Republicans in Arizona have passed a law that would legalize a business owner’s right to discriminate against homosexuals as long as it’s for “sincerely” held religious beliefs. The Republican governor is under pressure by so called gay rights activists to veto the bill. As far as I know, it’s legal to do this in Arizona already, but supporters of the law point to court decisions in other states that disallowed a business owner’s right to refuse service to same sex couples. This Arizona law is sort of a proactive step to protect religious people who run businesses from being forced by the courts to provide their goods and services to homosexuals.
I can’t support this law, but not because I think a gay person or anyone else has a right to patronize any private business they want. In fact the reason I can’t support this law is because I believe the exact opposite. I believe any business owner should have the right to refuse service to anyone they want. They should be free to give any reason for refusing service or give no reason at all. The problem with this Arizona law is it only allows people to discriminate on religious grounds. It also seems to me that it’s comparable to hate crime legislation in that it opens the door for thought police. If someone refused service to a homosexual and the homosexual sued them, what would be the next step? Most likely they’d end up in court trying to prove their religion forbids them from associating with homosexuals, and that they sincerely believe that part of their religion. In other words, I’m not sure this law would necessarily benefit the religious people it’s supposed to protect.
I don’t personally have any problem with homosexuals. If I owned my own company I would welcome their business. In fact as a child I attended a Protestant church where the associate pastor was a lesbian. Church wasn’t any better or worse in my opinion because of her lesbianism, and I imagine if there’s a God who looks favorably upon Protestants he appreciates her work as a minister.
But regardless of my own beliefs, freedom of association is the bedrock of any free society. It is the person who wants to force someone to bake him a cake or take his picture that is really forcing his beliefs on the business owner is it not? A Christian who refuses isn’t trying to forcibly convert the man to his religion. He’s just exercising his right to not associate with homosexuals. It is the homosexual in this case that is trying to force the Christian, under threat of State violence, to assist in his wedding and thereby accept homosexuality as a legitimate way of life.
I’ve never truly understood the rationale anyway. If there is a portion of the population that really hates gay people, why do gay people want to patronize their businesses? Is it just that some gays hate them back and want to humiliate them? If these two groups of people really hate each other, why is it in the interest of “society” to have the State force them to associate with each other?
Despite the fears of left-wing pundits, I seriously doubt there would be widespread discrimination at private businesses based on race or sexual orientation if the State just stayed out of these affairs. There would probably be some, but in general people tend to be motivated mainly by their own economic self interest when it comes to running their businesses. It would not make economic sense to just refuse to sell your good or service to a specific segment of the population for ideological reasons. The main cause of racial segregation in the South during much of the 20th century was due to the State itself. Local and State governments in much of the country infringed on people’s freedom of association by not allowing business owners to serve both blacks and whites equally. Bringing in State violence on the other side and forcing groups to associate at gunpoint is not the answer.