Breda O’Brien: Question of pizza for a gay wedding sparks death threats

Same-sex marriage referendum is not just about saying ‘I do’

‘A somewhat silly hypothetical question from a reporter eager for a story (who serves pizza at weddings?) resulted in credible death threats, police protection, and the family being forced to close their business temporarily.’ Photograph: Getty Images

‘A somewhat silly hypothetical question from a reporter eager for a story (who serves pizza at weddings?) resulted in credible death threats, police protection, and the family being forced to close their business temporarily.’ Photograph: Getty Images

 

Some time ago, the O’Connor family, who run a small pizzeria, received a query from a reporter. “Would you provide pizza for a gay wedding?” the reporter asked.

After pointing out that they were happy to serve any customer, gay or straight, they answered truthfully, that no, they did not think they would cater for a gay wedding.

A somewhat silly hypothetical question from a reporter eager for a story (pizza at a wedding?) resulted in credible death threats, police protection and the family being forced to close their business temporarily.

When you see the O’Connor family, do you see the Ku Klux Klan, or just ordinary people trying to make a living and at the same time live up to their beliefs?

The dominant elite culture wants you to see the O’Connors as the Klan or, at least, the modern-day equivalent of people who set the dogs and the whips on black people on the bridge at Selma.

Given the death threats and relentless hounding, which side most resembles dangerous bigots?

The O’Connors were hounded in Indiana because Gov Mike Pence introduced a religious freedom Bill similar to one Bill Clinton happily signed into law at a federal level some 20 years previously.

The Bill means the state has to show compelling state interest before it can force a citizen to overrule religious beliefs.

Similar Bills in other states have been used to allow a Muslim prisoner to grow a half-inch beard, in accord with his religious beliefs. (The right was already available in 40 other states).

Another woman used it to claim compensation when she was fired from her tax official job because her Sikh faith obliged her to carry a small blunt knife called a kirpan.

Threat

Such legislation had never been successful as a defence

Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, who is gay, was to the forefront of the threatened economic sanctions. To him, this religious freedom law was an unacceptable breach of civil rights.

This is the same Tim Cook who declared himself “deeply offended” by a BBC Panorama programme that found tin dug out of mines by hand by Indonesian children was going into iPhones.

The BBC also claimed Apple’s Chinese workers were living in overcrowded dormitories, and working well over 60 hours a week in order to survive, because they could not live on what they made during a “normal” work week.

What is Apple’s idea of normal? It has set the bar at 60 hours a week, and boasts that 93 per cent of its 1.1 million workforce meet that norm. That means they admit 77,000 workers work more than 60 hours a week to generate the unprecedented $18 billion profit Apple reported for its last quarter this January.

Meanwhile, Cook focuses his attention on Indiana.

Mobilised

That might sound like good news, but it really is not. That fundraising is symbolic of a population belatedly waking up to realise that rights they took for granted, such as the right to decide in a small business what contracts they were going to accept, are being eroded away.

The money raised is buttons to giant corporations such as Apple. There is no equality in this controversy, just little people desperately scrabbling to defend themselves against a machine that paints them as homophobic, bigoted and functionally equivalent to racists.

It could never happen here? Well, our beloved Government has just passed a Bill, with virtually no public discussion due to a compliant media, that has enormous and far-reaching consequences. The Bill means the scenario that happened with Mary Portas, whose brother Lawrence Newton provided sperm so that Melanie Rickey, Portas’s partner, could conceive a child, Horatio, can now happen here with the sanction of the State.

Legally, Horatio has two mothers, and no father. Legally, Newton is merely his uncle. Any children Newton has are first cousins to their half-sibling. This twisting and tangling of the family tree is only the beginning.

Meanwhile, Enda Kenny is saying that all the upcoming referendum to redefine marriage is about is two people of the same gender saying “I do”.

He seems unaware that since 2011, same-sex couples have been saying “I do” every week in civil partnerships.

It is not just about saying “I do”. Metaphorically, the Children and Family Relationships Bill is the house. The referendum will put a constitutional foundation under it. And lots of O’Connor families, dazed and wondering what happened to their right to dissent, will be the predictable outcome.

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