When I refused to serve Stacey Campfield at my restaurant on Jan. 29, I did not take the time to explain my actions to him. My primary reason is that his comments about AIDS are disrespectful to everyone who has died in the epidemic, everyone who has lost someone to AIDS, everyone who is now infected with HIV, and to everyone who may become infected by HIV. The other reason is that many of the bills that he has sponsored in both the House and Senate have been anti-gay legislation.
Why is the focus of his political agenda the LGBT community? What does he hope to achieve by marginalizing a segment of our society that represents some of the best, brightest, most creative, and productive among us? Does Stacey Campfield think that we will forget our economic woes as long as we repress this segment of our society? Shouldn't our legislation be focused on what unites us and not what divides us?
A privately-owned business has the right to refuse service to an individual as long as that refusal is not based on gender, religion, or race. My refusal to serve him was based on the fact that he has publicly ridiculed and insulted my friends, family, and a significant percentage of my clientele. It was for those individuals that I chose to take a stand against hatred and ignorance. Despite the angle presented by some of our news outlets, I do not regret my actions in the least and am honored to be able to speak up for the LGBT community.
The publicity and generous show of support that this has garnered is a testament to the Internet's ability to give individuals a collective voice—a collective voice we did not possess before and a voice that rivals the stage our elected officials are given. A collective voice that told the world that all of East Tennessee is not represented by a homophobic senator. Mr. Campfield has not retracted his ignorant statements even when confronted with the truth. He continues to make them and become even more of an embarrassment to his constituents. Freedom of speech often brings the consequence of criticism, particularly if those words are mostly damn lies.
Now I hope to shift the momentum of this issue away from my business toward voter apathy in our local elections. Local politics affects our lives more directly than national politics, yet only a small percentage of eligible voters vote. And many of those who do, vote only by party affiliation without bothering to find out what their candidate stands for. I hope that this story will help change that unfortunate situation.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone for the kind words, e-mails, calls, and letters. I have heard from people from literally all over the world: gay, straight, in-between, and from every religion and political party you can imagine. It can only lead me to believe that the good people will prevail.