I love that Jonathan's story is spreading (you can read a further statement from Jonathan on 365gay.com, get an international perspective in the comments of this PinkNews.co.uk piece, or see the Village Voice's reaction [erm, and Jon's abs]), because this is an important sort of thing to have people talking and thinking about. Part of the conversation I've heard was a counterpoint from another friend of mine from high school, the ever sharp Adam Lane:
"Jon: forgive me if I sound like a skeptic, but was the trial somehow related to your sexual identity? I could understand your position if it was, say, a civil-rights trial, or if a criminal defendant was openly gay and you sympathized too strongly with him or her. Otherwise, I'm not sure I see the connection.
By way of personal example, I was in a jury pool a few years ago (probably the same court--this was before I left NYC), and was dismissed during voir dire because the criminal defendant was charged with a drug-trafficking offense in my neighborhood. I told the judge that I would be unable to be impartial, first because the defendant was allegedly dealing very close to where I lived, and second (and more importantly) because I strongly believe that our narcotics laws are unjust. While I actually would have liked to have served on the jury, I recognized that advancing my own social agenda was inappropriate behavior as a juror.
I believe you when you say that you were not trying to shirk your civic duty. I suppose my ultimate concern with the position you've taken--and this is only if, indeed, the trial was unrelated to the protected class to which you belong--is that, much like voting, serving on a jury is as much of a right as it is a responsibility. As with voting, serving on a jury gives a person a voice in the civic dialogue. By removing yourself from that dialogue, you may in effect be adding to your own oppression."
Guys, I mostly write about cookies. I'm not going to attempt to debate the finer points of this conversation. But hooray for conversation. I hope that people will continue to find ways of instigating it, publicly and peacefully and intelligently. (And please, add your ideas in the comments or on your own webspace of choice if you're more debately inclined than I.)
In completely separate news, just in case you haven't heard elsewhere: You can text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross, which is helping provide relief to the survivors of the earthquake in Japan. For an alternative to the Red Cross, you can send a donation to GlobalGiving.org. And if you're concerned about a loved one in Japan who you haven't been able to get in touch with, check the Consulate-General of Japan in Atlanta's excellent page of emergency contacts.