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Lane: Gay business owners, Ted Cruz, and open conversation

BY JOE LANE | APRIL 29, 2015 5:00 AM

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Last week, two gay hotel owners hosted a dinner with presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Following the New York Times story about the dinner, a Facebook group was organized with the name “Boycott Fire Island Pines Establishments & Out NYC Hotel.”

The two business partners, who are gay themselves, are the creators of “The Out Hotel,” which largely caters to a gay clientele.

The founder of the Facebook group, who, according to a CBS article wished to remain anonymous, was quoted as saying, “The thought of ‘gay’ money spent at their establishments making its way into the campaign accounts of anti-LGBT elected officials is outrageous.”

My support for the gay community and for the rights of LGBT individuals is as fervent as ever. But what is outrageous is not the meeting between Cruz and the owners of a “gay hotel” but nearly every way this Facebook group founder (and the group’s members) has reacted to this scenario — right down to her or his rhetoric.

The use of the term “gay” money by activists in the gay-rights movement is ironic beyond belief. The connotation of such phrasing is eerily reminiscent of the terms heard during the civil-rights movement. And while I believe the contrasts between the two movements far outweigh the similarities, terms such as “gay money” and “black money” make comparison too obvious to ignore.

The response released by Ian Reisner, one of the owners, following the dinner and subsequent backlash further proved the importance of such meetings. According to CBS News, Reisner said, “I was given the opportunity to have a candid conversation with Sen. Ted Cruz on where he stood on all issues, foreign and domestic, [Cruz] and I disagree strongly on the issue of gay marriage, but having an open dialogue with those who have differing political opinions is a part of what this country was founded on. My tireless support of the gay community and its causes worldwide hasn’t changed and will not change.”

Reisner’s comments were so great that he may have a career in politics himself.

Most importantly, Reisner points to the significance of open conversations about the politics and government of our country, conversations that are the backbone of legislation such as the allowing of gay marriage.

If the founder of this Facebook group thinks that such dramatic change in only one decade is possible without these open conversations, he or she is sorely mistaken.

Furthermore, Reisner noted that he is still a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton, thereby disproving the Facebook group founder’s belief that “gay” money is going to the hands of gay-marriage opponents.

Not only do Reisner and Mati Weiderpass (the other owner) deserve respect for how they treated the situation and how they engaged in conversation with the opposition, but so too does Cruz for meeting with gay individuals — members of a community he is so adamantly against. 

The only person for whom I have lost respect in this scenario is the creator of the Facebook group — for possessing the short-mindedness that prevented the advancement of pro-LGBT legislation for so long.

And although I can understand where the meeting with Cruz could be upsetting to a member of the gay community, I find it ironic, if not downright irrational, to combat the very idea of open discussion about gay rights across party lines.


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