I was walking through St. Anthony Park the other night, after the stores had closed. I love the little neighborhood, close to where I live in St. Paul, with little shops and attractive buildings. It’s bustling and beautiful during the day, peaceful and quiet at night. Something caught my eye as my friend and I approached Peapods, the natural toy and baby care store: an iconic HRC sticker was on their front window. A little beacon of welcome. A clear indication that this community is welcome there.
Above and beyond the actual proposed legislation, what’s bothered me so much about the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) that have been trying to make headway across the nation is that I’m second-guessing our business climate more than ever. Before marriage equality in Minnesota, I was pleased when businesses showed their allegiance to the community, because it was more of the exception than the rule (depending on the business and if it had to adhere to the civil rights laws). Now that marriage equality is the rule, each business that wants to be an exception is such a scary disappointment.
That a pizza parlor owner thinks that refusing to cater a gay wedding is actually going to affect same-sex weddings in the future isn’t the point, it’s that a business owner wants to turn away gay customers. We know this is a problem. We’ve been talking about how separate is not equal for years and years. Other proposed legislation could affect people who need medical attention and be refused it, if the provider ignores the idea to “first do no harm” for their own religious convictions as being against homosexuality. In a chilling development, as also mentioned by E.B. Boatner, there is a proposed “Sodomite Suppression Act” to kill the gay men (or, I suppose, anyone who engages in sodomy) in California. That these thoughts exist is no surprise and is always worrisome. That they have some traction is what is so terrifying.
When I’m terrified, I want to circle the wagons. I want to gather people near to me who I can protect and who can protect me and mine. I want to work with people who clearly support the community. I encourage and promote outward displays of welcome, whether they be gender-neutral bathrooms or the fleet of vehicles out there that still has “VOTE NO” or “I Support the Freedom to Marry” or “Love is the Law” bumper stickers on them. Now, perhaps even more than before marriage equality in Minnesota, I find it necessary to suss out how welcoming a company might be to this community. And, even if it’s said that a company is welcoming, it’s important that they truly walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
As marriage equality might go national and transgender issues are coming more to the fore, it is important to keep the conversations going, to continue pushing forward how necessary it is that business owners relate to this community. It’s not just about the wedding industry, but it’s also about making sure that gay couples don’t get kicked out of their vacation rental homes as happened recently in Texas. In a more proactive tone and relevant to this Home & Garden Issue, it’s about making sure that the companies you hire to build your home, to design your yard, to clear your garage, to move your belongings, and to decorate your family’s bedrooms not only see you as equals, but that their staffs treat you as treasured clients.
Now is the time when we start working on quality control in our business dealings. Work with businesses that want to work with us, while also encouraging businesses make clear their inclusion of this community. Look in Lavender’s pages and on the website for advertisers who want you to know who they are so you can work with them. Join or consult Quorum as the community’s Chamber of Commerce for your business needs. Make note of the businesses that march in the Pride Parade. Look on the windows of stores as you walk through your neighborhood for equality stickers. There are beacons of welcome all around us. Let them walk the walk for you.
With you and with thanks,