Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Arizona’s “Anti-Gay/Religious Freedom” Legislation

On February 20th 2014, the Arizona state legislature passed SB 1062, otherwise known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act SB 1062, and has since transmitted the bill to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a figure who is no stranger to controversy, to be signed into law on February 24th 2014. As yet, Governor Brewer has not officially announced whether to sign the bill into law or not.

The controversy behind this bill is that it allows business owners to refuse to serve anyone whom they perceive to be members of the gay community so long as the business owners were acting solely on their religious beliefs.

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For those of you who are familiar with this blog and my pro-Free Market stance, you might think that I am jumping for joy because this bill seemingly allows businesses to be regulated less by the government. You’d be wrong.

From my pro-Free Market point of view, I am not thrilled with this bill because it does not go far enough. No, I do not mean that I think the government should legalize the lynching of homosexuals. What I mean is that, just like no one should be forced to patron any business that he/she doesn’t like, no business person should be forced to deal with any client he/she doesn’t want to serve.

One shouldn’t have to cite a religious reason for denying service to a potential customer. So long as businesses are not harming anyone (no, hurt feelings don’t count), a business should be free to act for whatever reason it chooses. At best, this bill is a half-step towards economic liberty. At worst, it is a law, which is supported by diseased degenerates who think that a person’s sexuality can make him/her subhuman, that permits people to remain ridiculously irrational while hiding behind the Bible!

The other problem that I have with this whole mess is the complaints that progressives have thrown at it. Firstly, I have heard many people comparing this bill with Jim Crow laws. That is not very accurate.

Jim Crow laws, as the name suggests, were laws that were passed by state governments that compelled businesses, as well as the government itself, to segregate, whether they wanted to or not.

This law that progressives are critiquing (for all the wrong reasons) allows businesses that want to enter into contract with everyone to do so, and allows businesses that want to cater to only members of the KKK to do so as well. So it is not a blanket law like the Jim Crow laws were like.

I also read what George Takei said about this when he said, “It gives bigotry against us gays and lesbians a powerful and unprecedented weapon.”

Now George Takei is a great actor whom I’ve seen on television since childhood who has gotten only better with age. That being said, allowing businesses to discriminate against people is hardly unprecedented. For example, I have seen numerous bars while I was in the United States that have posted signs that said “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason.”

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Even the bar that I spent many of my weekend evenings while I was in college carried such a sign. And it was a bar that was owned by an old hippie, who insisted that everyone call him “Loopy,” whose favorite song is John Lennon’s Imagine. Should Loopy be taken to court for that sign?




And for another, George Takei seems to imply that overturning this bill and continuing to force all businesses to serve LGBT people would somehow end the bigotry against LGBT people. There is no evidence that laws end hatred. It certainly forces people to hide their prejudices but it doesn’t get rid of them.

Why not let businesses declare to the whole world what their prejudices are? That way, people can know where not to spend their money.

That’s the fundamental thing that I don’t understand. Instead of wanting to know which businesses are being run by assholes so that people can know where not to spend their money, people who are advocating for laws that force businesses to serve everyone is saying “Excuse me, Mr. Government, there are these sexist/racist pigs that I want to give my money to so that I can be provided with services – services which will most likely be shoddy seeing how I am someone whom they have declared publicly to hate. Could you, please, force them to take my money so that they can make money, while providing me with what will most likely be shoddy services that I’m not sure that I really even want?”

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I’ve heard people say that the change in laws would lead to a change in culture. But I have never seen any evidence of that happening before. I’ve seen cultural changes eventually leading to changes in the law but never the other way around. Ending slavery did not end racism. It simply ended slavery. Ending Jim Crow laws also ended only the laws. It did not end racism. Both of which, by the way, were government laws that were put in place due to the prevalent culture of the time. Similarly, passing laws to force all businesses to serve LGBT people whether they want to or not won’t end homophobia. That will only happen after a change in the culture, which has already been happening for a while.

