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Bigotry Results in Big Bucks for Houston's Garden Guy

In mid-October, Houston landscapers Sabrina and Todd Farber made headlines with their decision to decline to work for a gay man and his partner. In an email response to the couple's inquiry for a quote, they wrote:

Gg_1"Dear Mr. Lord, I am appreciative of your time on the phone today and glad you contacted us. I need to tell you that we cannot meet with you because we choose not to work for homosexuals. Best of luck in finding someone else to fill your landscaping needs. All my best, Sabrina."

The email went viral, catching the attention of the mainstream media. Saturday, in a follow-up interview, Sabrina Farber told the New York Times that, because of the attention, their company has picked up $40,000 in business in the past two weeks.

Said Farber: "I’m not saying that to gloat. Why can’t people handle it when you say the truth?"

The Times notes that the law, in this case, is on the Farbers' side: 'The federal law of public accommodations says if you hang out a shingle or open your door you don’t get to say, 'Only to whites,''[Lisa Graybill, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas] said. But sexual orientation is not protected. And while some localities, like Seattle, have adopted ordinances extending antidiscrimination protection to gay men and lesbians, she said, Houston has not."

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  1. I say let's contact these haters and pose as people in need of their services. Give them a fake address and send them scurrying all over town to meet with their 'potential clients'. That'd take the wind out of their sails.

    Posted by: peterparker | Nov 13, 2006 2:07:12 PM

  2. The last time this was discussed there was a depressing number of posters who defended their right to discriminate—as if we are somehow less deserving of equal treatment than members of religious classes, racial classes, etc. Hopefully, the clarification by the ACLU spokesperson will negate that.

    Posted by: Leland | Nov 13, 2006 2:16:34 PM

  3. I agree, Leland. It was a true low point in the comment section of this blog.

    Posted by: jmg | Nov 13, 2006 2:18:01 PM

  4. Just when you think we're making progress, something like this happens. People brag about discriminating against us and are rewarded for it. We're the last group that can be legally discriminated against.

    Houston may be behind the times and not have an anti-discrimination ordinance, but Dallas DOES have one that includes sexual orientation. Several Texas cities do.

    Posted by: sam | Nov 13, 2006 2:22:30 PM

  5. www.garden-guy.com. visit their website and send them all over houston looking for business that will never ever materialize.

    Posted by: peterparker | Nov 13, 2006 2:23:35 PM

  6. Sorry to continue depressing you guys, but the law allows discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, if it's a private business, in Texas. I believe the law should be changed, and I'm glad the landscaping association adopted a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation.

    I'm sad there are enough bigots who will support the Garden Guy's business. But let the market decide. There isn't much room in the market for straight-only landscapers, and judging from the photos on Garden Guy's websites, none of those lawns will win any awards.

    It's just as fascist to try and purposely destroy Garden Guy's business because we think he's an ass, as it is for him to refuse to landscape gay lawns.

    Lets just work to convince people that this is yet ANOTHER way that unequal treatment harms gays - it's not just visiting your lover or insurance.

    Posted by: Andrew K | Nov 13, 2006 2:28:33 PM

  7. Would it also then be fascist to try and destroy his business if he said he was only going to serve white people?

    Posted by: jmg | Nov 13, 2006 2:32:08 PM

  8. Between this and Carol Channing's remarks, I'm saddened. At the same time, falsifying business leads and calling the broadway legend a bitch is hardly the path for growth, wouldn't you say?

    Posted by: jason | Nov 13, 2006 2:48:15 PM

  9. Homophobia and anti-gay and hate-mongering have always been highly profitable for bigots. Just ask Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Dr. James Kennedy, Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Ted Haggard, The Republican National Committee, President George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Ken Melman...

    Posted by: Robert In WeHo | Nov 13, 2006 2:48:47 PM

  10. Well, even if the law changed, it probably wouldn't apply to Garden Guy, because they are small. Generally these things only apply when you are over a certain size. And there's the whole question of whether they are a "public accomodation" (pretty questionable).

    I'm horrified by their bigotry, but... I own a small business (sole proprietorship, I'm the only employee) and personally, I like having the ability to pick my clients. That's usually based on whether I think we can work together productively, but on the other hand, if someone was a bigoted lunatic, I would like to be able to say "No thank you."

    I think nondiscrimination laws for public accomodations are a good idea - but I'm not sure that Garden Guy is a public accomodation any more than my consulting business is - a lawyer would have to tell us that - and moreover, I don't know that they should be.

    Posted by: John | Nov 13, 2006 2:49:22 PM

  11. Of course they would be rewarded with business from fellow bigots. Bigots have deep pockets.

    Things have a way of coming back around. That $40K is probably going to end up going into paying for therapy when one of their boys is caught wearing mommy's shoes or a daughter's drug problem saps the family bank account.

    These rosey cheeked bigots always end up having the worst family bombshells.

    Karma is just being patient.

    Posted by: mark m | Nov 13, 2006 3:03:42 PM

  12. This kind of behavior is so depressing, and it's going to be phased out to a certain extent as the older generation dies off. Demographically speaking, Americans under a certain age are much more reasonable about such things. The overall culture is moving ever so slowly in our direction, and nothing will be likely to stop it. It's admittedly a rather small comfort. In about 25 years, Americans will look back on issues like this one, and travesties like the Wisconsin civil unions ban, with great shame.

    Posted by: Brian | Nov 13, 2006 3:03:57 PM

  13. as i see it, sending 'the garden guy' to jobs that will never materialize is just a nice little bit of civil disobedience.

