The BLOG: Politics and Law

Barred from the bar for being conservative

Conservative drinkers be warned; sharing your right-of-center beliefs in Boston bars is now sufficient to get you thrown out.

There is a bar around the corner from my office that I enjoy (make that, used to enjoy) frequenting after work on occasion. A somewhat consistent patron, I get along with the regulars, I always leave a proper gratuity, and I enjoy conversing with a multitude of people on a plethora of subjects. Evidently however, one of these subjects went too far.

I was having a conversation with two fellow customers about gay marriage. To keep it very brief, in my opinion, even if one were to personally be in favor of gay marriage, they should still be concerned that the Supreme Court overstepped their powers and ignored the Constitution by forcing state governments to recognize it.

I was talking with two people whom I had just met: a woman visiting from Wisconsin with her fiancée, and a Saudi national taking English classes nearby, and who I had spent the previous hour getting to know. For the sake of the story, I will call him Kazim. The woman initially disagreed with me outright. She thought the Court had acted properly in Obergefell v. Hodges. Kazim sat by, listening intently.

Though the subject of our conversation was contentious in nature, we maintained a respectful tone. By the end we understood where we were coming from, and it turned out we agreed on a number of other matters.

She basically thought that it was wrong of people in traditional-marriage states to push their religion onto the law. However, I told her it was not really up to her, me, or the Court to judge a voter’s motivations, but only the constitutionality of the law in question.

Our lawmaking process is designed to represent the people, and protect individuals from tyranny. If we subvert that process now, and grant an unelected authority the power to legislate, then one day, should a few people hold her beliefs in contempt, that same power can be wielded against her. Additionally, if people are continually excluded from the lawmaking process, citizens may start to disregard the legitimacy of laws.

The process only protects us, gay and straight alike, so long as we are willing to stand up for it.

During this time, it became apparent that our dialogue, specifically my point of view, was earning the scorn of the bartender. The bartender in question was as young as myself, and on the verge of becoming a lawyer. She interjected three times, noting that I was, “just wrong,” and that I was little more than an idealistic, naïve college graduate.

The final time she stepped in, she announced that she was cutting me off. Evidently, my invoking the Constitution along with the checks and balances was considered drunken stupor.

After I had closed my tab, the bouncer approached me abruptly. He informed me that I had to leave immediately. I responded that I would comply, but asked if I might first make quick use of the restroom, to which he replied, “No.”

As I left, my new friend Kazim kindly offered to come along.

Outside the bar, as a disgruntled customer with no intention of ever returning, I felt compelled to voice my discontent to the bouncer and a small crowd which had amassed. I told them I recognized their right as a private business to make me leave, but that it was still inappropriate to make me do so.

The bouncer quickly became defensive, insisting that a few people were complaining. I replied that even if a few people were complaining (which I can’t verify), the situation could have been dealt with in a more professional manner. He could have just asked me to quiet down. He could have told the customers to simply ignore me. I have heard many an unsavory discussion in there, and never once have I thought to tell on people.

One onlooker accused me of having been that most Orwellian of phrases, “offensive.”

After a period of escalation on the part of the mob, the bouncer’s frustrations flared, and he marched toward me with malicious intent, restrained only by a couple of the others.

At this point it was obvious I had to leave, so Kazim and I walked off.

Safely away, Kazim offered me one of those cheap cigarillos associated with gas station convenience stores. Although not a smoker, I gratefully accepted the gesture.

Over our stogies, he asked in broken English, if I actually believed what I had been saying before, regarding gay marriage.

I replied along the lines of, “Yes, here in America we have the Constitution, and by my interpretation, I believe that the states, which should draw their authority from the people, have the right to define the exact parameters of what constitutes marriage.”

He took a view antithetical to the bartender, and said homosexuality was immoral and should be punished punitively. He then pointed up to the top of a church steeple across the street and said, “In Saudi Arabia, for being gay, they throw you off.”

As my eyes followed an imaginary man falling helplessly toward the pavement, I put it as concisely as I could, and said with a morbid grin, “that’s not how we do things in America.”

To that end he simply shrugged, and we continued sharing stories over apple-flavored tobacco.

How astounding, I thought, that a man from Saudi Arabia is more accepting of my difference of opinion than a sampling of native-born Americans, especially given my beliefs on gays and gay marriage are much more akin to the Americans than to his.

Yet here he was, a man from a country which, as an outsider, seems as close to a bizarro version of America as any.

Does it say anything that this Saudi man, receptive to the idea of publicly defenestrating homosexuals, is more open-minded, more willing to hear opposing views, and in a crucial way, more socially liberal than a great deal of college-educated Americans?

Either way… please drink responsibly.

Matthew Goldberg

Matthew Goldberg

Matthew Goldberg is a recent Political Science graduate from UMass-Amherst and lives in Quincy. He can be reached at [email protected]. Like his Facebook page here.