Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Friday, February 28, 2014

A Dictatorship in the Name of Freedom

A Dictatorship in the Name of Freedom

©2014  Ross Williams


The Arizona Legislature passed a bill a week or so ago affirming that businesses in Arizona have the right to deny service to homosexuals if the owner of the establishment holds the religious view that homosexuality is a sin.  The bill was vetoed by the Governor.  This comes two — or maybe four, or six — months after both a florist and a bakery in Colorado, or maybe Washington [who can remember?], were sued into submission for their refusal to sell floral arrangements and/or a wedding cake to gay couples getting married in that state.  The Arizona legislature didn't want the same bully tactics to be used in their own state.

And who can blame them?

And yes, that's exactly what it is.

"Oh, but Ross, how can you sit there and smugly declare that a shopkeeper has the ability to deny someone their right to buy a wedding cake??  And besides, aren't you in favor of gay marriage??"

Yes, I am in favor of gay marriage, for it is the exercise of a person's right to do what is allowed to everyone else, even if it nauseates and repulses those around him.  I don't discriminate; I support everyone who wishes to nauseate and repulse those around him.  Any country which would claim to support such freedom will have continual loggerheads when it comes to individuals exercising their rights; one person exercising his rights does not, in and of itself, deny another person his own rights.  A homosexual getting married does indeed have the right to buy a wedding cake, but a bakery saying "not here, you don't" isn't denying that right; it's asserting its owner's concurrent right to do business how he wants.  It's dishonest and disingenuous to claim anything else.

Stores have always been allowed to put up signs saying "We reserve the right to deny service to …" fill in the blank with: disruptive patrons, "over-served" patrons, loud patrons and, increasingly, patrons with babies or small children.  A bar in West Hollywood California — a homosexual hangout — has banned legislators who supported California's Proposition 8, the state law which banned gay marriage until it was justifiably struck down by the US Supreme Court.  Various diocese of the Catholic Church gave orders to its parish priests to deny communion to any state or federal lawmaker who had ever supported abortion rights.  In many states it is actually illegal to provide service to patrons who have already been "over-served".  Don't these patrons have rights?

Why is it permitted to deny the right to enter a commercial transaction to customers who disapprove of abortion, or who are drunk, or who are loud, … but not who disapprove of homosexuality?  Can a family with three small children who can't sit still and use their inside voice sue restaurants into submission for being asked to leave and get a baby-sitter before returning?  Can those who loudly voice-over the film being shown with their scintillating commentary and inarticulate interjections sue the theater chain into submission after they are ejected from the premises?

Don't make the excuse that noisy children who whine and play tag under the tables, and movie-goers who can't shut their mouths, are disruptive to other patrons — patrons who are entitled to enjoy their meal or movie themselves, because that would be grade-A hypocrisy.  Patrons of bigoted, closed-minded florists are entitled to shop for flowers in a place where they won't have to confront those who disrupt their own flower-buying experience.  How's a neanderthal supposed to enjoy buying a corsage if there's queers buying wedding arrangements right next to him?

The owners of Abbey Food and Bar in West Hollywood have a photo lineup of anti-gay legislators that are not permitted in the place.  They've rationalized, "It's not like they'd come here anyway."

Indeed.  Why on earth would anyone want to do business with a business that didn't want their business?  …unless it was to force the business to accept their business, so they could gloat about it afterward.  And who does that?

Bullies, that's who.

Besides, making the sharp distinction between those businesses that despise people who are different to the point that those people must be excluded makes decisions so much easier for everyone else.  There will be those who support the notion of the no-gay bakery, but most people I imagine, especially now, will see the notice in the front window saying "We don't sell wedding cakes with two tuxedos on top" and conclude that their own business needs to go elsewhere.

I wouldn't do business with a florist or bakery that I knew didn't want the business of homosexuals.  I would, however, do business with a restaurant which notified patrons that families with children were advised, instead, to eat at the local Denny's or Cracker Barrel.  Such distinctions are important for many people and if the establishment can run a successful business by excluding a significant portion of its pool of potential customers, … then so be it.  Are we a free country or not?

It would be my guess that gay-excluding florists would soon change their policy on their own or go proudly and stubbornly bankrupt, but that child-excluding restaurants would thrive.  That is the purpose of liberty, to provide such choices.  Business owners have rights, too, and one of those rights is to create a business model to their own liking.  If a potential customer doesn't like how a business does business, he has his own right to find a business he prefers … or to create one of his own.  But he doesn't have the right to bully his way into an establishment that doesn't want him; that is coercion, and coercion denies freedom.

…and no, that's not what the government is for, to force it — not any legitimate government in the United States, anyway .  Freedom and liberty — a citizen exercising his rights — is what happens when the government sits down, shuts up, and leaves people to their own choices.  When the government picks and chooses which citizens must submit to the will of others it is, instead, determining who has rights and who doesn't.

While it can be reasonably argued that being anti-gay is rude and inappropriately pious [not to mention, for a christian, it would be unchristian], a person has the right to be that way.  While it can be reasonably argued that a business built on a rude and inappropriately pious business model is sanctimoniously exclusive, it cannot be reasonably argued that such a business is not permitted to exist in a free country.  In a free country, that exclusive business would have to compete with non-exclusive businesses for enough customers to make a sustainable profit; if there are enough customers to support both, then everyone wins and we'll have child-free dining as well as children's menus.  If there aren't … then everyone still wins, since there are always more customers that can be served by non-exclusive businesses; they serve 100% of society.  Excluding anyone reduces the customer base to less than 100%.  Businesses which cater to everyone will do more business and thus rake in more profits — by definition.  It's third-grade arithmetic … which no longer surprises me that so many people don't understand it.

A nation which prohibits its bigoted, closed-minded citizens from opening businesses that operate for other bigoted, closed-minded people is not a free country; it is a tyranny of self-righteous smarm.  And how is that for ironic hypocrisy? to declare that a self-righteous, smarmy individual can't be self-righteous and smarmy himself, because his own self-righteous smarm is "different"?  Isn't that where we came in?

In any event, any bakery which objects to gay marriage is missing its opportunity to make the point without coming across as complete jackasses about it.  Being a partial jackass is usually good enough.  There's a juice bar in a small mining town in eastern Utah, the I Love Drilling Juice and Smoothie Bar.  Its owner has issues with liberals believing that certain people need to pay more for the privilege of being Americans, and so he declared that any liberals who patronize his establishment can put their money where their mouth is: liberals pay double the price for everything on the menu.

Of course, this relies on the political honesty of liberals to announce their liberal politics when ordering, and I Love Drilling doesn't get many customers who do that.  Go figure.

Similarly, any bakery which objects to gay marriage could very easily declare that the bride and groom figurines on the top tier of the cake are sold as male/female sets only, and one set comes free with each wedding cake.  A wedding cake which would require two tuxedos — or two gowns — adorning its top tier must pay for a second set of figurines … and a second set of figurines ordered with a wedding cake costs the same amount as the wedding cake itself.  If purchased separately, they're $3.95 plus tax.

A gay couple wanting a wedding cake from that bakery might choose to buy the second set of figurines at another time, or they might choose to buy their figurines elsewhere.  Or they may simply choose, as I would, to patronize a different bakery.  Choices abound if there is freedom.

Freedom, with all its choices, is inherently messy; pretending freedom must be neat and tidy ultimately earns a society a dictatorship.  A dictatorship is the only form of politics able to clean up this type of mess.


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