As a counter-example, assuming that the Westboro Baptist Church hires an actual PR team and changes tact and sends several of its members to a gay bar to order drinks, would the bartender have to serve them? The proper end result ought to be a huge bear of a man wearing leather straps telling them to get the fuck out unless they want their necks snapped. But a law that forces all businesses to serve everyone would then give the Westboro Baptist Church the legal precedent to sue the bar’s owners in court.



People might counter that being gay and/or black and/or female is not the same as being a religious bigot because people cannot choose their gender or sexuality or ethnicity when they are born but religion is something that people can choose. Although that is a valid moral point, legally, it’s irrelevant because what progressives are advocating is about identity, not the choice (or the lack thereof) of one’s identity.

So forcing all businesses to serve others is both illogical and potentially counterproductive.

I get the anger that progressives are feeling. And those bigots that people are angry at deserve moral censure, as well as healthy doses of boycotts, the one thing that George Takei got right in his letter, which is a right that every consumer has. But this law won’t change anything. The change that we want to see has to come through cultural changes. No, cultural changes are never fast enough but that’s the only sure way of moving on from anything old and decrepit.

Let them remain in their cesspool and let the rest of us associate and spend our money the way we want. They will die out sooner or later. The future is on our side.

10 comments:

  1. Hi John. Did you read the bill and actually think about this one very much? I really wish I could agree. This is another free market idea that just doesn't work in reality. As you pointed out early in the piece, businesses already to some extent have the right to refuse service to anyone. The only deterrent is possibility of a law suit. There are so many problems with this law it's hard to even begin and it has nothing to do with LGBT issues even though that appears to the be the intention. I know when we think about this issue the first thing that comes to mind is food service but what about other kinds of businesses? What about health insurance in the state of Arizona and other types of businesses where the market is limited. These kinds of tactics have been used before to deny women access to birth control and abortion. I understand the impulse to think that if we just allowed businesses to make these kinds of decisions then many of them would not survive the fall out. As much as I'd like to see Chick Fil A go out of business it doesn't appear their affiliation with fundy christian wing nuts has hurt their business at all. The main problem I have with this law is that certain businesses are vital to everyone's modern day survival. What if every car insurance company operating in Arizona decided they didn't want to insure women drivers? Yet, insurance is tied to ownership and operating a motor vehicle in the state. Now I know a lot of men would laugh and think that's great until they had to pick their own kids up from day car everyday. So explain to me how laws like this are actually beneficial when they have such potential for abuse?

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    1. Hi, TT. I'm always happy to have a debate with you. :)

      There have certainly been instances when women have been denied birth control and abortion by businesses. The most recent example that I can think of occurred in Kansas in 2012. But does the fact that some businesses refuse to provide birth control to women mean that women do not have access to it? There are non-profit organizations, charities, women's rights movements, and several influential members of the media who have and do help such women. Furthermore, those women can and do go elsewhere to be able to purchase birth control.

      Now are there some women whom not even the saintliest people cannot help or those who are so poor that they cannot even afford to travel to the next county? It's probable that they exist. But if you're trying to claim that that is why these types of laws are needed to protect these specific women, then I have to wonder whether the fact that these laws exist have ever helped those specific women at all.

      There is no such thing as a perfect solution that will make everyone happy. Not on the extremes of my side and not on the extremes of your side or anywhere in between. Barring Utopia, I prefer to support a position that guarantees the most liberty for all people.

      Now your hypothetical example about every car insurance company operating in Arizona suddenly deciding not to insure women drivers is just that - a hypothetical example. Though it is not without the realm of possibility, it is incredibly unlikely to happen.

