June 28, 2018 at 2:27 pm EST | by Peter Rosenstein
Why I support the Red Hen restaurant
Red Hen, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, gay news, Washington Blade

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Hearing that Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Va., has clearly caused many people to rethink what it means to discriminate against someone.

My thoughts immediately went to the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing the baker in Colorado to discriminate against a gay couple. I thought of the two African-American men who were kicked out of a Starbucks in Philadelphia. It brought back memories of the 1960 civil rights protest in Greensboro, N.C., in which a number of African-American students sat down at a lunch counter at Woolworths and refused to leave after being denied service in the segregated store. With the passing of Dick Leitsch, an early gay rights activist, we were reminded that in New York in the 1960s, a bar could deny a drink to a gay person. In each of those cases I was appalled a public establishment could or would refuse to serve a law-abiding person.

So I questioned myself when my immediate reaction to what Stephanie Wilkinson, owner of the Red Hen in Lexington, did was to cheer her. My response was to find her on Facebook and say thank you. I questioned how this equated to the totally opposite reactions I have always had when others were denied service. Then I read the tweet from Chrissy Teigen, “Didn’t you morons get your panties in a wad defending the baker that didn’t want to make cakes for gay couples?” And, yes, while offended at being called a moron it made me think even more about my reaction to the Sanders incident. Something that struck me is there is a difference between being discriminated against for who you are, rather than for what you do. With Sanders it is what she does.

My thoughts led to thinking about what is happening in our country and whether or not we are in normal times. Was the reaction to what happened to her and her party a logical response to what she is doing day after day from the podium in the White House? Her daily lies and support of policies that have made life harder for women, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants and African Americans. Her support of policies turning back the clock on issues of fairness and decency.

How do we in a civil society respond to what she is saying and doing daily? How do we make a point in a civil way and try to educate her and help her understand what it feels like to be turned down by a baker when all you are doing is ordering a cake in a public place? Or being thrown out of a Starbucks that welcomes all the other customers around you? So while some may consider it hypocritical to condone refusing her service in a public establishment it is one legitimate way to make a point.

When after the incident Sanders tweeted from her White House account saying about Stephanie Wilkinson, “Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so,” it made me even more confident Wilkinson did the right thing. You have to wonder what Sanders thinks is respectful about the policies her boss the president implements toward immigrants.

The civil action Wilkinson took when asking her to leave has my full support. Maybe if it happens more it might make an impact on Sanders and others who are working every day to support and implement the horrendous policies of the Trump administration. One had to wonder at the young men and women of the administration who recently complained they couldn’t get a date in D.C. because they work for Trump. After laughing, my thought was: When you work every day supporting a president who is screwing the American people you can’t get screwed in D.C. That’s karma.

In all seriousness, denying Sanders a seat at the restaurant is a way to make a statement about how decent, hard-working people believe she and others are wrong in supporting and implementing policies that cause the same thing to be done to others.

We who support what happened to Sanders in the Red Hen are not the hypocrites. That honor belongs to Sanders who believes her actions every day, lying to the American public and supporting the policies of a president who is destroying our Democracy, are respectful of anyone.

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