I’ve been watching over this controversy over the Indiana RFRA with no small amount of genuine amazement. I legitimately cannot relate to the arguments that the opponents of the law are making. The reasons for that are simple: I believe that I have inherent worth and that my spending dollars, earned with my labor, should not be voluntarily given to people who disrespect my sense of self-worth. Let me explain.
My own thoughts on the subject of same-sex marriage are relatively clear at this point and if I personally owned the sort of business that catered to people who were getting married, I would have no problem at all providing that service for a same-sex marriage. I strongly oppose any judicially imposed redefinition of marriage for the reasons set forth by my friend Thomas Crown, and believe that supporters of SSM should pursue victory at the ballot box, where this particular fight belongs.
I don’t think that people who disagree with me on this point are bigots or hateful people. There are some people who just don’t get the concept of following the precepts of their religion, wherever that might take them and however hard or unpopular that might be. However, let’s grant the (false) assumption that the people who don’t want to, say bake cakes for same sex weddings are bigoted people who hate everyone who is gay. Fine.
All that having been said, it’s worth remembering what this particular fight is about. This fight is not about discrimination in the workplace, under the law, or through access to public facilities. This is a fight about forcing people to accept your money who don’t want to take it. And that’s something I can’t even comprehend.
Throughout the few years I have lived on this earth I have had occasion to feel disrespected by any number of companies. And I’m not even talking about being told “We don’t serve your kind here.” I’m talking, companies that have missed appointments with me (looking at you, Comcast), companies whose employees have failed to return phone calls in what I considered to be a timely fashion, companies in which their sales people refuse to pick up the phone when you call (looking at you, Best Buy), companies who fail to hire enough employees to get me through a checkout line in less than 10 minutes (looking at you, Wal Mart), companies that broke promises their customer service people made to me, and so on and so on.
Look, the great thing about America and the free market is that there are an almost infinite number of companies that will compete for your business in all sorts of ways, almost none of which are about price. As a person possessed of self-worth, I take pleasure in not spending my hard earned money with a company that tells me – even in subtle ways – that my money or my time is not valuable to them, and instead giving it to companies who make an effort to win my businesses that provide good service.
Moreover, if a company held some bigoted beliefs against me or others like me, I would prefer that they be permitted to state it openly on their storefront so that I don’t mistakenly freely give my money to people who hate me.
I can’t for a moment wrap my mind around the mindset of the SSM activists in this case, especially the gay ones. Assume that they are successful in this fight and it becomes illegal to refuse to provide given services on this basis. That won’t, contrary to their expectations, change anyone’s religious beliefs, so people who they consider to be bigoted and hateful will still be bigoted and hateful.
Under a RFRA regime, there might be two bakers in a given town who could provide cakes for weddings – one with religious objections to providing them for a same-sex marriage, the other without. If a gay couple wanted to get married, they might unknowingly walk into the first and promptly be informed that the people therein held beliefs they considered to be bigoted towards them – in which case they would promptly go to the other baker who would presumably become more prosperous thereby.
Under the regime the anti-RFRA people are pushing, the first baker still holds the same beliefs and attitudes toward the gay couple and their wedding but now they are essentially prevented from refusing money and business which means that the gay couple might well order a cake from them and unwittingly enrich the business of bigots, which might well have the effect of prolonging the business’s life at the expense of the “tolerant” baker down the road.
For most of us, money is not free. It is purchased with work, and with time away from our families, loved ones, hobbies, and recreational time. The way that the free market works is that people of self-worth mold the business community and the market by valuing their money, effort, and time enough to not force it upon people who don’t want it. Given sufficient time, the market responds to these forces and changes in business culture take hold.
What the anti-RFRA people are doing will almost certainly have a distorting effect on the marketplace that will not change hearts and minds, will breed resentment, and will fail in its ultimate goal: revenge upon the religious for perceived historical persecution of gays. The real revenge here would be for those businesses who wish to not participate in SSM to diminish or go out of business through market pressure, to the benefit of “tolerant” bakeries/photographers/whatever. Instead the RFRA opponents are seeking to remove any market benefit from being geniunely tolerant and inclusive by forcing tolerance and inclusivity at the point of a gun. And thus everyone is equal in the marketplace, the “bigots” and the “tolerant” alike.
The fight against the RFRA is one of the worst examples of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face I have ever seen. And it is undertaken by those who, obviously, don’t have much regard for the value of their face.