Free association. It’s a great part of the American identity. Unfortunately, it’s been under fire the last few decades under the misguided (in my opinion) conception that you must treat everyone equally at all times in every way or you are criminally/civilly liable. This has been construed to mean that you must provide services to causes/lifestyles that you find morally objectionable.
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday in the case of a Colorado baker who had refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The Colorado state officials then bludgeoned the man with bureaucracy and tried to destroy his business. It has happened to others, and will probably happen again. The court ruled that he had been singled out and maliciously treated. The court did not rule, specifically, on the constitutionality of the case regarding his alleged obligation to bake a cake for a gay couple.
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I can’t help but wonder what the implications are of this societal need to make you comply with the current moral climate. We never seem to learn that these things are transitory, and change with each era. Following one’s own internal compass, especially if it’s based in your belief in God, is not a bad guideline to avoid the moving target that we face today.
But, you say, some religions allow you to discriminate against homosexuals, women, and those of color! I guess that’s true, but I’m not talking about the codified structural systems under Sharia law. I’m talking about, as noted in the first sentence today, the right to free association.
It is fairly simple: the market will make room for any product for which there is a demand. You do not need to force people to provide goods and services based on lifestyle. If you haven’t paid attention, it is literally impossible to tell if someone is gay by looking at them. Black, Hispanic, etc., are visual in most cases, and discrimination on that basis shouldn’t be allowed. If a gay man goes into a bakery and orders a dozen pies, and his cash is good, nobody cares. But asking someone of faith, regardless of that faith, to make a product they deem objectionable violates the concept of free speech and association. There are others in the market that will provide what they desire, and since there is no monopoly on baking cakes, or flower arrangements, or photography, you can find another provider who will accommodate your needs and lifestyle.
You may ask, “Well, where’s the line?” It’s a good question. I won’t even try to answer it, it’s like pornography: I’ll know it when I see it. But I do know this much: if I was asked to be Santa for a gay couple’s children, I would. I have. I’m not blessing their association, I’m entertaining their children. If I was asked to officiate a gay wedding as Santa, that would be another story, as it would involve my religious faith, and set of principles, in the matter of holy matrimony. Similarly, if you asked me to be Santa at a NAMBLA event, there’s a really good chance of Hell freezing over before I’d take the gig.
In the current climate, I am not allowed to make all of the choices I want to make regarding these sorts of issues. So I have tightly restricted what I will and won’t do as a performer, and as a writer, to fit into my worldview. It means that I do turn down some things that I don’t object to just so that I am protected when the objectionable things come along. Is that fair to me? I can’t take work, or advertise for work, that I’d like to do because it means I might have to accept work from someone who’s life choices I find objectionable on a faith level?
Before you rush to flood me with work requests for events where they torture penguins in cyberspace, and take dirty pictures with middle-aged men, be aware that I won’t be available that day. I’ve turned down plenty of work from straight white people that involved tasks that I will not do. Examples? A party where the goal is to get really drunk and then cavort with Santa. A dirty/bad Santa telling off-color jokes *(Did you hear about the life-size Babzie doll and the drunken elves?)*, a stripping Santa (When you get done gagging, I have to say the paycheck offered was enormous.) And the list goes on.
What I suggest, humbly, is that you treat people nicely. And since you don’t want to be forced to bake the cake for White Supremacy Day, or make a floral arrangement that says “I hope you rot in hell because you’re a (fill in the blank)” that you not force that on other people. I am betting that someone will do it if you don’t want to do it. I know for a fact they found people to fill in the events above when I turned them down.
My point is simple: government should not be forcing people to provide business services to anyone. Yes, there will be mindless, stupid discrimination. Some of it will be mean spirited in your opinion. But should I really be able to go to the Hilal restaurant and order a BLT? Because I don’t think I should. I respect their choice. And there are plenty of other places that will make me the sandwich.
Let’s head back to that golden rule: don’t force other people to eat the crow you despise.
On that note, go out and be decent to everyone you meet.
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