As a gay man I was disappointed but not surprised when a bakery in Colorado refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, but I never expected to have a similar experience in Las Vegas. Valley Press, a local printer, refused to print a banner for our Las Vegas chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace because the CEO disagrees with our positions. What makes this even worse is that Valley Press brags on its Facebook page about printing for the local Human Rights Campaign and the AIDS Walk.
Valley Press was recommended as a union shop that did excellent work for progressive causes at fair prices, so I asked them to print our banner. Initially everything was smooth. I talked to Sheila Hacco, the CEO who answered my questions, gave me a quote and agreed to lay out the banner and email me a proof. Seeing the many positive online ratings and the work for HRC and the AIDS Walk left me confident that this was a company I wanted to do business with.
Sheila promised a proof in a few days but when it did not arrive I emailed asking when I could expect it and I got the following response:
I am sorry but I will have to decline making this banner for you. I had to check your website before moving forward. How sad that this is a one sided voice and some very false. I was born in Israel and was thought hope and peace, would love to see peace in my life time, would never want to see anyone die or suffer but with the type of information I just read and saw from jvp.org, all it does is spread lies, create hate and leaves no solutions.
It seems that your organization is really not explaining so much.. I would have loved to do a banner for peace, but this is not one of them.
If you believe in peace, you should learn more and give both sides a true chance.
Needless to say, I was amazed. The Colorado courts agreed with the ACLU in ruling that a reasonable person would assume that the cake expressed the message of the couple, not the baker. Is a banner any different? Sheila has every right to personally disagree with JVP’s position on Israel and Palestine but no right to use her printing company to censor our speech. Valley Press’s name is not on the banner.
We have filed a complaint with the ACLU and will pursue other legal remedies, but I hope that protesting this censorship will remind other businesses that everyone’s first amendment right to free speech must be respected.