Friday, November 14, 2008

Prominent Mormon: Count me Out

Prominent Mormon Bill Marriott, a major shareholder in the Marriott chain of hotels has used his company blog to distance himself from his church's campaign to fund Proposition 8 to strip gay couples of the right to marry. Marriott says he is a Mormon and that some people might conclude "that our company supported the recent ballot initiative to ban same sex marriage in California." But he assures his readers: "This is simply untrue. Marriott International is a public company and is not controlled by any one individual or family. Neither I, nor the company, contributed to the campaign to pass Proposition 8."

Marriott says he is "very careful about separating my personal faith and beliefs from how we run our business" and says the company "was built on the basic principles of respect and inclusion". He wrote: "We embrace all people as our customers, associates, owners, and franchisees regardless of race, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation."

Marriott wrote: "We were among the first in our industry to offer domestic partner benefits, and we've earned a perfect 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index for two years in a row. Many of our hotels have hosted LGBT community functions and events for years. "

A search of the database of contributers to the Prop 8 campaign show only four people named Marriott as contributors. Three gave to the Prop 8 campaign and one opposed it. The three supporters gave a total of $1,200 and none had links that were immediately associated in my mind with Bill Marriott or the company so he may well be telling the truth. My only question is that while he starts out speaking of his hotel and his family when it gets to the point where he states that no contributions were made he drops reference to his family and instead says that he personally didn't contribute. That might be poor wording. Or it might be very carefully considered wording. It might indicate that one of the contributors was, in fact, a family member just not Bill Marriott himself. However, I'm satisfied with Marriott's statement and don't see a reason why anyone should shun his hotels, at least not in relationship to Prop 8.

However, that said, I'm not sure this is going to placate a lot of gay travellers. The real story in the response to Prop 8 passing is that this one measure, like nothing else in history, has united and angered the gay community. Millions of gay people are enraged across the country and at the same time. If Prop 8 was meant to harm the rights of gay people, and it was, the net result, long term, may be the very opposite. Millions of gays who had previously been apolitical are pissed off and contributing and marching and this is not going to stop for some time.

If there is a slogan that captures it try this one: "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore." The Mormon Church and their deceptive campaign have prodded a sleeping bear and then they kept prodding it until it woke up very angry. That may well mean the bear will sometimes pick the wrong targets but it doesn't mean the bear is going back to sleep very quickly.

For me, as a libertarian, my concern is that the gay community will go overboard and ask for things which I don't believe anyone has the right to ask for. But I can't really blame them. Marriage rights were a legitimate request and ought not be denied. Conservatives who acted to deny gays their legitimate rights may not only lose that battle but end up seeing badly crafted laws on "hate speech" and private discrimination as well. That is, in order to win a small battle the conservatives may have lost the war and, in the end, lose what little they gained in the small battle as well.

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