Nearly the exact same story is now playing out in British media. Sometimes when I feel depressed about the state of American media, I take a look at what’s available overseas and realize how enlightened things here are in comparison. Sometimes that is not saying much.
However, the Times of London’s take on the matter more resembled classic Fleet Street work than fair and balanced coverage. It began:
A Christian printer has refused to produce the business cards of a transgender diversity consultant because he did not want to promote a cause that he felt might harm fellow believers.
Nigel Williams, a married father of three based in Southampton, turned down the chance of working for Joanne Lockwood’s consultancy, SEE Change Happen, which offers advice on equality, diversity and inclusion.
So far, so good. That's just basic news. Then:
He wrote to her: “The new model of diversity is used (or misused) to marginalise (or indeed discriminate against) Christians in their workplaces and other parts of society if they do not subscribe to it. Although I’m quite sure you have no intention of marginalising Christians it would weigh heavily upon me if through my own work I was to make pressure worse for fellow Christians.”
Am I right that the printer isn’t so much objecting to her being transgender as he is objecting to her use of “diversity” tactics as a cudgel?
Lockwood, 52, who has been living as a trans woman since January and changed her name in July, said she was “gobsmacked”, adding: “I was not expecting a lecture. I disbelieved this could happen in 2017. I have been distraught and cried and my wife consoled me.”
Now where have we heard this before?
Yes, in the “Sweet Cakes” case that I covered here, the plaintiffs alleged $150,000 worth of “emotional, mental and physical suffering” (they ended up settling for $135,000) as the result of less than five minutes of conversation with a baker who told one of the women he didn’t do same-sex weddings. The page-upon-page description, in a ruling from the state of Oregon, of these women’s ensuing trauma and harm is a work of hysterical art.
I’m not as bothered about the fact that their compadres in the U.K. took a leaf from Sweet Cakes’ book as I am that the reporter let the transgender consultant get away with a pity party. It would appear that Williams was trying to be polite to this woman and she’s already making a case for mental torture. There’s more:
Lockwood met Williams at a business networking event in September and emailed the printer three weeks later to inquire if he was interested in producing cards for her consultancy. Williams declined, while making it clear that he would be happy to print for Lockwood if it was for other ventures.
Lockwood said she had got no reply when she messaged to say that she was also a trustee of a transgender events group and was the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer/questioning and others) officer for Portsmouth Conservatives. She said Williams could easily have ignored her approach rather than deliver “a lecture on someone else’s values which I did not ask for”.
She added: “I think a point of principle is at stake. He wanted to make a point to me deliberately for his own motives. I have been the victim of some discrimination.”
She told BBC she would not be be pursuing a lawsuit. That's interesting. Why didn’t BBC say that she reported Williams’ email to the police as a hate incident?
At least the Independent (as did the Times) mentioned a defense team and briefly described the legal arguments being used on the other side:
Christian Institute has backed Mr Williams over his decision to turn down the printing contract, adding that the row was “chilling and unnecessary”. It said: “It is a fundamental tenet of free speech and freedom of belief that people should not be forced to help promote causes flatly contrary to their own deeply held views.”
It jumped to the defence of Mr Williams just a year after it supported a staunch Christian family in Northern Ireland who refused to make a cake in their bakery bearing a logo supporting same-sex marriage.
In this case, the plot thickened when the American networking franchise BNI, which had Williams in a networking group, suspended the printer. OutNewsGlobal broke the story although it could have done so without trashing Williams’ website, which the printer obviously hadn’t had time to change in light of BNI’s actions.
However, in this case we are talking about an advocacy news source -- so its approach to the story isn't that surprising. It is surprising to see PR-style materials published in major news publications. Is journalism possible, these days, on issues of this kind?
Lockwood has since announced on Twitter the name of her media contact plus a report on the thousands of retweets stemming from all the articles she’s posted about her travails. The media campaign rolls on.