A wrong-headed apology

Ted Cruz had dinner with gay activists in New York last week.
Ted Cruz had dinner with gay activists in New York last week. AP

Americans demand apologies for all sorts of acts these days, and the perpetrator usually gives a half-hearted, obligatory “sorry if anyone was offended” response when sincere regret would be more appropriate.

Now, Ian Reisner has done the opposite, offering a full-throated apology when in fact what he did should be celebrated.

Reisner’s transgression? He met with Ted Cruz.

Reisner is a prominent New York hotel owner who is openly gay and is a vocal advocate for marriage equality. In a scene reminiscent of “The Birdcage,” he and his business partner, Mati Weiderpass, hosted Cruz last week for a dinner closed to the press. It was a conversation with about a dozen people, not a fundraiser.

Cruz, of course, is a Republican presidential candidate and an outspoken opponent of gay marriage. He speaks of “a liberal fascism that is dedicated to going after believing Christians who follow the biblical tenets on marriage.”

The rebuke from the gay community of Reisner was quick and sharp. Gay rights advocates launched a boycott effort on social media, urging people to avoid Reisner’s Out NYC hotel and his Fire Island Pines holdings. The boycott’s Facebook page had received more than 11,000 “likes” as of Thursday morning. The charity Broadway Cares, which raises money to combat AIDS, canceled a fundraiser at Reisner’s XL/BPM Nightclub in protest.

Reisner snapped to attention.

“I am shaken to my bones by the emails, texts, postings and phone calls of the past few days. I made a terrible mistake,” Reisner posted on Facebook on Sunday.

He claimed that he did not realize the depth of Cruz’s opposition to gay marriage.

“I was ignorant, naive, and much too quick in accepting a request to co-host a dinner with Cruz at my home without taking the time to completely understand all of his positions on gay rights.

“I’ve spent the past 24 hours reviewing videos of Cruz’s statements on gay marriage and I am shocked and angry. I sincerely apologize for hurting the gay community and so many of our friends, family, allies, customers and employees. I will try my best to make up for my poor judgment. Again, I am deeply sorry.”

Thanks, Mr. Reisner, but you have nothing to be sorry about.

We don’t know if he truly thinks the dinner was a mistake or if his apology is simply a business decision to woo back an alienated clientele. It’s unfathomable that a gay rights activist of Reisner’s stature was not aware of Cruz’s anti-gay positions. If it’s a business decision, his apology is avaricious. If it’s genuine, it’s severely misguided.

One of the big problems in the country today, of course, is the lack of dialogue between competing camps. The gay community and conservatives alike – as well as all of us in neither group – should be urging more dialogue between the Ted Cruzes and Ian Reisners of the world, not less. Informal dinners between John Boehner and President Obama, between Wayne LaPierre and the gun control folks, between Rand Paul and Al Sharpton, could only lead to the slightest bit of increased understanding all around.

But when a gay hotelier merely meets with a conservative senator, those who rightly beat the drum over intolerance become instantly intolerant themselves. That’s sad, and Reisner’s capitulation to it is disappointing.