identifying exits

On a recent trip to Washington DC my sweet companion and I stayed in the gentrified Dupont Circle of the District. Nearby is Annie’s Paramount Steak House; the name alone puts expectations above anything west of the Mississippi. We dropped in on a Saturday night, no reservations, just pushing our luck and it was good despite the packed house. We were promptly greeted, not only by the hostess, but by most of the patrons with nods and smiles.

We were escorted upstairs to additional seating much like Salt Lake’s Market Street Broiler, and as we were shown our table, a place for two nestled along a row of others, I confirmed my perceptions; we were in the minority. She had the simultaneous little epiphany and we smiled at each other, being one of only two mixed-gender couples in the establishment. The service was impeccable with a warm greeting and conversation. Drinks, appetizer, entree, dessert, coffee, all proving that paramount wasn’t hyperbole after all. Annie’s is one of the best dining experiences of my eating career. The house was full and everyone there was engaged in conversation, relaxed baritone and tenor pitches filled acoustic spaces leaving a wonderful gap in frequency to better hear her sweet altos.

You should understand that I’m married to an extraordinarily beautiful woman and I’ve developed the habit of watching her be admired in public, especially in the egress of restaurants. She turns heads. So, it was with some amusement, even flattery that evening, as we walked through Annie’s to leave, to find that she wasn’t the focus of the masculine attention. I was.

You should also understand that I am a survivor of a brutal sexual assault and object rape. I don’t like men. I’m not comfortable around them. My hyper-vigilance forces me in public contexts to identify exits and assess who may be a potential threat. This is why my experience at Annie’s Paramount Steak House is worth this prose space, because by the time we reached our table I didn’t care where the exit was.

Perhaps you’ve thought out that paradox at this point. We stepped out of Annie’s and into DC’s fall patina and laughed with each other. The role reversal was fascinating and I’ll admit I blushed a bit.

Yesterday, Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer, vetoed SB 1062, a bill that would legalize discrimination based on one’s religious convictions. As much as I’d like to laud the Governor’s decision I’m unconvinced her action represents her position. She identified exits; Apple Inc. and The Super Bowl being two of them, understanding that such legislation would inhibit Arizona’s economic potential. That’s politics. What continues to be disturbing about this proposed bill along with others like it in Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, and, of course, Utah, is their increasing prevalence, an obvious push-back to the momentum of increasing support for marriage equality.

I worry about this for so many reasons, some very personal and others more universal. In the latter context this attempt to legalize discrimination based on religious conviction legitimizes a holy struggle justified by the unifying principle of the prestige of morality. In Islam this is called Jihad.

This behavior stokes religious extremism, the justified exit of one’s ethics in the hypocrisy of their prejudice and hate. I’m hoping we’re not too far removed to remember constitutionally legalized religious discrimination in these United States against the Mormons.

On a more personal level I once believed my children would grow up in a society that learned the lessons of movements and legislation that protected civil rights. I don’t believe that anymore in the displays in senate chambers of a religious right becoming so out of touch with their constituents that they would introduce laws to discriminate against them.

Annie’s Paramount Steak House is the antithesis of this. At least for me. Given my history you might think I’d be extra hyper-vigilant there, assuming the perpetrators in my assault were homosexuals. That’s where you’d be wrong. These were violent straight men using sexual assault to destroy another human being.

Instead, at Annie’s I was at ease and comfortable, enjoying an ambiance that transcended the quality of the establishment, it was bolstered by the love and ease of living of its patrons who accepted me as I am, who did not discriminate against me because I am a man in love with a woman.

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