The comments could be perceived as insensitive, but the uproar masks what's really going on here.

According to the Walla Walla Union Bulletin, a staff member for GOP Senator Mike Hewitt allegedly stirred the pot with a comment about a new bill being considered in the legislature.

Hewitt is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 5927, which would allow businesses to deny services to gay customers based upon religious or philosophical beliefs. The bill was created in response to the ACLU lawsuit filed against Arlene's Flowers in Richland. A gay couple are suing the store's owner because she declined to provide floral services for their wedding citing religious convictions. The State Attorney General's Office has also filed a suit, claiming it violates state discrimination laws.

Seattle resident Jay Castro reportedly called Hewitt's office to ask about SB 5927. He asked a staff member "What are rural gays supposed to do if the the only gas station or grocery store for miles won't sell them gas or food?" The staffer allegedly told Castro, "Gay people can just grow their own food."

This story was picked up by the Huffington Post. The Union Bulletin claims the story and comments have gone viral, and goes on to say a number of people and some businesses are afraid of the negative image the comments will create of the city.

Much of the alleged viral response is from outside the community. Numerous outside groups supposedly have called for a boycott of the Walla Walla area.

The anger, while justified, appears to be distracting attention from the goal of SB 5927. An individual or business owner is being forced by new laws to accept or condone a lifestyle they don't agree with because of their religious principles.

According to

  • Catholic Charities has been barred from assisting with adoptions in Massachusetts, Washington D.C. and Illinois because they declined to consider same-sex couples.
  • Owners of a small bed and breakfast in Vermont, and one in Hawaii were sued by same-sex couples for refusing to host a same-sex wedding reception, and rent a  room, respectively.
  • A Methodist Church in New Jersey was sued for not allowing it's facilities to be rented for same-sex weddings.  A state circuit court judge ruled against the church.
  • In New Mexico, Elane Photography was approached by a same-sex couple for wedding pictures.  They declined, and even offered the couple the names of other photography businesses. The Christian owner was sued under the state's anti-discrimination laws, and lost.
  • Lexington, Kentucky t-shirt shop Hands On Original was approached by the local Gay and Lesbian Services organization about printing shirts for an event. The Christian business declined, but gave the group a list of other print shops that had comparable prices. The group sued the business and won. Now, outside special interest groups are trying to get the printing company evicted from their premises. This is what the Lexington Human Rights Commission Director Raymond Sexton said about the case:

"We have subpoena power and have the backing of the law, We are a law enforcement agency and people have to comply.”

  • An Allstate Insurance employee wrote an on-line essay, outside of work, disagreeing with same-sex marriage, and was reportedly fired as a result. The man is attempting to get his job back. Sources say the company did not want people to think his personal views were those of the company.