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Yell "FREEDOM!!" a little louder…

Freeeeedoooom!So, the "gay discrimination law" thing. A lot of social conservatives are pushing laws in various states that make it OK for businesses to refuse service to gay people if it violates their religious beliefs. Some are worded differently, but all would allow such things.

A very strong libertarian argument could be made that not letting the business owners refuse service to whoever they want for whatever reason they want violates their freedoms, religious and otherwise. If I own a private business, shouldn't I be able to say "no gays allowed" if I think homosexuality is sinful? Isn't that one of my basic rights? You, a gay person, have no prior right to use my business's services. So why should the government force me to admit you?

Many people are trying to make that argument, and it is a strong one. I made a similar argument years ago in my more Libertarian youth: despite being vehemently anti-discrimination, I felt an individual's natural property rights should trump all. Yet there is a problem. The people making that argument are being very selective in their support of business owners' rights.

Currently, "sexual orientation" is not a federally-protected attribute, like race, religion, sex, and national origin are. Certain types of businesses (restaurants, theaters, hotels, home sellers) cannot discriminate based on those attributes.

If the rights of the business owner trumps all, why is there no outrage about the Civil Rights Act (and others)? Currently, if a motel were to refuse an interracial couple because of their interracial-ness, they'd be hit with a civil suit. They can't do that, even if their religious beliefs say that races should not mix.

So…

Why no long blog posts and Facebook shares about that? Why no "Repeal the Civil Rights Act because it violates business owner's religious right to refuse service to interracial couples!"

"Race is different," you say? "Homosexuality is a behavior, an activity, not who they are. It's a choice!", maybe?

First, if you think people "choose" to be homosexual, I'm not sure what to say. Go talk to a few more gay people?

Second, even if it's "who they are", that doesn't affect the argument: shouldn't I be able to discriminate based on "who someone is"?

Third, they're not being refused service because who they are or their race or religion: they're being refused service because of the behavior of choosing to marry (and fornicate with) members of other races. Those are behaviors which some business owners still find abhorrent because of religious reasons.

The same goes for inter-religious marriage, which many religions forbid. Religion is as much, if not more of a choice than homosexuality. Can owners refuse service to people of religions they do not like? What if a Muslim hotel owner were to refuse Christians?


If you do make that strong libertarian case for allowing business owners to refuse to service based on whatever they want, please explain why you don't include race, sex, religion, marital status, etc in your argument. Why is it OK to force business owners to accept interracial couples if their religion dictates, but not gay couples?

And if you do think business owners should be able to, say, refuse interracial couples or Jews on religious grounds, why is that so much less worthy of a blog post, a Facebook status, or a legislative bill? It seems just as much a violation of their religious rights, does it not? Why so much less public outrage (ie no public outrage at all) about that?

If it truly is all about protecting business owners' religious convictions, why not make that argument too? Far more business owners have been forced to accept blacks, asians, Jews, etc. than will ever be forced to accept gays. So, why no public outrage about their violated religious beliefs?

2014-02-26

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