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April 3, 2015

ROBBIE SOAVE: Was Memories Pizza a Victim of Irresponsible Journalism? Yes: Memories Pizza, while not as gay-affirming as many of us would like, didn’t announce pending discrimination.

The owners of Memories Pizza, the O’Connor family, did not willingly seek out controversy, deny service to a gay person or couple, or even go out on a limb to suggest that they would. No, they merely responded to a question from Alyssa Marino, a local reporter for ABC 57 News who had come to their shop in search of a story.

And they did give her a story—but not the one she reported. Her initial headline was “RFRA: First Michiana business to publicly deny same-sex service” (Michiana is the region in Indiana where Memories Pizza is located). That headline implies two things that are false. The O’Connors had no intention of becoming the first Michiana business to do anything discriminatory with respect to gay people; they had merely answered a hypothetical question about what would happen if a gay couple asked them to cater a wedding. And the O’Connors had every intention of providing regular service to gay people—just not their weddings. . . . As I said yesterday, I don’t agree with the policy the O’Connors articulated, though I would defend their right to practice it—in both theory and actuality. I would also defend the right of people to criticize it, though I would question the wisdom, necessity, and productivity of doing so in such a harsh and stridently condemning manner. The death threats are another matter; no one has the right to threaten violence against someone else.

The people who made those threats are at fault, but so are the journalists who erroneously reported on this story—who made a merely unfriendly policy seem like a declaration of pending discrimination against the next gay person to walk through the front door of Memories Pizza.

Alyssa Marino owes them an apology, and so do a lot of others.