Boycott Threats Lead to Resignation of Theater Artistic Director Who Contributed to Anti-Same-Sex-Marriage Initiative:

The Sacramento Bee reports:

Scott Eckern, artistic director for the California Musical Theatre, resigned Wednesday as a growing number of artists threatened to boycott the organization because of his $1,000 donation to the campaign to ban gay marriage in California....

Los Angeles-based and Tony Award-winning composer Marc Shaiman ("Hairspray") wrote a blog saying he would never allow any of his shows to again be licensed or performed by California Musical Theatre while Eckern was employed there....

Speech calling for such boycotts is itself constitutionally protected. It neither is nor, in my view, should be illegal for people to refuse to patronize a theater because of the artistic director's political views. It likewise isn't illegal, and shouldn't be illegal for copyright owners to refuse to license their works for such reasons. I don't think there's a constitutional right to refuse to license the work under such circumstances, but I wouldn't support a ban on such refusals.

California law does bar employers from firing their employees for the employees' political activity, which would surely include contributions to political campaigns, and it doesn't seem to have an exception for situations where the employees' activity has caused boycotts or other losses to the employer. (See Cal. Labor Code §§ 1101-02, which has been read fairly broadly.) But it appears that Eckern resigned without being forced to do so by his employer.

Still, it seems to me that this story helps provide a counterpoint to the criticism of people and organizations who boycotted the Dixie Chicks for their statements. For more on the general topic of boycotts for speech, see my Deterring Speech: When Is It “McCarthyism”? When Is It Proper? (PDF pp. 11-30).

UPDATE: More thoughts on this from Adam B at DailyKos.

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  3. Disclosure of Contributors to Ballot Measures:
  4. Boycott Threats Lead to Resignation of Theater Artistic Director Who Contributed to Anti-Same-Sex-Marriage Initiative: