Taking a Stand on the Gay Hoosier Pizza.

I have a secret to tell you: I was born in Indiana. If you don’t think that’s a big secret, it means you’re either unfamiliar with Indiana or you currently live in Indiana and you’re lying to yourself.  Thankfully, I’m both familiar with Indiana and not living there. That makes me especially qualified to comment on this Memories Pizza debacle.

But, wait. There’s more. I also grew up Catholic. I not only grew up Catholic, I was an alter boy for several years. Plus, I recently saw the movie Exodus. I’m not only a Hoosier, I’m a religious expert.

I wish that were the end of my expertise. It’s not.  I need to get all of my credentials out there: I’m also recently married.  We talked about getting pizza for our guests. Ultimately we went with pork, chicken and turkey.

That poor, poor girl.
That poor, poor girl.

Guys, I’m not wanting to brag on myself too much here, but I also recently saw Elton John live at Caesar’s Palace.

I’m a religious Hoosier who saw a gay man play piano and thought about a pizza wedding.  Also, some of the pigs served at our wedding bash might have been gay (I can’t confirm, but I do have my suspicions). How was I not the first person any of these so-called journalists contacted for a quote?

I guess I’m an expert on a lot of things, but not why journalists make decisions.

I’m very conflicted about this Pizza place. I try, when I can, to let my legal opinions flow from reason and ration, and not from emotion or any sense of loyalty to a political or religious group.  On the airplane ride back after being married by the Reverend Elvis Presley in Las Vegas, I’d though about posting my thoughts on the issue. Then I stumbled upon Penn Jillette’s post. While I don’t agree with some of what Penn had to say, I agree with the sentiment and didn’t think I could sum it up much better:

I don’t think we need a special law that says certain people get to be rude to other people because they think God is on their side, but I also don’t want a law that says I have to do business with people I disagree with if I’m a really stupid business person.
If it seems my position is confusing, it’s because I’m contradicting myself. I think refusing service to anyone for a theoretical disagreement is stupid, stupid, stupid. And I also think that if we make stupid illegal, everyone goes to prison.

There’s a part of this whole story that Penn didn’t really get to that’s been bothering me, though. I couldn’t put it into words, but Mark Draughn’s post this morning did. There’s a bullying aspect to all of this that I just can’t get behind:

That’s not quite right. These folks didn’t go looking to make a statement to the world. They’re the local pizza joint in a small town surrounded by farmland and some damned TV reporter went into their place looking for a quote that she could turn into a story. And they were unfortunately nice enough to give her one. And all hell broke loose. By the time the story got to Huffington Post, it had turned into, “Indiana’s Memories Pizza Reportedly Becomes First Business To Reject Catering Gay Weddings.”
Because a digital media empire going after a small family-owned restaurant is really speaking truth to power.

While I wish the Memories Pizza people would take the opinion that gay people are really only gay when they’re having sex and, as long as they’re not having sex in the pizza place, they’re no different from any other people eating pizza and not having sex, it has all gotten somewhat silly.  When you look at this from a purely rational standpoint, this story is, at best, not much of a story.

When the new Indiana law was announced there was drama about how horrible it might be and how businesses were going to be terrible to potential patrons for all kinds of reasons  There was drama. Outrage. Speculation of the horribles. Then the gay pizza story broke and confirmed the speculation, right?

Far from it. Despite all the hysteria over the Indiana law, the story that finally broke was about a tiny, mom-and-pop pizza place in a town of 2,100 that thinks its pizza is too heterosexual for all the gay weddings in town.  How many gay weddings do you suppose they’d catered prior to the law? How many gay weddings do you suppose they were going to cater if the law hadn’t passed? Hell, how many pizzas do they even sell in a week?

Walkerton, Indiana: Add a Wal-Mart and it's gone anyway.
Walkerton, Indiana: Add a Wal-Mart and it’s gone anyway.

And, before you misconstrue what I’m saying, my take on the Indiana law is like any other new law: it’s totally unnecessary. I don’t like the law or the discrimination.  On the other hand, if the worst case scenario the internet shame machine can dig up is a homophobic pizza place in a town most noted for birthing the discoverer of deuterium perhaps the internet shame machine’s reaction should be a little more measured.

I’ve often thought that “principled consumerism” is a slippery slope that can only lead to places you don’t want to go, anyway.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with you taking a stand and skipping the homophobic pizza. On the other hand, I hope you’ve never driven a Ford (Henry Ford was an anti-Semite) or a Volkswagen (unless, you know, you love Hitler).  Does driving one mean you hate certain religious groups? Does buying anything from Japan mean you supported their bombing Pearl Harbor?

Hitler at the dedication of a VW plant.
Hitler at the dedication of a VW plant.

What is scary isn’t what we know about Chick-fil-a or Volkswagen or Memories Pizza. It’s what we don’t know about all of the other company owners who don’t tell us what they think about their politics and religion and, instead, keep their mouths shut and churn out products.

What does your family doctor think about homosexuality? Is your accountant racist? Does your mechanic hate disabled people? Quite possibly, she does.

You should probably figure all of this out before you go hammering Memories Pizza on Yelp, right?  If not, you’re a hypocrite.  Principled consumerism isn’t something you can do half-way if you are truly principled. Especially when it comes to a business that, by all accounts, might talk a big game but never have actually “walked the walk” in any real sense. Until you’re willing to ferret out the beliefs of every person who produces the things you consume, you’re as righteous as a vegan in a leather belt.

So, my thoughts on gay pizza are just like Penn Jillette’s. I’m conflicted. It’s ok to be conflicted. Sometimes ration pulls you in different directions.  I’m not comfortable with the way the shaming has happened. I’m not comfortable with political pizza, either.  Ultimately I think everybody involved could handle things better.

As a compromise, I’ll take a stand that means absolutely nothing: I’m never eating at Memories Pizza again unless they agree to make the sausage from gay pigs.

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. He loves his dog. And pizza.

9 thoughts on “Taking a Stand on the Gay Hoosier Pizza.”

  1. That’s a good point. I’ve blogged about the foolishness of worrying about the politics of the people you buy stuff from before, but I somehow missed it here. Help me out, Matt: My wife and I went out for Easter dinner, and I gave our waiter a larger than normal tip because of the holiday. Should I have asked him his opinion about gay marriage, race relations, and climate change first? What if he supports the War on Drugs? Am I funding evil?

  2. Exactly. And once you’ve cleared the waiter as suitable to bring your food, you’ll need to talk to the cooks, the manager, and owner. Not to mention the food service company, their packaging plant manager and the delivery guy. Don’t forget the farmer who raised your Easter ham or the guy who plucked your potatoes from the field, either. I’m not sure it ever ends.

  3. I did not know you were born in Indiana.

    I found your stuff entertaining, yet it had a lot of truth. I always think things are way to critical of stuff that they really know nothing about!!

    Have a great week!!!

    Bart Shafer

    1. Indeed I was! We still lived in Illinois (Homewood at the time) but went to the hospital in Hammond. I’m a Hoosier, for sure.

      Thanks for the kind note. I’ll shoot you an email later this week. It’s been too long, man.

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