I don’t like jerks, sociopathic con-artists, criminals (whether convicted or not), sexist men, racist people, and homophobes. I’m sure there are more given how opinionated I am, but that list is good enough for a start. Over the past few years, it seems there’s been a spate of bakers and pizza joints refusing to serve gays. It has something to do with religious beliefs, but I tend to think that if your religion tells you that being gay is a sin and you accept that at face value, and worse act on it, that makes you a homophobe. And someone I’m inclined to avoid. (So if that’s you, better stop reading now and commence writing your hateful message to me).
Some states have laws that specifically ban discrimination of this type on the basis of sexual orientation. That’s the law Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Portland tripped over when three years ago they refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. And it’s the same law that Masterpiece Cakes in Lakewood Colorado broke in 2012 when the baker refused to bake a cake for a gay patron.
There’s the perception that once someone decides to do business with the public, they have to “serve all comers,” regardless of their own personal beliefs. Yet another bakery, this one in Fredericksburg Virginia, recently made a cake with a Confederate flag on it and announced they did so “without question” on Twitter to illustrate the point that what they do is bake cakes, not question who their customers are.
But whatever happened to “no shirt, no shoes, no service”? That thing of a business owner being able to set the terms of who is welcome and who isn’t? I don’t mean to be obtuse. Discrimination is wrong. Any business who willfully refuses to serve customers because they can’t abide the existence of someone not just like them are prejudiced fools who apparently care more about being jerks to people than their bottom line. Hasn’t it even at least occurred to them that just because someone is gay, it doesn’t mean they don’t have straight friends and family who’ll equally avoid a business for dissing their loved ones? As for cakes, I don’t understand why a baker would care what or who the cake is for, nor do I think a cake is a First Amendment protected demonstration of artistic expression because they aren’t baking the cake for themselves or for display, but for the person who is paying for it. There’s a part of me that would rather they be left to their own devices to turn away customers for whatever reason because eventually, they’ll go out of business and not have a GoFundMe campaign to put in the till. But we all know that that is unrealistic and without such anti-discrimination laws, it might just be you turned away because of that sweet tattoo on your forearm, the color of your skin, or your sexual orientation.
Last summer, Florida Gun Supply in Inverness Florida declared via a video on Facebook that his business was a “Muslim-free zone.” He’s reacting to the July 16 attack against two military installations in Chattanooga Tennessee. Seriously? This guy, and the bakers … to me they are no different than pre-civil rights era “whites only” signs. It’s ugly. It’s wrong. And it flies in the face of everything American democracy and our rule of law stands for. Which is why it astounds me that New Mexico is falling victim to this; we’ve two state legislators who have pre-filed HB 55, a bill that would remove the words “sexual orientation and gender identity” from New Mexico’s current Human Rights Act, our state’s law that protects against denial of service due to characteristics like sexual orientation and gender identity.
Why else am I so exercised about this topic? Because my husband’s store will happily refuse to sell a gun to someone that he has reasonable cause to believe is a criminal, a drug addict, not mentally copacetic, or who might be purchasing a weapon on behalf of someone who can’t. And the ATF – the federal agency that supervises licensed firearm retailers – supports him in that. Yet, I’m watching the media spin up in favor of the idea that if you own a business, you have to serve everyone. Not once has it occurred to any of them that there are occasions when no, the owner’s judgment is best. That won’t stop those to whom my husband refuses service from obtaining a gun elsewhere, but at least our consciouses are clear. But simultaneously, I fret over the day when someone attacks us with a specious charge of discrimination because when, for example, our staff spied that Houstone or Tango Blast gang tattoo on their knuckles, they refused to sell them a firearm.
It’s worth remembering this outlier example when reading media coverage that speaks in absolutes about how a business has to sell to all or your buddy tells you that the owner of that store was mean to him and asked him to leave. Discrimination is heinous. But refusing service isn’t always that.