Scott Eckern has resigned from the artistic directorship of California Music Theatre. And Jeff Whitty takes exception to the LA Times' reporting in the comments section.
For the record, though I'm miles away from California, and I'm not versed on the differences between how California defines civil unions and how it would define marriage, I understand why passions run hot on both sides. But I do think the argument from "tolerance" is not a very illuminating frame of reference, finally. We "tolerate" things we deplore, until one day we're pushed too far and we don't tolerate them anymore. What's called for isn't tolerance but justice. And though the angels in this case are on the side of same-sex marriage, the road to justice--in this case, full legal rights--is not going to be an easy one.
I think a lot about an ongoing conversation I had with Bill Rauch when he headed up Cornerstone. He told me how he'd worked contentedly alongside a stage manager, an evangelical Christian, until one day he found out that she believed gays--Bill and his husband, Chris, included--were going to hell. Many of us would be tempted to sever the relationship there, but Bill isn't like most of us. Long, pained meetings with a facilitator ensued, and the limits of "tolerance" were tested. To wit: To what extent should we tolerate the views of someone we consider intolerant? Is it in turn intolerant of us not to allow a person to believe and support, in their private hearts and lives, things we find hateful? I think these questions are worth asking ourselves, honestly and with humility, when we ponder the odd, sad case of Scott Eckern. Once we've thought (and even prayed, if that's how we roll) on it, we can act, advocate, and associate in good conscience.
My answers to those questions, incidentally, would be, rolled together: We should listen respectfully to other points of view and express our own similarly, but it is not intolerance to disassociate ourselves, professionally or personally, from people whose views we find, upon reflection, truly hateful. If we're in a position of hiring or licensing authority, it's obviously thornier--but I would venture to say that it can't reasonably be called discrimination to disallow discrimination. Is Scott Eckern contributing to an anti-gay campaign a form of "discrimination"? Narrowly defined, no, which is why I think calls for his head were misplaced. Is it something Eckern's colleagues have every right to be concerned, and upset, about? Surely, and that's where the politics of letter-writing, hand-wringing, and public pressure have their place. Still, it would be great for all concerned, and for the cause of justice in particular, if a modicum of civility were preserved. One lesson we might take from last week's presidential election: Cooler heads prevail.
(Related topics, including Cornerstone's inclusion of gay Muslims in its "faith" cycle, and another illuminating glimpse of Jeff Whitty's salutary open-mindedness, were touched on here.)
UPDATE: If you haven't done so already, check out this thoughtful, evenhanded post by Sacramento critic Kel Munger, who knows whereof he speaks more than any of us East Coast armchair pundits.