The LGBT community understands bias and has pleaded for tolerance. How could the Red Hen’s LGBT employees lobby to eject Sarah Huckabee Sanders?
When Sarah Huckabee Sanders walked into the Red Hen restaurant in western Virginia, it is a safe bet she just wanted to enjoy a meal. She was in America’s heartland and wanted what everyone else did that evening at the Red Hen — a farm-to-table dinner. What Sanders received, however, is a stark reminder that half a century later, America is still asking who has a seat at the lunch counter, and the dinner table.
“I would have done the same thing again,” co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson told The Washington Post in defending her decision to kick Sanders out of her restaurant. Was the president’s spokeswoman rowdy or disruptive? Was she on a drunken rampage? Had she been rude to the Red Hen’s staff? Nope. Sanders’ only crime was that she works in the White House for President Donald Trump.
“We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions,” Wilkinson explained. “This appeared to be one.”
Rights for LGBT but not Sanders?
Wilkinson said her decision to deny Sanders service was due, in part, to the fact that the Red Hen employs members of the LGBT community. These employees were upset that Sanders had defended Trump’s decision to ban transgender citizens from the military.
The irony is just too much.
For decades, Americans have been lectured to about the treatment of the LGBT community. Bakers, innkeepers, wedding planners have all been exiled because they have refused service to same-sex couples. In 21st century America, the idea that people would be denied service because of who they are or what they think is antithetical to a free society.
Understanding the bias in arbitrary denial of services, how could gay employees lobby for the ejection of Sanders? For decades, LGBT folks had been denied service and have pleaded for tolerance. Now they had the opportunity to be the bigger person and show that, in America, political foes can break bread rather serve up a cold dish of revenge. The Red Hen, and its gay employees, passed on that opportunity and showed the nation that pettiness trumps principle.
The decision to discriminate rather than dish up is what is at the heart of the Red Hen cluckfest. Whereas Martin Luther King, Jr. argued that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Wilkinson and the Red Hen modified that by adding, “Unless the injustice is directed to supporters and employees of President Donald Trump.” This is not only wrong; it is also a logic that cannot stand in a time when egalitarian notions rule the roost.
As prejudicial as the Christian baker
If Wilkinson is able to use her convictions — which included a perceived mistreatment of the LGBT community — as a justification to deny service, Christians should be able to, without LGBT objection, use their deeply held religious convictions to do the same. Wilkinson’s views would get her a standing ovation at the Tony Awards and a shout-out from Robert De Niro. But that doesn’t make those views any less prejudicial than those of a Christian baker unwilling to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
As a nation, we have a choice: Do we allow people to deny service based upon convictions, or require that everyone gets a seat at the table? We must either stand up to defend the right of all people — even those we disagree with — to enjoy a public service, or we must let service providers decide whom they’ll serve.