• Stephen M. Larson

Fighting Homophobia - part 2

To continue with my thoughts on Dr. Jeffrey Chernin's column, "Pride '06: Fighting Homophobia in Your Midst" in the June, 2006 Prairie Flame: Dr. Chernin relates an incident in which he and his companion had gone to check in at a hotel where they had reservations. The desk clerk had taken it upon himself to give them two double beds instead of the one queen size bed they had requested. He was visibly uncomfortable when they asked that they be given the sleeping arrangements they had originally requested, but finally gave in.

In this particular instance, Dr. Chernin and his partner were within their legal rights to expect their original wishes to be honored. (Naturally, I question their moral rights, but that's a different argument altogether.) The desk clerk went far beyond his authority when he decided that his personal morality superseded both law and hotel policy.

I'm no more an expert in law than I am in psychology, but I don't think there are any cities or states in the United States where a public hotel may legally discriminate against gays. (And if there are such cases, let's face it, with the weight of the gay rights movement and the media, such a policy would be financially risky at best.) So, like it or not, that clerk was probably legally required to provide Dr. Chernin and his companion - or anyone else, for that matter - with whatever sleeping arrangements they wished, as long as it didn't violate any other law or legally permissible hotel policy. (For example, allowing a hotel room to be used for prostitution or child sexual abuse is still illegal, and a hotel would be totally within its rights to forbid its guests to damage its property by trying to suspend their beds from the ceiling or turn them into bunk beds.)

I understand the dilemma faced by the clerk: should he meet the expectations of his employer by making their guests feel welcome, or should he risk implying his tacit approval of a situation he found morally unacceptable? I think, though, that in this case the best course of action would be to act as required in the terms of employment, and show hospitality. (It's the most practical course as well - it's unlikely that the clerk would even want to try demanding proof of marriage from every heterosexual couple that checked in!)

We used to go to a bed and breakfast in the Chicago area. After going regularly for about 10 years, the owners became good friends. They are committed Christians, and, as such, they had to confront this very situation. They finally decided, as owners, that to impose their morality on their guests was, at best, financially risky. They would have to deny hospitality to so many different lodgers on so many different grounds that it could cause all sorts of problems. They decided to simply be the best hosts they could be to any and all guests. And, until they retired, they ran a very successful business.

Moral disapproval must be handled delicately. While it's unlikely that any recipient of such disapproval would be grateful for it, there are times when it's more unwelcome than others. And the fact is that while we as Christians are called upon to do our best to bring others to an understanding of what God expects of us all, how we've fallen short of those expectations, and how, through Christ, we can restore our relationship with Him, we are not called upon to force God's standards on those whose understanding is incomplete or lacking entirely, except perhaps to save a life. (And even then, the method of intervention can vary widely with the circumstances.)

A Christian who finds himself or herself in a position similar to that of that hotel clerk must be prepared to allow non-Christians to be true to their (fallen) nature if necessary. This is not compromise; it is simply good tactics.

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