Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tempest in a Teapot

The San Diego Union Tribune posted an editorial on its front page yesterday: "Will gays' boycott turn the tables?" The article is notable for having no facts, but many opinions. The headline suggests that this boycott will somehow change the outcome of the election on Prop 8. Or maybe the headline just means that gays are doing boycotts just as their Christian opponents have done. In any case, gay rights groups are protested the fact that Doug Manchester, owner of the Manchester Grand Hyatt, gave money to get the marriage amendment on the ballot. I wrote about that protest when it was first announced.

Here are some facts that would be relevant: is the boycott still going on? The photo on the front page, prominently displaying the rainbow flag, has a caption " gay rights activists gathered at the Manchester Grand Hotel earlier this month." The boycott opened last Friday, July 18th, the first day of the Gay Pride celebration weekend, with a lot of fanfare. Is anyone still out in front of the Hyatt? The story and the photo together suggest that there is, but the article doesn't explicitly say that. I haven't been downtown and can't verify.
The boycott organizers have their own website: Californians Against Hate and offered the prospect of thousands of Gay Pride partiers showing up to join the boycott of the hotel. A bunch of us Marriage Supporters went down that Friday to form a counter-demonstration. Despite the fact that we had one day's notice, we had nearly as many people on the street as they did.

Here is another fact that would be good to know: what was the occupancy of the Hotel during the night of the boycott? We heard the place was booked solid, including Christians from across the country who booked rooms they didn't need, just to spend money at the Manchester Hyatt. Is the hotel still full? Has the boycott had any effect on business? Our intrepid reported doesn't tell us, even though he quotes No on Prop 8 supporters who claim that it has been effective.

And take a look at the photo: see all those red shirts? Those are the union members who helped organize the boycott. The article doesn't mention them until the very bottom of the story, and has only this to say:

Both Manchester and (openly gay Hyatt Marketing Manager, Kelly) Commerford contend that Unite Local 30, which is co-sponsoring the boycott, is using the same-sex marriage issue to pursue its real agenda of trying to unionize Manchester's two hotels.

(Activist Fred) Karger said there is nothing unusual about the alliance – unions and gay rights organizations frequently have worked together to end discrimination.

True enough, that groups work together. But there is something slightly disingenuous about claiming vast support for a boycott when about half the protesters are paid union members, and when the other side has no trouble getting regular people to take the day off from work to stage a counter-protest. And, the word on the street is that the union is financing the Californians Against Hate effort, which might explain their website-for-a- day.

My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that consumer boycotts are seldom effective. And this particular boycott may just backfire. California businesses may decide to draw the line at marriage, if they realize that they too, could have protesters on their doorstep. Defeating Proposition 8 will not be the final demand of the gay lobby. Count on it.

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