The hot topic on several non-serious news sites this morning was the story of the US supermarket Harps, who placed a ‘Family shield. To protect young Harps shoppers’ in front of a magazine picturing Elton John, David Furnish and their new baby son.
The Arkansas store apparently responded to shoppers who complained that the image of the gay couple with their child on the cover of Us Weekly was offensive (not that such a complaint is at all offensive hey?) But like the story and outcome of the Christian hotel owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who, it was ruled recently, acted unlawfully by refusing Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy a room at their hotel in Cornwall in September 2008, it just goes to show that it is ALWAYS worth making a fuss.
The issue of the protected magazine cover came to light when local resident, Jennifer Huddleston, took a picture of it on her camera phone and uploaded it to Plixi. She then tweeted the issue to various LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) activists within her network such as the Ellen DeGeneres Show, GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and actress Kathy Griffin.
Social networking being what it is – when it’s good it’s very, very good and when it’s bad it’s horrid – did good to rightly ruffle the feathers of people far and wide, prompting counter-complaints and news stories all over.
The store was exercising their ‘right’ to use the shield to block covers that customers feel are inappropriate for public display. Much like Peter and Hazelmary Bull who were exercising their Christian ‘right’ not to allow unmarried couples to stay in their B&B (even though Mr Hall and Mr Preddy were lawfully bound by civil partnership).
I know I like making a fuss about nothing just for dramatic effect but I am genuinely pleased to see that when people’s ‘rights’ (always in inverted commas to demonstrate my lack of respect for them) get in the way of basic Human Rights, kicking up a fuss – much like social networking itself – comes into its own.
While most comments on Netmums were hugely against the shield, one post said “The shop seems like they were in a difficult position though. They had complaints about the mag, so thought they were doing the right thing by acknowledging customers’ requests”. The fact that the shop’s initial response was not to think the complaints themselves were unacceptable is a testimony to the actual state of equal rights as they now stand. You can no more complain about a gay family than you can a white family, black family, single parent family; Mr & Mrs Bull cannot refuse a gay couple just as hotels and B&Bs can no longer have “No blacks or Irish” signs at their door.
The GLAAD blogs follow up report stated that as a result of the pressure Harps decided to remove the shield, going on to say that “hopefully Jennifer’s actions will inspire more people to speak up when they see anti-gay actions like this, whether it’s on TV - in a newspaper - or yes, at a local supermarket.” As I said in my catchily titled piece ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but a wife by any other name would be less owned!’ the devil truly is in the detail.
Today I listened to: 1 by the Beatles, particularly Strawberry Fields Forever, lots.
Today I read: GLAAD Blog; Mumsnet; Various bit on The Independent online; Why do so many right-wingers object to protecting Gay kids? http://johannhari.com/