Sometimes, there is no neutral. On issues of civil equality, there is almost never a neutral.
You either support it, and treat all groups the same, or you don’t.
Belmont restaurant Johnny B’s Pizza Pad found this out the hard way last weekend when it refused to host a fundraiser for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), arguing it didn’t want to be perceived as choosing sides in a “controversial issue.”
Johnny B’s has hosted fundraisers for nonprofits before. The way it works is people come in, say that they’re eating to benefit the group, and the restaurant donates 15 percent of their check to the nonprofit. The restaurant gets more business and visibility, the group gets donations, and its supporters get food. It’s a win-win-win situation.
Now the only people winning are Gaston County bigots, who have used this incident as a catalyst to publicly voice their grievances with the gay community. The most outspoken has been County Commissioner Tracy Philbeck, who went on a paranoid, homophobic tirade in an open letter to the Gaston Gazette saying “PFLAG is about the destruction of marriage between one man and one woman. PFLAG is not about acceptance, it is about indoctrination... It is dangerous and must be exposed.”
While surely some of his constituents find this type of rhetoric embarrassing, others have echoed his sentiments, and even taken them further. A commenter on his Facebook compared PFLAG to Hitler, and comments on Johnny B’s Facebook page cheer the business for its decision, one saying “I am so sick sick sick of Gay people shoving they're life style down our throats!!!!!!”
It’s amazing the intentions people can read into a simple request for a fundraiser. Gaston PFLAG co-founder Robert Kellogg said in response, “we have and will continue to strive for a peaceful and respectful coexistence within our community. If anyone would like to know what PFLAG is about please reference our mission statement.”
According to PFLAG, Johnny B’s insisted it is not anti-gay, and cited the fact it employs several gay people as evidence. Seriously.
Perhaps the restaurant isn’t anti-gay, but it has certainly exposed many in Gaston County who are. Meanwhile, no one in Gaston’s business community is standing up to support PFLAG, and the group says it has raised $1,000 in individual donations since Saturday.