California ice cream shop owner undaunted by Prop 8 protests

Sunday morning after church, Alan Leatherby thinks about ice cream.

He looks around the Arden Way restaurant as employees gear up for another day at Leatherby's Family Creamery, a Sacramento institution known for its half-gallon banana splits. Leatherby hopes it is a good day.

It has been three months since the November election and Leatherby family members still are dealing with the aftermath. They gave $20,000 to Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage, and their business has suffered.

They've been picketed, employees wearing company sweat shirts have been harassed, angry callers have phoned their creamery at all hours of the day. Hundreds of angry e-mails have come in. Bloggers have targeted their business.

Last week, Alan Leatherby received obscene Valentine's Day cards in the mail.

"It's not as strong as it was, but it's still going on," said Leatherby, the restaurant's general manager. "There is no way we could have prepared for the kind of reaction we got."

Business spiked right after the election as the Yes on 8 camp made a point of patronizing the restaurant. But that has tapered off.

"Business is actually down and that worries me," he said. "Can a business sustain that kind of negativity in the long-term? God only knows."

Opponents say they were offended by the size of the family's contribution.

"This is a very emotional issue to the gay community, and people take massive contributions like that very personally," said Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate, which organizes boycotts of business that supported Yes on 8. Karger said he does not condone harassing business owners or their employees.

"I deplore activity like that; we should take our arguments to their pocketbooks," said Karger. "Some people on both sides of the issue have gone too far."

Leatherby has tried to answer each e-mail and every phone call because he believes that it is the Christian thing to do. He is not "a hater," he tells those on the other side of the issue.

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