Qualified agreement

Sully agrees with Robin Wilson's Op-Ed in the LA Times about religious objectors to same-sex marriage, primarily on libertarian grounds. He argues that there is potential for the newly-recognized rights of same-sex couples to marry to infringe upon the rights of others to object, and more particularly to refuse service for said couples.
The country is deeply divided on same-sex marriage. But once it is recognized legally, all kinds of people -- clerks in the local registrar's office, photographers, owners of reception halls, florists -- might not have the legal right to refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings, even if doing so would violate deeply held beliefs. Religious organizations could be affected too. For example, a Catholic university that offers married-student housing might have to rent to married same-sex couples or risk violating state law.

These are not imagined or speculative concerns. Flash-points over same-sex unions are already occurring across the United States. In Iowa, the state's attorney general told county recorders that they must issue licenses to same-sex couples or face criminal misdemeanor charges and even dismissal. New Mexico's Human Rights Commission fined a husband-wife photography team more than $6,000 because they declined to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. In New Jersey, authorities yanked the property tax exemption of a church group that denied requests by two lesbian couples to use the group's boardwalk pavilion for their commitment ceremonies.
I am inclined to agree rather broadly with most of Wilson's arguments, though I have a couple of quibbles with these paragraphs (which I will get to presently). Generally speaking, I believe that our freedoms of speech and religion mean that we, as Americans, have the right to be as horrible as we wish in our opinions and attitudes, and that the State cannot compel us to be better people if we refuse to do so. Insofar as one's personal actions or business have no bearing on the general health and well-being of the public, one should be allowed to be a hateful misogynistic antisemitic racist misanthropic bigot. It's a free country.

Further, if you're so committed to your bigotry, then it saves the gay community the trouble of boycotting you if you simply refuse to render your services unto us. Considering how lucrative the gay marriage market is likely to be, it seems rather a self-defeating, cut-off-nose kind of decision to make, but hey... it's a free market.

However, Wilson is sloppy with his examples. If a person wants to refuse to arrange our flowers, that's one thing. If a clerk wants to refuse to issue us a license, on the other hand, that's a whole different kettle of fish. County registrars in Iowa most certainly should be threatened with discipline if they refuse to issue licenses, because they are officers of the state and refusing to do so would be in violation of the law. If they don't like it, they can get another job. A same-sex couple is entitled to expect the people working for the county or the city to follow the laws of the state in which they live, just as similar couples who live in states that don't recognize same-sex marriage aren't issued licenses, even by sympathetic personnel.

If Wilson wants to argue that the agents of private enterprise should have the freedom to indulge in fundamentalist discrimination, I won't put up much of a fight. But if you work as a functionary of the government, then you can leave your bigotry at the door with your umbrella.

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