Thursday, November 13, 2008

Theater Director Resigns Amid Gay-Rights Ire

From the New York Times:

The artistic director of the California Musical Theater, a major nonprofit producing company here in the state’s capital, resigned on Wednesday in the face of growing outrage over his support for a ballot measure this month that outlawed same-sex marriage in California.

The artistic director, Scott Eckern, came under fire recently after it became known that he contributed $1,000 to support Proposition 8, which amended the state Constitution to recognize only male-female marriages. The measure was approved by 52 percent of California voters on Election Day. (Same-sex marriages had been performed in California since June.)

In a statement issued on Wednesday morning, Mr. Eckern said that his donation stemmed from his religious beliefs — he is a Mormon — and that he was “deeply saddened that my personal beliefs and convictions have offended others.”

His donation was brought to light by online activists angry about the measure’s success at the polls.


For its part, the theater disavowed Mr. Eckern’s donation and issued only a brief statement on Wednesday accepting his resignation, while emphasizing that it would not “impinge on the rights of its employees to engage in political activities.” A longtime employee, Mr. Eckern had been artistic director since 2002.

More here.

My suspicion is that if this theater really is concerned with not "imping[ing] on the rights of its employees" Eckern would not have been forced to resign for exercising his rights.

Back in 2002, as many Real Art readers know, I was teaching theater at a public high school in a conservative town. I was scared shitless that I would lose my job for voicing opposition to the war in Afghanistan and the upcoming invasion of Iraq. I mean, I knew that I had a perfect right to do so especially because I knew that most of the faculty was voicing support for American aggression abroad--if other teachers have the right to be pro-war in the classroom, then I have the right to be anti-war in the classroom. But rights exist only when they are enforced, and I had a very reasonable fear that my right to speak would not be enforced. I spoke my mind, but I measured my words carefully, and always gave ample opportunity for students to disagree with me, something many pro-war faculty members at my school did not do.

Indeed, my need to speak out combined with my fear of retaliation for it gave birth to this blog.

Fortunately, I got away with it, I think, because I used a lot of common sense, soft-pedaling my views, trying to be fair and balanced in a non FOX way. But this Mormon guy out in California is another matter entirely. He didn't get away with it, and that's a fucking shame.

Don't get me wrong. I completely disagree with his anti gay marriage stance. But he is entitled to his views; he, like all Americans, has freedom of speech. There's something very un-American about hounding him out of his position because of his politics. I mean, okay, argue with him, try to persuade him that he's wrong, but don't fuck him over because of his beliefs. As if targeting an individual private citizen would do anything to change the electoral reality that Proposition 8 won.

Neither the left nor the right in this country have a monopoly on McCarthyesque tactics, and it disgusts me to no end.