    Posted by: peterparker | Nov 13, 2006 3:06:11 PM

  14. Only tangentially related, but I thought this was interesting... quoting our President at the dedication of the MLK memorial:

    "Honoring Dr. King's legacy requires more than building a monument. It requires the ongoing commitment of every American. So we will continue to work for the day when the dignity and humanity of every person is respected and the American promise is denied to no one."

    Beautiful words, but they ring hollow when one considers that his concept of "every person" doesn't include us.

    Posted by: Brian | Nov 13, 2006 3:07:44 PM

  15. One other thing - about that $40K number - that could easily be one or two customers who heard about the controversy and threw a project their way. It's actually not a huge figure when it comes to landscaping somebody's McMansion in the burbs.

    I still believe that outright bigotry is not a good business strategy - and it was refreshing to find so many straight people - yes, here in Houston - who were horrified by the original email.

    Posted by: John | Nov 13, 2006 3:09:16 PM

  16. Well, when it comes time to redecorate the Farber house, I hope madam doesn't lose her "I don't work with the gays" resolve.
    They are small-minded people. They don't realise that their lives are touched by gay people every day, in big and small ways.

    Don't sniff at the extra $40,000 in business they were awarded because of their tactless business policy. That kind of money buys a lot of gnomes, wishing wells and ducks in blue bonnets.

    Posted by: LiamOg | Nov 13, 2006 3:33:19 PM

  17. There WAS a legal answer in Andy's summary. They ARE subject to laws forbidding discrimination based upon protected classes. Gays simply are not yet one of them in this jurisdiction.

    Short of violence, I say do what you can to drive them out of business.

    Posted by: Leland | Nov 13, 2006 3:37:27 PM

  18. Why not try what a Black guy did, and using a fake photo, he not only joined the KKK, started his own chapter, and was given some high rank for his organizational skills, then showed his "real" face.

    Posted by: Richard Goss | Nov 13, 2006 3:42:07 PM

  19. For me, this wouldn't be a problem. I'd rather my money go to decent people, not bigots. With them identifying themselves as bigots up front, my money would be available to go to gay-friendly businesses. And really, as Christian ethicists, how much style could they possibly have? And I ask you, "who wants a tacky white Chevy with a Jesus fish plastered to the back of it parked in their front yard for a week?"

    Posted by: Michael W. | Nov 13, 2006 3:46:55 PM

  20. Good god! I can't believe what I've just read! *shaking head in utter disbelief*.
    In this neck of the woods (uk) the idea that you'd turn down someone's business just because of what they do in the privacy of their own home is so absurd as to be laughable...

    Posted by: brainiac_amour | Nov 13, 2006 3:48:07 PM

  21. Remember, guys.... they are in Texas.

    And yes, $40K sounds like a lot of money, but in terms of landscaping a McMansion it's pocket change.

    So they say that they "only" lost two clients worth about $500 per year... what did they do for these customers? Rake their leaves once? Assuming it's a 50/50 split between the two lost customers, that isn't much service.

    What they don't know is just how many people WON'T do business with them and DON'T call to tell them so. I bet that $40K is worthless compared to the lost business of those in the community who don't appreciate bigotry and discrimination.

    Sad thing is that if the situation were reversed, say the gay couple were approached to redecorate or sell the bigots' house, and the gay couple refused services to the bigots because they don't want to do business with bigoted religious fundamentalists they could actually be sued because religion is a protected "class".

    The irony is that religion is a CHOICE, but one's sexuality isn't.

    Posted by: Jonathon | Nov 13, 2006 4:15:56 PM

  22. ... and explain to me why so many gay men choose to live in Texas??? It baffles me as it can't be any more redder and bias... and don't tell me "It's to change the laws and improve the politics and gay men should be able to live where ever they want" logic, it's faultier than the ware in Iraq...

    Posted by: Cory | Nov 13, 2006 4:24:23 PM

  23. Jonathan's right...there's no way to quantify the amount of business they have and will lose over time because of their bigotry. All you can see right now -- assuming that their $40k number wasn't just completely made up, which I'm not willing to concede -- is the immediate extra business they're getting from fellow bigots. But that will die off, in fact probably already has, and I think over the years they will have hurt themselves. But they sound like they want to be martyrs anyway, so they should be happy.

    Posted by: Glenn | Nov 13, 2006 5:08:10 PM

  24. Umm Cory,
    Are you condemning ALL of Texas as being bigoted? Aren't the cities different, just like in every other state? What if they were born & raised Texan and LOVE their state? They love it so much that they want to stay and help change it. Why is it such a "faulty argument" that gays should be able to live where they want? Shouldn't they?
    If leaving Texas is the solution, are YOU willing to take them in, feed them, find them jobs, etc. Exactly WHERE are they supposed to go?
    If your state had faulty laws, would let that force you to leave or would you stay and fight for your rights? Maybe you would leave, but not everybody is a coward.

    Posted by: soulbrotha | Nov 13, 2006 6:57:04 PM

  25. "In the ensuing uproar, the family had to change its private phone numbers, Mrs. Farber said, and turned over to the police copies of threatening messages like “I will sodomize their children.”"

    "I will sodomize their children"? Is that a typo or was Mrs. Farber selectively publishing the 'threats' to her family. If so, perhaps the orginal email was more along the lines of "I am sick of people assuming that just becasue I am gay that I will sodomize their children," and then Mrs. Farber got into a tizzy at the mere thought. Because why else would someone write "I will sodomize THEIR children," unless this was posted on a message board? Or emailed to their pastor and then forwarded on to the Farbers afterward?

    Posted by: GBM | Nov 13, 2006 7:22:29 PM

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