Denial of Service Error
Apparently, there’s yet another business in the news that has refused to allow their goods or services to be involved in a same-sex wedding. This time it’s an Indianapolis bakery. In commenting on this story, a Facebook friend of mine, who is a liberal pastor, said the following: “I’ll be sure to tell all my Indiana friends not to patronize these misguided bigots.”
More power to him.
It’s a wonderful society we have that allows us to express our displeasure as consumers and gives us alternate choices. The free market affords us these liberties (imagine if this bakery were a state-sponsored monopoly with “homophobic” operators and the same-sex couple had no more choice about using them than the employees did about providing services). Unfortunately, some wish to support freedom only for those of a like mind.
It should be noted that this bakery, and other businesses like it, are not seeking permission to deny services to gays, in general. They are simply looking to avoid participation in (and thus implied condonement of) specific events that violate their consciences: same-sex weddings and commitment ceremonies. This is not on par with the refusal to serve lunch (or anything else) to blacks simply in virtue of their color. In fact, I’ll wager that these businesses have served many LGBT customers in the past, and done so knowingly.
Let’s just step back a minute and think about what these businesses are looking for. This is about the right to disassociate from blatant expressions of ideologies with which they do not agree. And in the case of same-sex marriage they are not just a fringe minority in their objections, either. Even if we don’t ultimately support it via legislation, is this really such an unreasonable desire?
To answer that question, let’s put aside same-sex marriage for a bit and look at some things that could be covered under this same principle. How about an African American dry cleaner being asked to launder some KKK hoodies? Or, how about if PIP Printing were asked to make picket signs for Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church? Or how about a baker who was asked to provide a wedding cake for a Fundamentalist Mormon getting married to his 4th teenage wife? Would denial of service be so unimaginable in any of these cases?
But, we don’t even need to appeal to hypotheticals. There is an actual case of a hairdresser who has refused to continue service to New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez after finding out her stance on same-sex marriage. Is this hypocrisy or is he attempting also to act in a way consistent with his deeply-held convictions? It could be argued that this hairdresser has “discriminated” even beyond what these other businesses have, because he refuses to serve Gov. Martinez in general — in virtue of her beliefs — rather than simply refusing to cut her hair in preparation for a big anti-same-sex marriage speech, or some other such ideologically germane event. However, the best case for this hairdresser is that he is acting in an equivalent way to the Indiana bakery.
Most on the other side of this social divide don’t seem to understand the parity between a business owner’s desire to act according to principled convictions and their own desired rights to shut down opposition. This is because they seem to believe that those who are against same-sex marriage are merely bigots not deserving of respect, or any legal protections. They would probably agree with my assessment that the dry cleaner is reasonable to refuse service to the KKK and PIP should want to send Phelps packing, and they might even dare to support legislative backing for such rights. If this is so, then it’s not really about making laws that discriminate, per se; it’s about who we should be free to discriminate against. It’s all about protected classes vs. unprotected classes.
Whether we make laws to permit conscience-based denial of service may reasonably be debated, but it should not be seen as absurd, in principle. What’s more important to address is the growing idea that there are certain forms of speech and expression that do not deserve protection.
That way lies tyranny.
As a minority group, homosexuals should be particularly sensitive to the fact that the winds of social consensus can turn foul. But I think they are emboldened by the idea that “progress” will always move in their preferred direction. This seems a short-sighted view of history, where pendulums swing (note, for instance, the changing attitudes on abortion) and tyrants rise (note, for instance, half the countries of the past century). Best not to shut down the engines of free speech and expression. They served the homosexual community well on the up-swing, and one never knows when they’ll need to be appealed to again. I say, let true freedom of speech and the free markets prevail, and may the best ideas win.