The Fuss About Arizona

I'm not generally a person who blogs in response to other people's blogs. But two blogs have really jumped out to me in response to the uproar in Arizona over discrimination against gay Americans.

The first piece is by Rachel Held Evans, who lately seems to spend all her time saying what I think better than I can say it. Her piece called Walking the Second Mile: Jesus, Discrimination, and ‘Religious Freedom’ is powerful and empathetic to people on both sides of the issue. It's a must read.

On the other side is Matt Walsh and his piece, Yes, of course a business owner should have the right to refuse service to gay people. One of my smartest friends shared a link to this on Facebook, so I read it. This friend often holds the opposite position I do on a given issue, but he's always incredibly thoughtful about it–his positions are the result of careful thought and consideration. He never fails to help me see an issue in a new light.

Speaking of the potential that gay Americans will be protected against discrimination, Matt says the following: 

No other group is afforded such privileges. I can’t force a Jewish deli to provide me with non kosher meat. I can’t force a gay sign company to print me “Homosexual sex is a sin” banners (I’d probably be sued just for making the request). I can’t force a Muslim caterer to serve pork. I can’t force a pro-choice business to buy ad space on my website. I can’t force a Baptist sculptor to carve me a statue of the Virgin Mary.

This is a line of thinking I haven't encountered, and I actually see the argument here. For some people, homosexuality is an abomination–a real evil in the world. They don't want to do anything to support what they see as a moral decline. They're missing something big, and in doing so potentially set themselves up to lose their own rights.

It's remarkably simple. We have protected classes in this country. You can't refuse service to a protected class. The current protected classes are:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National Origin
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Pregnancy
  • Citizenship
  • Disability
  • Veteran Status
  • Genetic Information

That means any service offered to the public can't be denied to any person based on these attributes. It doesn't matter if you believe women should't work out of the home: you have to sell them a briefcase if you sell briefcases. That doesn't mean you have to start selling bras–it just means you have to sell briefcases to everyone.

Of course you don't have to change your business for anyone. But, you have to offer whatever your business offers to anyone who requests it.

The issue for people who oppose equal marriage is that sexual orientation is on the fast track to being a protected class. That means, yes, if you take pictures of weddings, you could not discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation. And this is a good thing!

Religion is on the decline in this country, and secularism is on the rise. Imagine a possibility in the future, where atheists are more common that Christians. Now, imagine that most atheists agree with the New Atheists–that religion is a danger to society. What would happen if your grocer won't sell you food because that supports religion? Or builders won't work on churches because they don't want to support the indoctrination of children?

That protected class for religion is starting to look pretty good, isn't it? Can you imagine being refused service or a sale because you believe in God? How would you feel?

You'd probably feel dehumanized. You'd probably lobby to be protected from such a thing.

Matt's wrong. It is dehumanizing to for baker to refuse to make a cake because he calls your relationship an evil.

In these difficult conversations, I find it very helpful to stand in the shoes of people on all sides; to view the issue with my best understanding as others see it. And regardless of what I believe about the morality of homosexuality, the only way to protect my rights is to protect the rights to gay Americans as well.

Of course, I don't think there's anything wrong with being gay, but I've already covered that at length.