El Coyote Ugly: The Debate Continues

Posted on 16 December 2008 by admin

Steve Gomez is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, and he has done a couple of columns on the situation with El Coyote. The first is an interview with Margie Christoffersen, the El Coyote manager and daughter of the owner of the restaurant.    The second is a summary of the feedback that was sent along with his commentary, and decision to stand by his first article.   Below is a letter that I just sent to him, though I doubt he’ll continue the saga in the Times.

Hi Steve,

In response to your recent column about reader response to your earlier El Coyote column, you still don’t get it.

It doesn’t matter if the No on 8 campaign was uninspired — that is not a “good point” as you say. It’s disgusting that gays and lesbians even have to make a case at all, so the quality of the campaign is
irrelevant. Take a look at this clip from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart interviewing Mike Huckabee.

Is Margie entitled to her views? Certainly. Are her customers entitled to be offended? Certainly. What’s the point of distinguishing her right to have the views then? Is there something wrong with someone trying to make their views the law when they are judgmental and harmful to others? Of course!

Civil Unions for all? Sounds like an interesting idea until you get beyond the surface. It’s not practical. Straight people would never allow it. And case law around marriage, divorce and parenting is not
applicable to Civil Unions — which is why they are not a good idea for gay people, let alone all people. Perhaps a law in California could order the terms to be interchangeable, but I doubt that would hold at the federal level.

Reverse discrimination? Give me a break! Princeton defines discrimination as “unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice.” They define prejudice as “bias: a partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation.” These clearly do not apply here. Marjie took an action that resulted in harm to gays and lesbians. Gays and lesbians objected. There is no prejudice there: she did it! Gays and lesbians said OUCH! You can’t say that objecting to discrimination is discriminating against the discriminator. That is just absurd.

The only thing that I can see as bordering validity for debate is the strength of the response to Margie’s actions. I don’t see much point in that debate. Margie did something and her customers reacted. There is no person holding the strings controlling the boycott. Individual customers have the information and will do with it what they will.

There are hundreds of nearby restaurants that are not tarnished by this donation. It’s not the problem of the customers: it’s a PR problem for the business, and rightly so. Should the donation have been made public? Why not. She made it and she stands by it. Why not take pride? You can’t sue someone for libel for speaking the truth.

But what about the innocent employees? Again, this business has a PR nightmare on their hands, like many other businesses do every day on a wide variety of issues. That’s the problem of the business, and as a result the “innocent” employees, not the offended customers. And again, there are plenty of other restaurants nearby. There is no “switching cost” to go somewhere else, so all other things being equal, *why* would gays or supporters make a point of continuing to patronize El Coyote?

Margie did what she did. Gays and lesbians are hurt. El Coyote business is down. Those are the facts, and talking about it and making a sympathy case for Margie is akin to saying that gays and lesbians are wrong to be offended. That offends me.

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