.- The owner of a family-owned ice cream shop and restaurant in Sacramento who has been targeted by angry phone calls and e-mails and obscene Valentineâs Day cards because of his support for the Proposition 8 campaign says Catholics should âstand upâ for marriage despite the consequences and the âliesâ of extremist activists.
The passage of Proposition 8, which overturned a California Supreme Court decision instating same-sex âmarriage,â prompted major protests from homosexual activists and their allies.
Allan Leatherby, 46, told CNA that he and other family members decided to contribute to the Yes on 8 campaign after Bishop of Sacramento Jaime Soto personally called him to ask for his support.
Members of the Leatherby family, which owns Leatherbyâs Family Creamery, gave $20,000 to the campaign. âIt was a response to his personal request. Otherwise we might not have supported it in that amount,â he explained to CNA.
âObviously as Catholics we value marriage,â he said, saying they saw some âhuge red flagsâ about the effects of same-sex marriage.
When the familyâs support for Proposition 8 became public, protesters targeted their business. The ice cream shop was picketed, employees in company sweat shirts were harassed and angry callers phoned the business. The business reportedly received hundreds of angry e-mails and was targeted by bloggers.
Leatherby also received obscene Valentineâs Day cards in the mail.
âThere is no way we could have prepared for the kind of reaction we got,â he said. âBusiness is actually down and that worries me. Can a business sustain that kind of negativity in the long-term? God only knows.â
After the election, business increased because Proposition 8 supporters deliberately frequented the business, but their numbers have decreased.
Leatherbyâs Family Creamery and its owners enjoy a good reputation in the Sacramento area because of the businessâ donations of ice cream to area charities. Leatherby himself is an active volunteer and built stairs and helped renovations at Hope House, a former AIDS hospice.
Speaking with CNA on Wednesday, Leatherby explained his support for Proposition 8, saying he disagreed with characterizations of same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue.
âI have menâs and womenâs restrooms in my establishment. Is that discrimination? No. Why? Because men and women are different!
âTheyâre equal in dignity but theyâre different. A relationship between a man and a woman is different than a man and a man or a woman and a woman, hands down,â especially when children are considered.
Leatherby explained how Leatherbyâs Family Creamery didnât know what would transpire on the day after the election as angered opponents began to organize protests.
He said a friend overheard a protest group say they were going to start picketing and contacted him. Some opponents of Proposition 8 and some members of the gay and lesbian community also called to warn they would be boycotting.
There were rumors of a âsitdownâ where protesters would not allow customers to enter the ice cream shop.
âWe got a call from police department and the sherrifâs department saying âwe are concerned for your safetyâ.â
Angry and violent e-mails and blogs increased concern about the protests, leading law enforcement to ask if they could position a patrol car at each location.
Leatherby then contacted members of his and his wifeâs large families, asking for their support.
Others heard about the protests against the Leatherbys, resulting in an âoutpouring of supportâ from those who wanted to make sure they didnât go out of business.
When the shop opened, picketers were stationed out front carrying âvulgar, crazy signs.â
However, there was also a long line of people waiting to go into the store to show their support.
âThat was just tremendous, to have that support,â Leatherby told CNA.
âNow I know how George Bailey felt at the ends of âItâs a Wonderful Lifeâ,â he added. âItâs nice to have friends.â
Asked to describe the kind of critical comments he had received, Leatherby said Proposition 8 opponents have been âall over the board.â
âMost of them associate me and my family with hateful, spiteful people that would drag homosexuals out into the street and beat them up.
âItâs amazing. Because of the lies that are told about this, about how supporters are hateful, so many people have bought into that!â
âA majority of Californians are not hateful people. Itâs a lie to say that.
âThey donât hate gay people, they support marriage.
âYou canât hold those beliefs any longer unless youâre considered hateful?â Leatherby asked.
âIs Mother Teresa a hateful person? She has the same beliefs I do.
âOne of the first houses she opened in San Francisco was an AIDS house for gay men. Some of the first people she reached out to were gay men,â Leatherby noted.
âIf it wasnât so horrible, it would be silly,â he said of the criticisms.
He said the phone calls accusing his family of hate are âvulgar, swearing, for the most part just angry,â explaining his mother took one such call on Tuesday.
âYou accuse me of hate, could you please listen to what you are saying?â she said to the caller, according to Leatherby.
âTheyâre so emotional and so angry that they donâtâ take time to sit back and think about it,â he said.
He noted that he and his business had even been threatened.
âOur employees, little 16-year-old girls, have been threatened physically because of my familyâs stand,â he said.
Not all the interactions with critics have been negative.
Leatherby recounted his meeting with a 70-year-old man who was critical of his support for Proposition 8.
âAfter talking with him, I said I used to work at a certain house for gay men dying of AIDS.
âHe broke down in tears and said, âone of my partners died thereâ.â
Leatherby offered to buy him lunch, where he learned that the man had grown up in a Catholic orphanage.
âThe man said âthe Catholic church had done more for me than anyone else in my life.â
âHe said he had been abused before he entered the orphanage, and said he wouldnât have been gay if he had had a strong man in his life.â
Relatives of gays tell Leatherby they support him, but itâs âvery difficultâ for them.
âSome gays come in and say âI wasnât for Proposition 8, but we donât agree with the boycott, and how theyâre treating you, so weâd like you to know weâre not in favor of that.ââ
He recounted how one man had told a television station he had voted for Proposition 8 after noticing the difference between the two sides and the different examples of their advocates.
CNA asked Leatherby what he would say to those Catholics who are wary to support marriage publicly for fear of economic and social consequences.
âI think we have to stand up,â he replied. âThe biggest fear is: if you donât, youâre going to be in violation of hate crimes very soon,â warning that people âcould be dragged to jail.â
He predicted others will âstand upâ following his lead.
âTo stand alone is always difficult,â he said, adding that many people have come in and spoken with his family in support.
âWeâve been very public when the news media has asked us to step up and I hope that would encourage other people to step upâ and not âcower,â Leatherby told CNA.