Proposition 8 Protesters Target Businesses

Published on
by
The Los Angeles Times

Proposition 8 Protesters Target Businesses

Activists who oppose the ban on gay marriage are boycotting businesses whose employees or owners contributed money to the Yes on 8 campaign.

by
Tami Abdollah and Cara Mia DiMassa

Joe Hample, left, and Barry Wendell protest the passage of Proposition 8 in front of the Mormon temple on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. They were married Nov.1. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

LOS ANGELES - More than a week after the passage of Proposition 8, activists opposed
to the ban on gay marriage have shifted their protests to new arenas --
using boycotts to target businesses and individuals who contributed to
the winning side.

The effect of the boycotts remains unclear.
Merchants said that the overall poor economy made it difficult to tell
whether their businesses were declining specifically because of the
threats. But the protests have been highly visible and have drawn
strong objections from backers of the initiative.

"No matter
your opinion of Proposition 8, we should all agree that it is wrong to
intimidate and harass churches, businesses and individuals for
participating in the democratic process," Ron Prentice, of ProtectMarriage.com, said in a statement. Boycotters were "unabashedly trampling on the rights of others," he said.

Activists behind the boycott effort argue they are simply exercising their political rights.

"People
are determining who their friends are, and who are not their friends,"
said Fred Karger, a Los Angeles resident and retired political
consultant. "I think people need to be held accountable for their
financial support."

The activists have pored though campaign contribution databases
and then "outed" Proposition 8 donors on sites like Facebook.com and
craigslist.com. "People are going to do what they want, and it's in
this society where you have campaign reporting that is all public
information," said Karger.

Some gay rights activists also have gone onto the restaurant website yelp.com, giving bad reviews to eateries linked to the Yes on 8 movement.

"This one star is for their stance on Prop. 8," one poster wrote of El Coyote Mexican Cafe. "Enjoy it. . . . You deserve it."

Hundreds
of protesters converged on El Coyote on Beverly Boulevard on Wednesday
night, and the picketing got so heated that LAPD officers in riot gear
had to be called.

All because Marjorie Christoffersen, a
manager there and a daughter of El Coyote's owner, had contributed $100
to the Yes on 8 campaign.

Christoffersen, who is Mormon, met
with protesters Wednesday and at one point broke down in tears, said
Arnoldo Archila, another El Coyote manager. But the activists were not
satisfied with her explanation and continued to post protests about her
on the Web.

"She had a chance to make nice and blew it. I was
almost feeling a tiny bit of sympathy for her. Not no more!!" wrote one
blog poster, who also listed competing Mexican restaurants where diners
should go instead of El Coyote.

By Thursday, Christoffersen had
left town, said Archila, who said El Coyote employees -- some of whom
are gay -- were left staggered by the protests, including more than 50
calls a day criticizing the restaurant.

"We are all a family,"
Archila said. "If this is going to affect the business, its going to
affect them. There are people who have to feed children and pay
mortgages."

Some activists are now turning their attention to
Texas-based Cinemark, one of America's largest theater chains, whose
chief executive contributed nearly $10,000 to Yes on 8.



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A
prolonged protest could cause trouble for the Sundance Film Festival,
which uses Cinemark screens to show movies during the January event in
Park City, Utah. The state of Utah is a focus of some boycotts because
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has its
headquarters there, marshaled millions of dollars in contributions from
its members for the Yes on 8 campaign.

Brooks Addicott, a
spokeswoman for the Sundance Institute, said the festival received
about 100 e-mails over the last few week, many of which had the same
text, but it appeared that the efforts had peaked.

"Our
position is that we have a festival that is essentially three months
away," Addicott said. "We are committed to having our 25th festival;
it's a celebration for us. We would be incredibly disappointed if
people decided not to come because of a boycott."

Officials at Cinemark did not return calls for comment.

Gay
marriage activists had been targeting some Yes on 8 donors well before
the Nov. 4 election. In July, Karger started the website Californians Against Hate,
which lists a "dishonor roll" detailing more than 800 donations of
$5,000 or more to the Yes on 8 campaign. He said the site was getting
300 to 350 hits a day before the election. Now, it's receiving an
average of 7,500 hits daily.

Californians Against HateOne
business affected by the campaign is Lassen's, a family-owned chain of
nine health food stores throughout California, from Bakersfield to
Thousand Oaks. Lassen's owners gave $27,500 to the Yes on 8 campaign.

Scott
Parvel, general manager of the Ventura store, said the contribution was
a "private donation" by family members who are Mormon.

But No on 8 supporters listed their stores along with many others on websites, urging a boycott.

Since
the election, the stores have received angry calls about Proposition 8
as well as comments from customers. "They have a right to their views,
but they should take it up with the person who did it, not the people
who work here. . . . We're providing a business, that's all we do,"
said Parvel, who has worked for the company since 2001.

Robert
Hoehn was another person who made Karger's "dishonor roll." Hoehn, vice
president of the Carlsbad-based Hoehn Motors, gave $25,000 of his own
money to the Yes on 8 campaign in February. And he called what followed
"a really, really ugly experience."

Hoehn said that most of the
campaign against him came before the vote, when he received "dozens and
dozens and dozens" of phone calls and his Honda dealership was
picketed. Since the proposition passed, he said, he has received a few
"vitriolic messages and phone calls."

Next time, he said, he
will be "smarter" about how he gives such a donation, possibly in a way
that doesn't require listing his business. "I wouldn't not do it
because of fear," he said. "I am not ashamed of it, but it has been a
very educational experience."

Despite the criticism, activists
say they plan to continue applying pressure. "It doesn't matter if it's
the CEO or if it's the hostess that greets you at El Coyote. It really
makes no difference," said Gerry Moylan, 47, a Los Angeles Realtor who
planned a night of picketing in front of the restaurant Thursday.

"If
I'm going to eat dinner at El Coyote and part of my money is going to
pay the hostess' pay and she turns around and uses her pay to promote a
proposition that takes away my rights, then I'm going to stop paying my
money to her."

Abdollah and DiMassa are Times staff writers.

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