that you have a case by knowing the law before taking a complaint to the media or filing some lawsuit or complaint of discrimination.  You may also want to weigh whether certain situations are worth making a fuss over.  LGBT people, ethnic groups, people with disabilities and other members of sub-societies for example, do not have some automatic right to scream “DISCRIMINATION” every time they feel they’ve been offended or wronged.  Life isn’t that simple! Some things simply are not always about one person or group who feels that they have a judicial precedent in their back pocket looking by becoming über-sensitive to anyone outside their sub-society who might say or so something [perceivably] offensive against them. When certain laws and court rulings are debated, argued and handed down, every situation cannot possibly be anticipated. That is why we call such findings in the law or in judicial decisions “loopholes”! Loopholes normally get addressed and, if necessary, the law and/or court decision in question gets modified, changed or amended accordingly.  But I digress.
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The lesbian couple had a right to order a cake but had no right to demand or insist that Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a private business, give them that particular Sweet Cakes cake propservice.  I’m not a lawyer, but I’m not certain that the lesbian couple had a right to cry “discrimination based on their sexual orientation” simply because they were refused the requested service – particularly if they (the lesbian couple) had a choice not to patronize that particular business and could have gone elsewhere. Think back to what I said about LGBT smartness and community boycott.  Anyway, Oregon’s state Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) reported it is investigating to determine if Sweet Cakes’ actions violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which states that “people cannot be denied service based on sexual orientation”. The law provides an exemption for schools and religious groups, but not for private businesses, according to a BOLI news release. I suppose we’ll find out soon enough what Oregon’s BOLI decides – considering the state would have to prove that the couple were denied service because they were gay or because they were getting married. While I am, and always have been a supporter of most LGBT issues – particularly that of same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting, I cannot – with the current information I have, support any cause that clearly infringes upon the rights of others.  I think this PRIVATE business had a right to refuse service based on their religious beliefs and standing regarding gay marriage and I think the lesbian couple, in turn should have shown respect for the beliefs of the owners of that bakery – just as they (the lesbian couple) would want others to respect their right to marry.
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Sweet Cakes store-closing signGranted, alternatively the Sweet Cakes bakery owners could have played fair too and just set aside their personal, moral and religious beliefs and taken the lesbian couple’s order on strictly a BUSINESS aspect.  I would hope that Sweet Cakes’ owners’ god and church would understand this.  Assuming these owners were Christians (as they clearly admitted they are), I say that if they were thinking (which apparently they were not since they judged and denied service to two people simply because of a gay rights issue) they ought to know that Jesus himself (who, by the way, was NOT a “christian”) gave HEALING SERVICES to many people who did not believe that he was the Son of God.  Jesus attended a wedding in Cana where he (according to biblical lore) turned water into wine. The Bible does not say that the wedding party or its attendees were or had to be “devout followers of Jesus “(or God).  The Bible does not say that Jesus attended a wedding where “there were only people who loved and obeyed the Lord.”  The Bible does not say that at this wedding party which Jesus attended, “no sinner, murderer, thief, known adulterer, fornicator or any man who lies with a man as he would a woman, would be allowed to attend the feast let alone be served food and drink.”  Now to think logically, one must then assume that the people Jesus healed or those who attended the wedding feast were those who came from all walks of life. They were sinners and probably some in the worse way who were at that wedding where Jesus partiedYes, I said, Jesus partied!  What else would he do at a festive occasion like a wedding? Sit on his Nazarene carpenter’s ass? Would Jesus be there to just stare at people? Or would he be there to change each person’s chalice of water to wine upon request?  Let’s get real! The man had a good time until he was ready to leave. My point is that the Sweet Cakes bakery owners should have followed Jesus’ example. Since they chose not to do that, it proves my point about how some Christians pick and choose what points of the Bible and Jesus’ teachings they wish to follow. Again, I digress!
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Bottom line –
This seems to be more of an issue of one’s conscience than one of sexual orientation discrimination.  Do I think Sweet Cakes should have closed its store? No, but I can understand why they did.  Still, I don’t see how any infringement upon Sweet Cakes owner’s religion would happen had they simply served the lesbian couple and made them the damn cake. Again, they could have made the cake in the interest of good business. Many people in business often lay aside certain moral, religious and political views while conducting business in a public environment. They do it for the greater interest and for the common good of something that’s sure to offer them a greater reward or give some great advantage that’s to their benefit…and the community as a whole!  Since such businesses choose to function this way, they do not always consider it a compromise or violation to their personal principles or position regarding the kind of people who patronize their business or to the issues which they (the business owner) happen to oppose. Of course there are always exceptions.  Still, I’d be curious in knowing why the Sweet Cakes bakery owners were so different n this sense (unless of course, they indeed were being discriminatory towards the lesbian couple because they were gay and since homosexuality is part of the anti-gay rhetoric preached by ultra-conservative Christians).

Sweet Cakes lesbian couple who started controversyThe lesbian couple on the other hand, may have been wrong in making this a big stink by giving members of the LGBT community fodder to unrightfully (in my opinion) protest against the bakery which impacted negatively on Sweet Cakes. The couple could have simply turned around and patronized another bakery and maybe passed word to their friends, family and supporters of their relationship and in the LGBT community that the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery was not a supporter of LGBT causes and issues and perhaps not supportive of LGBT people – regardless of what the owners at Sweet Cakes claimed and urged the community not to give public protest but to boycott if they wanted while the court and the State of Oregon decide how to proceed.  I think doing that would have left it up to each member of the LGBT community and the community as a whole to decide for him/her self whether to further patronize that particular bakery business.

Naturally, I expect people to disagree with me on this issue, but like everything else in this blog, this is my point of view.

Keepin’ It…REAL!
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©2013 RobFather-X! Productions. All rights reserved.

