The father-daughter owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Ind., have "come out of hiding" to give a wide-ranging interview to U.K. tabloid The Daily Mail.
Crystal and Kevin O'Connor's small-town pizzeria became the flashpoint in a raging national debate about Indiana's recently passed — and subsequently amended — Religious Freedom Restoration Act after the younger O'Connor told a local TV station that because Memories Pizza was a "Christian establishment," it could not cater a hypothetical same-sex wedding. To be clear, O'Connor said at the time — and has repeatedly stated since — that LGBT people are welcome in the pizza and ice cream shop, and he has not fielded any requests to cater a same-sex wedding.
After national media picked up the interview, the shop was pilloried on social media and on its Yelp page with critical comments, one-star reviews, and even a threat sent via Twitter to "burn down Memories Pizza." As a result of the backlash, the O'Connors chose to close the shop for several days, saying they felt unsafe to be at work.
When Crystal O'Connor appeared on a talk show last Wednesday on Glenn Beck's right-wing streaming network The Blaze, host Dana Loesch informed the 23-year-old business owner that Blaze staff had launched a fundraising campaign. In the two days before it was closed without notice, the GoFundMe page raised a total of $842,347.
Now the Mail reports that the O'Connors are planning to reopen Memories Pizza later this week, while still deciding what, exactly, the family-owned business will do with the nearly million dollars raised on their behalf.
Here are a few other things we learned from the Daily Mail's interview:
1. Gay people shouldn't get married, because then people will want to marry trees.
"They are more than welcome to come in and eat," said Kevin O'Connor of gay potential customers. "That is not what this is about. We believe that it is not right for a man to marry a man and for a woman to marry a woman. People could end up marrying trees. … Come on!"
2. The O'Connors aren't sorry.
Explaining that Walkerton is a "good town," Kevin O'Connor said he's sorry for the negative publicity that's befallen the town — but not for his and his daughter's remarks that drew attention to the town of 2,000 people in the first place.
"For that reason I'm sorry that it went where it did," said Kevin O'Connor. "I'm not sorry for what we said, but I'm sorry that it put the town in this situation."
3. Businesses refusing to cater same-sex weddings are the modern-day conscientious objectors.
While noting that "the money's fantastic," O'Connor said it was the "physical, human compassion" that has been the most important to the family as their business became a flashpoint in a national controversy.
"It is very encouraging to know there are other people out there who think the way you do and feel the same way you feel," Kevin O'Connor told the Mail. "They support our right to be able to have that belief, and I compare this case like that of conscientious objectors. There were people who kind of beat them up because they wouldn’t go to war for their country, but they understood. And some of them did fight. But some were allowed the right not to have to fight for their country because that was there religious belief. … That is how I see it."
4. Kevin O'Connor wouldn't attend his gay child's wedding.
Just as the pizzeria wouldn't cater a hypothetical same-sex wedding, the elder O'Connor told the Daily Mail that if one of his children came out as gay, he couldn't support their hypothetical marriage.
"If any child of mine came out as gay and entered into a gay marriage, I would still love them, but Daddy wouldn’t be going to the wedding," Kevin O'Connor told the Mail.
5. America was founded as a Christian nation, but that has been turned "topsy-turvy" by angry gays.
"I don’t hate these people," said Kevin O'Connor. "They are just angry. I am not really sure what they are so angry about. So many things today are topsy-turvy. What used to be wrong is now right and what used to be right is now wrong. I don’t hold anything against them. … When this country was founded it was a Christian nation and those were the rights given to us by the founders and before that by God. People just don’t want you to have those rights anymore."
6. The O'Connors plan to give most of the $842,347 raised in a GoFundMe campaign to charitable groups they deem worthy.
The O'Connors told the Mail "they are set to share their new fortune with disabled children, a women’s help group, firefighters, police trusts, Christian churches," and a Washington State florist who made headlines last year for refusing to serve a same-sex wedding.
That florist is Baronelle Stutzman, a 70-year-old who is still fighting the state's decision that found she violated Washington's nondiscrimination law when she refused to provide flowers for the wedding of two men who were longtime customers in 2013, telling them "I can't do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ."
While right-wing groups have seized on Stutzman as a symbolic martyr of the so-called gay agenda, LGBT blog The New Civil Rights Movement notes that Stutzman is already the beneficiary of a similar fundraising campaign that has already netted $150,000 — even though the fine Stutzman is facing from the state is just $1,001.
The one thing we don't know is which groups will be receiving the money — or whether they would willingly accept funds raised for a business that openly advocates denying some services to same-sex couples.
Watch the Mail's interview below.