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    2. Wait a minute what laws are you talking about, anti discrimination laws? I thought we were talking about laws that give businesses the right to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. I've always assumed that businesses could refuse to serve just about anyone they wanted as long as they were not concerned with local laws and/or possible civil rights law suits. Most people see these laws for what they really are, a backhanded attempt to codify extreme christian doctrine. It's not really about capitalist ideology at all. These laws aren't designed to give business owners more freedom. They are specifically designed to limit access to certain groups. It almost sounds like you agree that certain types of anti discrimination laws are necessary. You say that you support a position that guarantees the most liberty for all people, that's my position as well. Laws like this and the one you mentioned in Kansas are not about liberty for all they're about restricting freedom to certain groups. I understand that my hypothetical is unlikely but I only used it to illustrate that laws of this kind have the potential for real life consequences. I'm not sure that legislators who propose these laws even think about the real life consequences. After all they only make these inane laws they don't have to enforce them. How would the state go about enforcing such a law? How costly would it be, how much administrative and judicial burden would it put on local courts? I think in most cases it's very fortunate that these kinds of laws never make it on the books. While they may sound appealing implementation and actual enforcement are another issue.

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    3. Ah. Now that I know which topic we're specifically talking about, I think there should be less confusion.

      This particular law that allows business people to discriminate against people based on their religious convictions is not about capitalist ideology. It's using the convenient cover of the First Amendment (freedom to associate) and the libertarian philosophy of businesses needing to be protected from Big Government, but you are right that it is nothing more than a political stunt. For one thing, like I said, it doesn't force every business to discriminate against people based on religious beliefs but allows those compelled by their faith to do so. And there appears to be plenty of evidence to support that there are many businesses that will not practice this new-found 'privilege' and that those businesses have also publicly declared their opposition to the bill.

      Like I said, at best, it;'s a half step toward economic liberty. But considering the political baggage as well as the moral decay that it brings along with it, this bill is disgusting all around. The one silver lining that I find in all this is that those business owners who are stupid, ignorant, and bigoted enough who will declare their feelings to the public by refusing service to women, gays, or ethnic minorities will be easy to single out for boycotts.

      But what I disagree with you on is that the bill restricts freedom to certain groups. We all have the freedom to association and the right to enter into contracts with one another. But if there is a shop in my neighborhood, I cannot demand that they provide me with services if they don't want to sell it to me for whatever reason. I do not have the right to their labor. Having the right to anyone's labor, philosophically, is the same as slavery.

      As far as the legislators are concerned, the beauty of the bill is that there is no way or need to enforce this law. The bill gives the right to businesses to deny service to anyone based on religious grounds and those people denied service cannot sue. I don't see how it would increase administrative or judicial costs. This is of course assuming that it is not vetoed by the governor.

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    4. And Governor Brewer just vetoed it.

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    5. You really are a player John. Just when I thought my intellectual crush on you was beginning to subside you go and lure me back. No fair. I think you might be right about me if you've decided that I don't always think these things through completely. I'm willing to admit at times that my reactions are emotional and pretty knee jerk. I'd like to think that it might be a biological difference in brain function or even social conditioning because I'm a female. Yeah, that's it. I rather galls me to admit that it's more likely I'm just intellectually lazier. Good post buddy.

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    6. If it helps you feel any better, TT, I never thought you (or anyone else for that matter) sometimes don't think things through completely because of your gender. Social conditioning, on the other hand, seems a bit more plausible.

      Politics has always been a game about toying with people's emotions. If people thought rationally all the time (and I admit that I don't do this all the time either), 99% of the world's politicians would never have been elected to be their town's dog catcher, much less legislator. The most successful politicians have always portrayed complex issues as simple-to-understand emotional issues.

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    7. Wait a minute. I'm not that lazy or that simple. I'd never vote for George Bush just because he's the kind of guy people think he's easy to do a line with...oh I mean drink a beer with...or even Bill Clinton...puff puff pass...

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    8. I just have to share. I left you the post above and went over to the Huff Post and here's what popped up....A big headline Ahn nyong ha seh yo!
      http://www.huffingtonpost.kr/

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    9. The Huff Post in Korean? Oh lord...

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