Meet…Nathan James!

This write-up/biography deserves to be on this blog because I want all my readers to know who this man is (if they don’t already know).
I consider Nathan James a good friend and brother; one of many “from another mother” whom I’ve met on Facebook and whom I have had the honor, privilege and pleasure of conversing with by phone. (I love talking with my good friends by phone for I simply HATE texting.)  It is my hope to actual meet, shake hands and give a tight bear hug (pun intended) to Nathan … AND to other good friends I’ve met on Facebook – Stephen Maglott-2including no less, to one of my other brothers to whom I give thanks and a “great job” compliment for writing this excellent bio… the incomparable Mr. Stephen Maglott!
Now, here is the bio on Mr. Nathan James, as written by our friend, Stephen.
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Nathan JamesNathan James was born on this day, August 22, in 1964. He is an author, journalist, playwright, radio personality, and activist in LGBT causes.

Nathan James was born in New York City, and adopted by Lawrence, who was a police officer and later an owner of a hardware business, and his wife Marie, who was a banker. He has one younger sister, Cara. He graduated from Robert Louis Stevenson High School, and went on to attend John Jay College. Nathan considers himself a largely self-taught individual, building on his formal education. His interest in journalism began at an early age, and he edited his high school newspaper, and wrote extensively for the Lex Review while in college.

Following college, Nathan became interested in emergency medicine, and began working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for a local volunteer ambulance service. He was the first hearing-impaired individual in New York State to be certified to serve as an EMT. This led to a professional career of two decades at hospitals all over New York City, and Nathan eventually became a supervisor and instructor.

After finishing his work in Emergency Services, Nathan turned his focus towards his lifelong passion, writing. He discovered the joy of writing in the LGBT fiction genre, and his first full novel, The Devil’s Details, was published Books by Nathan Jamesin 2006, and although controversial, was recognized the following year with a PRIDE Award. Two more books, In His Court and the critically acclaimed Check Ride followed soon after, and Nathan’s work has been featured in numerous gay anthologies, including Lee Hayes’ popular Flesh To Flesh and Eric Summers’ Love In A Lock Up.

Through it all, Nathan’s journalistic work continued. He was a regular contributor to LGBT websites such as Kuttin’ Edge, SGL Café, The Future Forward, and The Rainbow Collective, among many others, helping to tell the stories of the gay and lesbian community. Nathan continues this labor of love today, as Executive Editor of GBM News, a multimedia resource for and about the LGBT Nathan w_DJ Baker (host, Da Doo Dirty Show), Swanny River in backcommunity, with a monthly newspaper and website, and writing for IKONS Magazine and DBQ. Nathan also contributes to Out In Jersey, Legends Of Fashion, and other periodicals. Close to Nathan’s heart is Da Doo-Dirty Show, where he was a correspondent for six years, with his friend DJ Baker, the show’s host.

“Writing is the way I speak to the world,” Nathan James says. “I write every single day. It is my deep, abiding passion.” His work extends to the stage and television, with off-Broadway productions of Cybersex and Juan And Emmett, which Nathan helped produce. Nathan’s musical, All For Love will soon be in workshop as well. He’s written skits for the Lovin’ Leyna variety TV show, and is currently engaged in two major reality series projects. Nathan is a frequent contributor, along with Delvon Johnson, and host John Campanario, on WWRL 1600 AM’s Out and About talk show, part of the station’s Equality Pride Radio lineup. He’s also performed spoken-word poetry at the popular Living Room Sessions at various venues across NYC, and recurrently at Speak Your Myne at Harlem’s iconic nightclub, Billie’s Black.

Nathan JamesNathan with Delvon Johnson at WWRL has served on the Boards of the Campaign To End AIDS, NYC Black Pride, and at the NYC Council Speaker’s LGBT Steering Committee, a campaign group. He’s organized and spoken at protest marches against gay-bashing, and against the Iraq War during the Bush administration, as part of the Rock The Rulers concert. He’s been involved in National Equality Day marches in Washington DC, NYC Pride StageFest in 2013, the Waiting All My Life Marriage Equality Concert, and has organized protest marches against gay bashing, and for marriage equality, throughout the New York metropolitan area.

Nathan does not currently have a partner in his life but is hopeful this will one day change in a positive and loving way. He enjoys his work as a journalist and community-builder, and is grateful for his many close friends, and the humor, insight and love they bring to his life.

Nathan James at anti-war rallyNathan James is an outspoken advocate on HIV/AIDS issues, both on the air and in print, Although he is HIV-negative, Nathan has seen too many of those he cares about suffer with this illness, and remains committed to the cause of ending this modern-day plague. Nathan is inspired by the great courage and strength displayed by those he sees living with HIV and AIDS every day.

Nathan struggled with his sexual orientation for most of his life. He discovered his attraction to other men in his early teens, but understood that it was something to be kept to himself. After several attempts to come out of the closet, Nathan elected to stay in the closet, for the sake of social acceptability and his professional life in Emergency Medical Services. Self-esteem issues complicated the picture for many years. Of course, Nathan’s true self broke down the closet door, and coincided with a major series of life changes, ultimately leading him down the creative path he still follows today.

Nathan JamesNathan James being humble at NYC'S Plaza Hotel hopes to continue creating works that uplift, educate, and encourage everyone, gay or straight. He is working towards the successful completion of his ongoing projects, the further growth of GBM News, and the culmination of his work into something lasting and beneficial for the LGBT and larger world.

Today we join Nathan James in celebration of his 49th birthday and in appreciation for his considerable contributions to our community.
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Thank you for this EXCELLENT biography, Stephen!  It is with great pride and honor that I post this biography about our dear friend Nathan on this blog!

Keepin’ It…..REAL!
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©2013 RobFather-X! Productions. All rights reserved.