Jeff Ackerman: Keep bully tactics out of same-sex marriage debate |

Jeff Ackerman: Keep bully tactics out of same-sex marriage debate

If you oppose same sex marriage, you must be homo- phobic. Just as you must be a racist if you support stronger border controls, or if you promote English as our first language.

Labels keep things nice and tidy, avoiding the complicated and time-consuming need to articulate, reason, debate, tolerate, or, in rare cases, concede.

Last week the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce board was asked to kick in $1,000 toward an ad in a gay publication (The Advocate) designed to encourage same-sex couples to get married in Nevada City. The request did not come before a regular board meeting, but allegedly required immediate action in order to make a publication deadline.

As president of the 13-member board, I decided to poll my fellow board members through e-mail and the majority of the board opposed it. My initial reaction was to support the proposal, since our primary task is to promote tourism and to look for ways to stimulate business.

But after reviewing the concerns from other board members who were against the proposal (the e-mail poll was 8-5 against), mostly because our budget is tight and we didn’t really budget for the request, I changed my mind.

I, too, was concerned about the financial impacts of the request and thought that it should have come to the board by way of a formal proposal, rather than by e-mail. And since the issue of same-sex marriage is a pretty emotional one and will be debated heavily between now and November, when Californians will once again be asked for an opinion (opponents hope to overturn a recent California Supreme Court decision through a Constitutional amendment), I thought the issue was too political for the chamber to tackle (the board eventually changed its mind and endorsed it during Monday night’s meeting). More than 60 percent of California voters opposed same-sex marriage when it was on the ballot in 2000.

Following our initial decision to oppose the funding request, the e-mails started flowing in, accusing the chamber board of “homophobia,” or the fear of homosexuality.

“I am appalled, disgusted and downright angry and saddened that you people would take such a homophobic stance on the LGBT (I assume that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual) living in our county,” wrote one. “I find it reprehensible that the Chamber of Commerce and Jeff Ackerman would embrace such drivel and homophobic attitudes.”

In other words, the request for $1,000 should have read more like a blackmail note: “Give us the $1,000, or you are all a bunch of homophobes.”

The letter writer suggested the board partake in some “sensitivity training,” where members could learn to be more tolerant.

He failed to recognize that tolerance is a two-way street. Where is the religious tolerance, or acknowledgement that millions and millions of Americans oppose same-sex marriage for religious reasons? They happen to believe in the Bible and in the notion that God does not recognize, or condone, a marriage of same-sex partners. Don’t they deserve the same respect that same-sex marriage proponents are demanding today? Don’t they deserve more than to be labeled “Bible Thumpers,” or “Religious Wing Nuts”? Seems we can all use a little “sensitivity” training.

For the record, I have no personal stake in the issue. I know several gay couples who have been together many years and whose love for one another is as strong, or stronger, than any “straight” couple I have met. I can see where they would like to have their relationship validated, or formalized, through wedding vows and I would never stand in their way, or deny them that right. With one of the highest divorces rates in the country, California’s track record for heterosexual marriage isn’t too great anyway.

I can also see the economic benefits of bringing the same-sex weddings to Nevada City. Especially at a time when Nevada City could use the business.

But I resent the strong-arm, bully tactics employed by those who want to foist their lifestyles on those who simply want no part of it. For me, it’s a far-too-familiar path, where disagreement generally turns personal. And the biggest bullies are generally the ones who preach tolerance, or passiveness. They are tolerant and passive so long as you agree with them. If you cross them, they screech louder than a kid whose mom says no at a candy store, resorting to name calling, labeling and other nastiness. Sometimes they even throw a Sunday tea, where they meet to hatch plans to run you and your family out of town. They are not nice people.

The same-sex marriage debate is not one where you are likely to change the other’s opinion. They are generally rooted too deeply for that. But somewhere, if we look just a little harder, we might find respect. It’s not too difficult to extend that. It’s as simple as, “I respect your opinion, but must disagree.” So far, the state’s highest court has determined that same-sex marriage should be recognized. And until someone says differently, same-sex couples ought to be free to marry anywhere they choose. I think Nevada County is a great place to have a wedding.

Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299,, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

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