By W. TIMOTHY SUTTON. Sutton is a member of the Maryland Libertarian Party executive board. He hosts the Non-Aggression Principle Thursday nights at 8 pm on Free State Radio.
On Friday, the Arizona legislature passed a bill that purports to prohibit interference with religious freedoms even if those freedoms interfere with the rights of others. The text of the bill is here. A close adviser to Governor Jan Brewer believes that she will veto the bill. Nowhere in the bill is the word gay mentioned, but the subtext is clear. The bill will allow businesses to refuse service to gays and presumably satanists, Muslims, Jews and others that do not comport with one’s “religious teachings.” Stay with me here, but I support this bill with one caveat. There must be some requirement that the businesses discriminating publish notice of their discrimination. You see, I want to know where the bigots are. I want to know where the people that would deny service to my fellow Americans and humans are. If you don’t like gay people, that is your right. In America we still have the right to irrational hate. But I also have the right to not give you my business.
One may say that if my proposal had been in effect during the civil rights era then the extraordinary advances in human rights seen in this country in the last seventy years would not have occurred. This is true. However, it is because of those advances and because of the greater tolerance of Americans today, that such governmental top down solutions are not needed. In the forties, fifties, sixties and into the seventies, racial discrimination was not only tolerated, but endorsed and viewed as the only way to live. Now 87% of Americans approve of miscegenation. In 1958 4% did. We have a long way to travel to be a fully equitable nation and we have 300 years of history to repair, but this is a an incredible statistic.
Likewise, sixty years ago homosexuality was a crime in this country and in our western allies. It did not matter if you invented the computer and defeated the Nazis, the homosexuality would not be accepted and you would be prosecuted. Now homosexuality is accepted, the Supreme Court has recognized adult consensual sexual activity as a fundamental right, and 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage in some form. This acceptance will continue to grow. As the tide goes against opponents of gay marriage and gays in general, they will become more vitriolic and spiteful, fighting like cornered wolverines. However, LGBT activists can go too far. Calling for the end of gender pronouns, is going too far. Forcing people to bake wedding cakes for gay couples is going too far. Just because there has been rapid and exponential acceptance of gays does not mean it is universal. Of course it is wrong to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding, but it is also wrong to force someone to do something that they believe is wrong. In America we still have the right to hate.
Government laws against thought are disturbing. They try to forcibly change an ingrained thought process. The problem is that change, while occurring fast, does not occur immediately. America still has racial problems that forty years of the Civil Rights Act has not completely eradicated. Years of government sponsored discrimination in the form of redlining, mortgage scams, separate schooling, Jim Crow laws and Bull Connor tactics have left a deep scar. Likewise years of beatings and prosecutions left a deep scar on the homosexual population. That does not mean that the appropriate response is with government intervention. The Westboro Baptist Church does not stop protesting at funeral because it is illegal to do so. They stop protesting at funerals when an overwhelming opposition presents itself. The advances that we have seen in America’s views towards homosexuals have not come because of government intervention. They have come, largely, by interactions with gay people. It does not matter if that gay person is Rock Hudson, Freddie Mercury, Pedro from the Real World, Ellen Degeneres or your son, daughter, brother, sister, niece or nephew. The laws changing do not change thought.
There are some idiots who think that allowing gay marriage will result in parents marrying children. He would probably be very surprised to learn that prior to the passage of gay marriage in Maryland there were many gay people who legally adopted their partners specifically to get legal benefits, whether those benefits were tax related or just the ability to visit a loved one in the hospital. Adult adoptions are legal and gay couples needed legal protections so they found a way around the law. The adoptions were irreversible and thus those couples could not marry once the law was changed, but that does not mean that we did not try to somehow legally get them to be able to do so or that government had seen all of the unintended consequences of its action.
Like the passage of the one man one woman laws, Arizona House Bill 2153 will have unintended consequences. If enough organizations and businesses deem it offensive it will hurt the economy of Arizona. The NCAA still refuses to allow predetermined events to be scheduled in South Carolina because the Confederate Flag flies on the state house grounds. Arizona itself knows the effects of boycotts because of offending a large population. In 1990 the NFL pulled the 1993 Super Bowl from Arizona because of its refusal to adopt a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Similar effects would befall Arizona if the governor passes this law. But that is misguided. People deserve to know who the bigots are. They deserve to know where not to spend their money.
Further, an argument could be made that an unintended consequence of the law could be that if a gay rights group was able to use, I don’t know, the Unitarian Church, to perform gay marriages this law would prohibit the state of Arizona from refusing to recognize such marriage. The same could be said if a Mormon or Muslim wanted a polygamous marriage to be approved. Their religions allow such things so this law would prohibit attempts to stop it. There are many possible unintended consequences.
The law claims religious freedom. Theoretically such a law would allow certain American Indian tribes to smoke peyote. Theoretically, it would allow certain sects of Judaism to refuse to make wedding cakes for Christians. Theoretically, it would allow Catholics to refuse to make wedding cakes for someone who has been divorced. Theoretically it would allow an Aztec to commit human sacrifice. There are a lot of theoreticals. But in reality, the law is for the purpose of discriminating against gays. The people seeking to enact the law may be earnest in their beliefs, but that does not make them right. They are still bigots. There may be valid religious reasons to disapprove of gay marriage or to not allow it in your church, but there is no valid reason to simply discriminate against gays. If this law helps me identify the bigots and spend my money elsewhere it is beneficial. We can not eliminate these bigoted beliefs through laws. We must eliminate them through education and by taking our dollar elsewhere. We need the hate in the open, not behind closed doors. People in America still have the right to hate, but that does not mean that they have to continue to hate. It does not mean that a majority of Americans hate. More Americans suffer from apathy and indifference than hate. The right to hate does not mean that the hate cannot be changed to tolerance, acceptance, understanding, embrace, or even love.
If the Arizona bill is signed it will be amazing to track the progression of the discriminating businesses. How many of them will start discriminating and, in five years, after their business has (hopefully) lost revenue, been boycotted, protested and repeatedly told how wrong they are, will stop discriminating? I have faith in the people of Arizona. I have faith that they will not support businesses that discriminate. I have faith that they will create businesses that will compete against the discriminatory ones. I have faith that the people will do the educating. The bigots feel oppressed now, but because everyone is silent they also fell empowered. They feel as though that they have the majority support of the people and that there are a few oppressors preventing them from practicing their misguided views. Let the bigots discriminate openly and see how empowered they are. Let the people show them that the path of righteousness is filled not with hate, but with love.