Recenly, I’ve had many discussions about the ideas and attitudes behind SB1062 in Arizona and SB100 in my own state of Utah. I was relieved to see Arizona’s Religious Freedom or—depending on the spin—Anti-Gay Bill vetoed.
What I have yet to see articulated by any legislator or lobbyist is the distinction between discrimination of service or goods provided and discrimination of individuals. One would be like requiring a Mexican restaurant to serve Japanese food because two customers walked in and craved sushi, and the other is the restaurant asking two Japanese customers to leave because the company or employees have some argument against Asians—something completely irrelevant to the business transaction.
Running a business myself, I can relate to the motivation behind much of the vetoed Arizona bill. I argue that it’s the discretion of the individuals running a business to decide what commerce they support and don’t rather than being forced by the law to provide a service or participate in a project that runs counter to the business owner’s beliefs. As an example, I wouldn’t work on any campaign promoting cigarettes, and it would be dishonest for me to put my talents toward a something I’m in opposition to and I’d respectfully inform such a company that they’d be better served by another designer. However, if an individual client happened to smoke, it’s none of my concern (short of floating sidestream smoke my way).
I say I relate to the basic motivation, however, I didn’t agree with the broad wording and subjective interpretation, something so many bills seem to fall victim to. The promise that unintended consequences wouldn’t happen or that supposedly no known examples of customer discrimination had occurred, is a pretty weak argument. Some articles writing about how gay people aren’t as bad off as blacks during slavery sound like “not that bad” is good enough. In my own state, I don’t buy this argument of anti-discrimination somehow granting “special rights” to some people while taking away the “special rights of other groups”. Equality isn’t a special right. To me, religious freedom doesn’t extend to forcing standards or ostracizing people, and misses to point of so many religions—to care for and respect others.
The personal lives and beliefs of customers isn’t a company’s concern, with the exception of personal beliefs entering into the project at hand. Hence, the tricky part as the often-referenced examples involving the wedding industry. Personally, if a business doesn’t want my patronage, as in the case of the wedding photographer in New Mexico, I wouldn’t force them to take my money, steer other people away from the place, and move on to someone agreeable.
I’m also bothered that politicians cited economic consequences as their reasoning against the Arizona’s bill—as though constitutionality, respect for others, or morality isn’t reason enough. As with so many situations in business or politics, or basic citizenship, it’s like they have to feel the threat of direct pain or punishment first before they chose to act in favor of someone else.
There’s headway to be made on both sides of these issues, realizing that often we could be on either side.