Last month, the Arizona State Legislature approved a new law (Senate Bill 1062) that was sent to Governor Brewer for approval—she subsequently vetoed it. The religious right welcomed the rule as a necessary form of protection for those who denounce same-sex marriage. Gay rights advocates labeled it as a mechanism that condones discrimination. Basically, what the Arizona bill allowed is for businesses to deny service to customers based on religious beliefs.
Thankfully, this bleak moment is behind us (for now). The entire debacle proves that, even in 2014, our political leaders are vile, wicked, despicable and still capable of implementing laws that are morally repugnant. Even worse, the law was formed under the pretense of “religious freedom” while legalizing bias, and encouraging others to do harm onto their neighbor.
The ruling in Arizona came against the backdrop of several other cases across the country where private business owners have denied service based on their faith. For example, in suburban Denver, a baker at Masterpiece Cakeshop refused to sell a same-sex couple a cake for their wedding. In this case and in many other cases, alleged victims of discrimination are suing the private business owners. The baker was reprimanded and ordered by a judge to “cease and desist” from discriminating against gay couples.
I believe that in a free country, you should be able to live according to your faith. I also believe that in a liberated society, people have the right to engage in free and voluntary exchange with others as they see fit. Unfortunately, some of the costs of freedom are bigotry, racism, and sexism (you get the idea); but in this day and age of a multicultural, heterogeneous society, anyone who would voluntary shrink their customer base is practicing bad business. Nowadays, there are so many tools available to each and every one of us that can be used to identify and critique commercial outlets that either perform prejudicially or have poor customer service. In a competitive business environment, the poor competitors will be weeded out.
But here’s the thing—all of these issues were completely irrelevant in the Arizona case. Why? Because prior to Bill 1062, discriminating against gays was already legal—the public accommodation laws of Arizona do not include sexual orientation in its language. In fact, in many municipalities across the entire nation, discrimination against homosexuals is legal. So, Bill 1062 simply took a step further down Hatred Lane and codified the practice of discrimination into law. And by the way, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion to anyone in the United States, so using an argument of religious protectionism is moot.
That being said, let us all not forget that in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the plaintiffs were suing because they were denied cake.
C’mon, folks. It’s just cake.
Regardless of what you think about homosexuality and same-sex marriage, would an all-male or all-female couple buying a cake for a wedding, engagement, or anniversary party pose a menacing, insurmountable, overbearing threat to anyone’s religious freedom?
After all, it’s just cake.
Now, the immediate corollary would be to segregation laws in the pre-Civil Rights era. Would I have supported those segregation laws in a “free” and “liberated” society? Absolutely not. In such cases, the law mandated specifically that people of color were to be separated from whites, and that separation produced unequal, inferior conditions. The law mandated that people be bigots.
The plaintiffs in the above case were free to seek a cake maker whom they found suitable, and the law did not specifically disqualify them from seeking other vendors. If a vendor did act like a bigot, then that was a problem with the specific vendor, not the law.
This is (supposedly) the land of the free. That means you can be a bigot if you’d like, but don’t coerce other people to follow your lead; you don’t have a constitutional right to be sold cake, but you do have the freedom to purchase cake from whomever you’d like. I shouldn’t force a private business person to conduct a certain business just as I won’t mandate that a same-sex couple come to my church, or any church for that matter.
If one partner of an all-female couple owned a store, and she refused to sell me milk from her shelves on a Sunday because I must be one of those “Christians,” and she cites her religion as an objection to the sale, I would feel quite offended. I think I would simply say, “Hey, it’s just milk,” and hope that the rational, level-headed minds would prevail. I then have to wonder what would happen in Arizona if a Muslim refused service to a Christian “infidel” because of their Christianity—a perfectly legal practice under the Arizona discrimination bill. I’m sure the legislators thought of that scenario and deemed it to be good.
The common thread here is that politicians always attempt to tell us what’s right and wrong, but we are all adults. Only we can decide for ourselves, and the true arrogance and bias of the Arizona Senate have become evident in their despicable actions. The issue is not religious freedom versus same-sex couples, it’s (once again) government meddling in the affairs of private individuals who would most likely live a more peaceful and rational existence had the State not butt its head in.
Dr. C.H.E. Sadaphal