Homophobia Hits Bent-Con 2012

Northwest Press has been an exhibitor at the first two annual Bent-Con conventions Los Angeles, and we’ve had a fantastic time. There’s no show quite like it; it’s like Comic-Con, only queer! And I’m proud to say that Northwest Press will not only be exhibiting at Bent-Con this year, but we’re also a major sponsor of the show.

So we were more than a little dismayed to hear that Bent-Con was having trouble officially launching their new website and releasing tickets for sale. It turns out there was a problem with the company that was recommended to them to handle credit card transactions: Cornerstone Payment Systems didn’t want to do business with a queer comics show.

From the official Bent-Con site:

Credit card payment gateways are the mechanism the internet uses to exchange information between websites and mobile phones and the banks. When the general public buys a pizza or orders tickets over the web, the gateway verifies all the information is correct, authorizes the transfer of funds, and takes a percentage for the effort in “fees”. These fees can add up to significant amounts of money for both the seller and the gateway service. Getting the best deal possible is what every seller requires.

“In setting up our ticket service, our ticketing agent signed us up with an established company that offers low rates to non-profits like us—Cornerstone Payment Systems—that’s when things got odd,” [Bent-Con President Sean Holman] said.

Typical approval time is 48 hours. Several days of no word prompted Mr. Holman to inquire about the delay, first to the ticketing agency, then to Cornerstone itself. Two weeks later, a Cornerstone representative sent a cryptic email that said, “Unfortunately because the type of business we cannot get this account approved. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Puzzled, Mr. Holman inquired further with both Cornerstone and the ticketing agency about the rejection and the language. Apologizing, the ticketing agency indicated that Conerstone’s “underwriting criteria will be problematic” in regards to Bent-Con and quickly made arrangements with a different company, ACH Direct, to handle the processing. ACH approved Bent-Con and the website is now live and taking ticket orders for the December 2012 event.

It turns out that Cornerstone rejected Bent-Con due to the fact that it was an LGBT nonprofit.

Cornerstone’s website says they put “Christ at the Cornerstone of our business… we will not process credit card transactions for morally objectionable businesses”. In addition to rejecting customers based on their sexual orientation, they also funnel a portion of their fees to a number of anti-gay groups through a service called “Processing with a Purpose”, one notable beneficiary of which is The American Family Association, which the Southern Poverty Law Center certified as a hate group last year.

Here’s AFA Executive Director Bryan Fischer explaining how it’s perfectly appropriate to discriminate against gays, using the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr:

Cornerstone also provides these services to related organizations like the Home School Legal Defense Fund, American Family Association, Teen Pact, World Magazine and Florida Family Policy Counsel. Cornerstone advertises that they’ve processed several billion dollars and worked with 30,000 ministries.

Again, from the Bent-Con site:

“No wonder they rejected us,” Mr. Holman said. “We’re the kind of people they hate!”

The most troubling aspect, though, is that Cornerstone, directly and through partnerships, has provided gateway services to unknowing groups who support equality and fairness in other ways.

“There are several charities—cancer prevention, poverty reduction, even Little League organizations—that use Cornerstone due to its low rates and inadvertently fund the anti-gay hate industry in the United States,” Mr. Holman said. “Had things broken in a slightly different way, we might have wound up providing money to what is, essentially, the ‘bag-man’ for internet funded hate groups. I wonder how many otherwise great organizations don’t realize they’re helping to fund such hate with their own internet sales.”

I’d like to encourage organizations that use credit card gateways to check and see if Cornerstone is your provider. Cornerstone is free to work with whomever it wants, but we’re also free to point out their policies and encourage people who support fairness and equality to take their business elsewhere.

In any case, I’m happy that the matter has been resolved and that the community can now buy tickets for this fantastic event without worrying that we’re inadvertently funding groups that work against us.

You can find out more about Bent-Con (and buy tickets!) by heading to their website. See you in December!

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