There’s a blog post that’s being passed around my Facebook feed from some of the more conservative elements of my friends’ list. In it, the author insists that it is right and just that Arizona business owners should be able to refuse service to homosexuals. He argues that it’s right because it protects Christians’ freedom of religion: that it is wrong of the government to force us to participate in events that we find “mortally sinful.”
But is this right?
I suppose from the religious side, one could take it to be. The Pontifical Council for the Family wrote in The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality that:
“Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained”.131 A distinction must be made between a tendency that can be innate and acts of homosexuality that “are intrinsically disordered”132 and contrary to Natural Law.133
Granted, this teaching does come from 1995, and earlier teachings phrase it much more harshly, but we know that this teaching still stands. In 2003, the American bishops called for an amendment to “protect marriage“: to specifically name marriage as being between man and woman. In 2006, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care” and related how to lead homosexual parishioners into a moral lifestyle (read: chaste and non-sexual). And within the community of the faithful (of whatever faith you so choose), that’s all well and good. Personally, I prefer Pope Francis’ assertion of “Who am I to judge?”
The bigger concern is how do and should these religious teachings interact with the larger society. You know, the one that’s not entirely Christian.
The author of the original blog asserts that it shouldn’t make a difference. He states:
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 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.
Let’s look at this, shall we?
In these comparisons, we have a religious choice and lifestyle going up against a non-religious choice and lifestyle. Kosher vs. non-kosher. No pork vs. pork. Pro-life vs. pro-choice. Adoration of Mary vs. non-adoration. In each of these cases, we have a pure choice. Not all Jews necessarily follow kosher, but those that do need a special place with which to get their food (seriously, these are instructions on how to keep your kitchen kosher. I don’t want to imagine the rules a deli has to follow.) So this is a religious lifestyle choice. In a different vein, a Muslim caterer may choose not to consume meat, but chances are he’ll serve it if you request it anyway: he or she probably has non-Muslims on staff (and if he or she doesn’t, well, that’s a different legal issue entirely). It is the caterer’s choice to not eat the meat, but there is no prohibition in the Qu’ran that says he or she can’t serve it.
Pro-life and pro-choice have the same basic issue: these are opinions on a point of law. Adoration vs. non-adoration are differences in belief. (And wouldn’t an artist have an easy way of avoiding this anyway? “I’m not taking commissions at this time.”)
Still. Each one of these scenarios has the element of choice in them. The choice to follow a religion you chose in the manner of your choosing. Nobody forced you into the belief, and nobody (except perhaps your own conscience) dictates the manner in which you follow that belief.
But what about homosexuals? Coming back to old arguments, do they have a choice? According to the American Psychological Association:
There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.
So there’s no apparent choice in our sexuality, just as there’s no choice in our skin, hair, or eye color. What does that mean for our businessmen and women?
Well, much like discriminating based on color, we can’t discriminate based on sexuality. If an interracial couple came into a business to buy a wedding cake and was refused because the owner is a staunch KKK member and finds that such a pairing is an abomination, we’d hear screaming to the high heavens about racism and how skin color is inherent to a person and how the owner has no right to discriminate based on inherent traits. We’d also be talking about how the couple has the right to marry.
In fact, as a generic statement, our 14th Amendment pretty much guarantees this:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Which is perhaps the biggest problem with the law in question. It unequivocally denies the rights of some of its citizens the ability to pursue a normal life. It says, “Your inherent self, your very being, is something we can deny.” Do we need to wait for a new version of the 15th Amendment to stop being idiots?
Certainly, private businesses have the right to refuse service as long as it’s non-discriminatory. Guy comes in and is a veritable ass to you? Sure, don’t serve him. You don’t provide the service they’re looking for to anyone, such as you don’t make fursuits despite being a costumer? Sure, deny the business. But we cannot, in any ethical sense, say that it’s okay to say that one person’s right to employ a business in the services they offer (another reason why the kosher argument fails: they provide kosher meat. That’s the service they provide) is deniable simply because the business doesn’t like an inherent part of who that person is. Because, seriously fellow Christians, we’re fooling ourselves with the height of sophistry here when we try to argue that we’re simply denying the act/event. We’re no better than the KKK fellow who denies an interracial marriage in that case.
And you know what else that teaching document from 1995 says?
In any case, persons in this situation must be accepted with respect, dignity and delicacy, and all forms of unjust discrimination must be avoided.
Maybe, beyond all else, we should hold ourselves to this standard more in regards to all people.