Dissents Of The Day

A reader quotes me:

I would never want to coerce any fundamentalist to provide services for my wedding – or anything else for that matter – if it made them in any way uncomfortable. The idea of suing these businesses to force them to provide services they are clearly uncomfortable providing is anathema to me. I think it should be repellent to the gay rights movement as well.

I don’t want to come across as snarky, but do you think that maybe the fact that you live in one of the largest metropolitan regions in the world and have virtually unlimited alternative options for just about anything you’d want might make it easy for you to come to this opinion? Think about all the gay couples living in small towns, where the next closest florist isn’t interested in driving that far for a delivery. In fact, I believe you brought up a very similar scenario when it came to pharmacists in rural areas deciding they could refuse to dispense birth control to unmarried women on religious grounds.

Another reader:

I don’t think Erick Erickson has a point at all; I think he’s cunningly crafted an argument that appeals to people’s sense of personal freedom, while supporting a law that allows unacceptable discrimination. The strength of one’s feelings do not justify discrimination. Is it okay for a Christian florist to deny service for a Jewish wedding? Can a Muslim taxi driver refuse to pick up a single woman without a male escort? Part of the price of obtaining a business license and doing business in America is the agreement to provide services without discrimination. If your personal feelings are so strong that it is unacceptable to bake a cake for a gay wedding, then don’t bake cakes for a living. That’s the choice.

Another:

Erickson would have a point if any of the bills proposed were in states that actually allow gay marriage.

In both Kansas and Arizona, gay marriage is NOT legal. How are we supposed to understand their point that it’s “only about services related to gay marriage” when they’re passing laws to deny service where there is no gay marriage? Come on!

Another:

Suppose two people, Dave and Pat, book a caterer for their wedding. The caterer is a fundamentalist (or secular) bigot and, owing to the androgynous name Pat, simply concludes that this is a hetero event. It is not until the caterer arrives, sets up, starts cooking, and serves a full round of appetizers that the caterer sees the two men kiss, freaks out, packs up and leaves the event stranded without food. By what principle would this behavior be acceptable? Are there now gay dollars and straight dollars? Would Dave and Pat be subject to a counter-action since they hid their identity from the bigot, costing them spoiled food and wasted time? I don’t see how you or Erick could deny the bigot these rights as well.

Of course people are allowed to make moral objections and withhold service (or purchase) because of them. But we have Civil Rights laws because we have decided, as a people, to state up front that race, religion, gender and sexual orientation are not acceptable categories for moral objection when it comes to government, hiring, housing or commerce. The caterer is providing a service, period. In a truly free market, that is the only value worthy of consideration.

More dissent can be found on our Facebook page:

It will always be a slippery slope, Andrew. You start with the obviously “sacred” wedding cakes and bouquets. And if the pious cake baker gets a pass how about the caterer? And if the devout florist gets a pass how about the flower wholesaler? And if the photographers get a pass. And who can expect a printer to print an invitation for Sally and Jane? Then how about the paper supplier. And think about the sweet old couple who own the turn of the century Bed & Breakfast Inn. That is so personal – I mean – you know – sheets and toilets. Hair dressers obviously. How about the guy who owns the only gas station in town whose beliefs are just as deep? Should he be forced to enable this couple to gas up just because his contact is brief? How many minutes of contact is required before you can discriminate? And is the discrimination limited to the couple or does it extend to the individuals when traveling on business? And who decides who is LGBT?

Of course a proprietors retains their First Amendment rights to express their religious and political beliefs. They may post a disclaimer on their website or in their place of business advertising that they oppose same-sex marriage (or whatever) but that they comply with applicable anti-discrimination laws.

Justice Richard Bosson in the New Mexico Supreme Court decision regarding Elane Photography/Huguenin said it perfectly:

The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead. The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more. But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life.

In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people. That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.