A reader quotes me:
As for the case for allowing fundamentalists to discriminate against anyone associated with what they regard as sin, I’m much more sympathetic. I favor maximal liberty in these cases. The idea that you should respond to a hurtful refusal to bake a wedding cake by suing the bakers is a real stretch to me. Yes, they may simply be homophobic, rather than attached to a coherent religious worldview. But so what? There are plenty of non-homophobic bakers in Arizona. If we decide that our only response to discrimination is a lawsuit, we gays are ratcheting up a culture war we would do better to leave alone. We run the risk of becoming just as intolerant as the anti-gay bigots, if we seek to coerce people into tolerance.
Do you also believe that businesses should be allowed to refuse people service based on their race? If not, please explain why you think that is different.
The public accommodations issue with respect to race is mercifully settled. And it’s pretty much settled with respect to gays, as the collapse of the Arizona bill demonstrates. My point was to note that even if such discrimination should be illegal, it isn’t always advisable, as a prudential matter, to sue. I favor a less drastic approach, and a gentler one. Not just because I think that will help the cause of civil rights in public opinion, but because I think we’re already winning that fight, and can afford some elective magnanimity.
I understand the point you are trying to make about leaving bigoted bakers to their own hated. It is probably a good sign that in Arizona and the US, a gay couple will find any number of bakers or photographers for their wedding. But in 1965 Mississippi, it would have been a brave white hardware store owner who let a black carpenter in the front door and then sold him nails. As long as the bigots are a discredited and a declining minority, ignoring them may be the best option. When they ARE the majority and hold the positions of economic/political and social power, then they can’t be ignored but must be confronted. That was the history of the civil rights movement.
From an Arizonan:
Yes, there are thousands of bakeries here – but NOT in many of our small towns and rural areas. The same with photographers, florists, etc. If you live in Patagonia or Cottonwood or Greer or Alpine – it’s not so easy.
Another elaborates on that point:
So, someone is driving through Arizona on I-40 or US-93 or some other road with very little on it and runs low on gas.
They pull up to the only gas station for 30 miles and are refused service because they are gay and you have no problems with that? Or, it is late at night, and they are getting very tired and falling asleep at the wheel and they pull up to the only hotel for 30 miles and are denied the right to a room because they are gay, and you are OK with that? What about a grocer in a small town who denies a gay person travelling through, or recently relocated there to buy food?
I realize a cake is not the same as those examples above, but when exactly are you OK with bigots being bigots, and to whom are you OK with them being bigots to? If I changed gay to black, would you still be OK with a hotel turning away people at night? Would you be OK with being refused buying gasoline in the desert? Or buying food?
I think living in that insular little bubble that is Washington DC is blinding you to real world issues that are out there, when someone can’t go just two blocks to find a business that will deal with them and can handle the fact that gay people exist in the world.
Another takes it a step further:
I agree with you that it’s wrong to sue someone who refuses to bake a cake because of their religious beliefs. You make a fine argument in favor of common decency. But there’s a more serious side to Arizona’s s.b. 1062. Consider the tragedy of Tyra Hunter, denied emergency care because the EMT’s didn’t like transsexuals.
Sure, if a gay couple is turned down for a wedding cake, it needn’t be a big deal. But what if a gay couple is turned down for a home mortgage? What if a condo homeowners association board of directors disapproves of its openly-gay residents? I admire your scrupulous fairness to s.b. 1062’s supporters, but let’s not forget, that bill had a dark side.
Another takes issue with me conflating the Arizona bill with the Boy Scouts excluding gay leaders:
Freedom of private association and privately held belief in this country is not in question. Start a club with no gays allowed, a networking group, or a social institution? Fine. Private. Freedom of association applies. Start a business that serves the public, and receives incorporation from our government? Subject to rules and regulations of our government, including non-discrimination against protected classes.
I didn’t mean to draw an exact parallel because my reader’s distinction is right. I was, rather, channeling the spirit of Big Gay Al.
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