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02/18/2014

Let us flout nondiscrimination laws, or else!

by Jeremy Hooper

More than a few locales have passed nondiscrimination laws that include LGBT people. In areas where such laws are in effect, business owners must respect that protection, just as they respect protections that apply to race, gender, national origin, religion, etc.

These laws are not suggestions. The reason why LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws exist is because the people who passed them want to—wait for it, wait for it—PROTECT LGBT PEOPLE FROM DISCRIMINATION! It doesn't matter the personally-held reason why a certain business owner might want to deny a service that he or she would otherwise offer, if not for the customer or customers' sexual orientation(s). If the business offers a good (e.g. flowers, cakes) or services (e.g. DJ services, overnight accommodations), then that business has to either (a) equally offer those services to LGBT people who request them or (b) lie and cite some other reason why they can't fulfill the job.

But the ego-driven movement that has long been trying to place their personal faith on a moral pedestal that exists above everyone else, as well as foist that personal perspective into all areas of public life, are downright hellbent on convincing America that they are the ones who are suffering whenever they "lose" the "right" to cite their personal religious convictions in order to deny a gay customer of a service that he or she selected. Which brings us to the latest piece from the Heritage Foundation's Ryan T. Anderson, who has written yet another one of those articles where he, like so many on-message conservatives before him, uses those same four businesses (Arlene's Flowers, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Elane Photography, Masterpiece Cakes) that the far-right echo chamber is determined to hoist up as national bellwethers of what will supposedly "happen to"Screen Shot 2014-02-18 At 2.43.00 Pmoppositional Christians once marriage equality comes to all fifty states. You can go read as much or as little of Ryan's piece as you want; I can assure you that if you are familiar with this stuff, he and his cowriter, Leslie Ford, don't offer up one new or compelling thought on the subject:

Bake Us a Cake, or Else! [National Review]

What's so annoying, too, is that they are just hiding behind the marriage conceit because they want to score political points against the marriage equality movement. As I've said so many times before: Three of these four examples happened in states that didn't even have marriage equality at the time of the incident. Even though all of the examples did pertain to ceremonies designed to honor a same-sex couple's bond, legally binding or not, that detail is largely ancillary. What matters is that the customers sought out a service that the business purported to offer up and they were denied of that specific good—perhaps the one, specific, perfect good that they had been wanting for years for their ceremonies—solely, decidedly, and pointedly because of being gay or lesbian. The business owners in all four cases cast moral judgements against these customers and their "lifestyles." As long as LGBT nondiscrimination laws are in effect, a business owner cannot cast this kind of judgment any more than a male shop owner can deny a woman a present she wishes to buy for her husband because he thinks it would give her a leg up in terms of biblically mandated submissiveness. Or for that matter, any more than a gay Target worker can deny poster board and markers to a Christian because she fears the professed evangelical might be planning a rally in protest of marriage equality. This is good business; this is common sense.

There is a very concerted effort going on the other side. Those of us who fight for marriage equality were told to expect it. I read a research brief a full three years ago saying that this was going to be the next phase in the far-right's "we're the victims" game. It's why we've seen so many similar projects crop up in recent years, from NOM's "Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance" to this ridiculous new go-nowhere bill that the GOP-led House is trying to ran through in order to show the American public that it can, in fact, waste more time and goodwill. The far-right knew as well as we did that marriage equality was coming through legislatures and the courts and even the ballot box, so they designed this whole thing as was way to recast the script. They want us to seem like bullies, and they want their supporters to believe that civilly married gays plan to smelt down their wedding rings and form them into crowbars with which we will pry away every last vestige of religious freedom. It's all tactical. Strategy. Politics.

It's also false witness. Not something I'd be so quick to bear if I was doing it in the name of honoring my God.

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*By the way, many of these businesses have admitted they just don't care for homosexuality itself. For instance, Sweet Cakes by Melissa recently posted the following on its Facebook page:

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 At 2.44.10 Pm

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*I also want to know when business owners started taking ownership of each customer's morality. Is this really the new standard? Are all florists now free, if not required, to cast personal opinions about and adjudicate on ceremonies to which they were not invited and have no personal connection? Are all bakers now going to followup with their customer to make sure the cookies are being used in a virtuous way? Is Sen. Cruz going to offer up the "Tsk, Tsk Act of 2014," allowing shopkeeps to bar in perpetuity any customer who was found to have used a consumer product in a way that offends the evangelical leanings of the person who sold it? This is all ludicrous!

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