(This post originally appeared on my personal Facebook page as a “note,” which should be obvious to anyone who reads it, given all the references to Facebook it features. It was written in July of 2015, and it kinda sorta blurs the line between politics and philosophy, but since the subject matter was a “hot button” political issue at the time this was written, I am posting it under “politics.” — MNW)

As many of you have undoubtedly noticed, I joined a recent trend regarding my Facebook profile pic by using the rainbow gay pride flag filter thing. I’m not gay, for the record, but if anybody out there would stop being my friend if I did happen to be gay, well, guess what? You’re a shitty friend.

I applied the filter to show that I am happy about the Supreme Court’s decision regarding marriage equality. That’s why everybody who applied it to their profile pic did it.

There are several reasons I am happy about that. The main one is that I think that if two people of any gender love each other and want to commit themselves to each other through marriage they should be able to. Furthermore they should be able to without having to be secretive about it or worry about what the general public thinks about it. They should be able to be proud to walk down the street with their spouse without having to worry about being harassed by anyone. They should be able to have a nice romantic dinner at any restaurant they want to, or have a cake baked by any baker they want to, or have their picture taken by any photographer they want to.

Do you see where I am going with this? If you follow the news at all, you have undoubtedly seen several restaurateurs (well, pizza joint owners anyways) saying they wouldn’t cater gay weddings, bakers saying they wouldn’t bake cakes for gay weddings, photographers saying they wouldn’t photograph gay weddings, etc. These people justify their denial of service with a claim of “freedom of religion.” They claim that they believe it would offend the deity they worship if they were to provide these services to gay couples.

I would encourage any such person to re-examine their religious texts, and since most if not all of these people are Christians, I would encourage them to reconsider whether Jesus’ maxim of “love thy neighbor as thyself” would also apply to their LGBT neighbors. To my view it obviously does, but that’s my opinion, and ultimately that’s all any interpretation of any religious text is: opinion.

Sorry to burst your bubble.

But if that’s really and truly the religious belief of these people, I would encourage my LGBT friends and all LGBT people to simply let these people have their views. There are plenty of other business owners who don’t use religion to justify treating some people differently, and they need your business, too.

Again, that’s just my opinion. I think (hope) that that sort of bigotry will eventually die out on its own. But I may be wrong…it wouldn’t be the first time.

If you happen to support the people who want to deny service to LGBT couples based on a “religious freedom” claim, I suppose there’s nothing I can do to stop you. But I want to make something clear to you: your “freedom of religion” does not entitle you to dictate what other people do. Trying to suppress the actions of others based upon your personal religious beliefs is the opposite of “freedom of religion.” Trying to make laws based on your religion that dictate what people outside of your religion do is the opposite of “freedom of religion.” “Freedom of religion” means you get to believe anything you want, but it also means that other people get to believe anything they want. If you can’t understand that, I suggest you find a quiet spot and meditate upon it for a while.

But I went on a digression there. Another reason I am happy about the Supreme Court’s decision is that legally binding marriages ensure that when one person in the same sex couple dies, the other person will now be guaranteed to inherit the dead person’s estate. There have been cases where a gay couple lived together as a couple for years and years, then one would die, and the other would be denied all rights to the estate she or he should have rightfully inherited. I only learned about this fairly recently, when I signed a petition showing my support of marriage equality.

Anyways I am happy about that, too.

But back to flags: if anybody, straight, lesbian, gay, bi, trans, if anybody at all sees a rainbow flag hanging outside of a business, they are welcome to enter that business and patronize it. If a straight person goes in and starts preaching their hateful religious beliefs, they will likely be asked to leave, but otherwise they’re welcome.

The rainbow flag is a symbol of inclusion. As we have already noted, many businesses wish to deny services for people based on their sexual orientation. The rainbow flag means “my business doesn’t discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.” If you’re a straight person, and you’re looking for a place to eat lunch or something, and you pass by a restaurant with a rainbow flag hanging in front of it, I encourage you to go in and have lunch. See if the people there ask you whether you’re gay or ask you to leave for not being gay. I obviously can’t speak for every business owner with a rainbow flag out front, but I can almost guarantee nobody will ask you to leave.

Now let’s back up to 1967. Prior to the Supreme Court decision made then, states could ban marriage between interracial couples. And I wasn’t alive yet in 1967, but I imagine there were quite a few restaurateurs, bakers, photographers, etc. proudly displaying their bigotry by refusing services to interracial couples. And they likely justified their bigotry using their own personal interpretations of religious texts.

I don’t know if any of these business owners flew any flags — they most likely just put out crudely scrawled signs with misspelled racial epithets on them — but if these bigoted business owners were to fly a flag to signify that they didn’t cater to interracial couples, what flag could they have possibly flown?

Can you think of one?

I can. I don’t know if that flag was ever actually flown in such a context, but it would have fit pretty well.

The Confederate flag was created to signify white supremacy. This was explicitly stated by the person who designed it, and it was flown over states that seceded from the Union based on explicitly stated (and recorded) ideas of white supremacy.

During the 150 years since the Civil War ended, it has been flown by the Ku Klux Klan and many other white supremacist groups, also as a symbol of white supremacy.

And yeah, many people in the south fly the Confederate flag as a symbol of being proud of their heritage, and not as a symbol of white supremacy. And if you’re one of those people, fine, you have free speech, you can express yourself any way you want to.

But imagine this scenario: you’re white, you live in the south, you own a restaurant, you fly the Confederate flag outside your restaurant, and it’s lunchtime.

There’s a black person walking down the street, looking for a place to eat lunch. She or he sees your restaurant, and it looks nice enough, but there’s a Confederate flag hanging in front of it.

A couple doors down, there’s a competing restaurant. Their food is essentially the same as your food, and prices are also essentially the same. There’s a rainbow flag hanging in front of this restaurant.

If you were that black person — or for that matter any nonwhite person — where would you be more likely to eat lunch?

Again, I don’t presume to speak for anybody other than myself, but I know where I would have my lunch, if I were in that situation. I’m a straight white southerner, and I’d rather eat at the place with the rainbow flag.

I’m not saying the white restaurant owner in this situation would treat any nonwhite customers differently. What I am saying is that flying that flag out front might create the perception that the white restaurant owner would. Like it or not, the Confederate flag has been used time and time again as a symbol of exclusion. Time and time and time and time again.

Nobody can control how other people interpret the language and symbols they use. I couldn’t stop two or three people from unfriending me here on Facebook recently, presumably over either the rainbow profile pic or my various rants about the Confederate flag.

Am I glad those people unfriended me? Frankly, no, I am not glad. I wish the lines of dialogue were still all the way open between us here on Facebook. I wish they had stuck around long enough to read this, at least.

But I can’t control them or you (whoever you may be) or how you interpret what I write or say, or what symbols I use. All I can do is try to be as unbiased and fair as I can be. I would encourage everyone to do the same.

Have a nice one, wherever you’re having it, whoever you’re having it with.


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