When I saw a link describing the passage of an anti-gay law in Arizona, my first instinct was to check if the news source was a satirical site in the tradition of The Onion or April Fools’ Day. To my great dismay, the anti-gay law was not a joke. Though I applaud Gov. Jan Brewer on her decision to veto the bill, the mere fact that it was passed by the Arizona legislature has frightening implications for the rest of our nation.
The law in question would have allowed business owners to refuse service to a client with a lifestyle that offends their religious sensibilities. Libertarians touted the measure as a protection of free market principles, as business owners should have the discretion to offer or withhold services toward gays. The libertarian argument is that discrimination will merely hurt businesses and gay clients would be able to vote with their wallets, taking their patronage to a more accepting business.
This argument does not hold water. The phenomenon of Chick-fil-A indicates the sad truth. Just last year, Chick-fil-A Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy publicly stated that corruption of traditional marriage will bring God’s judgment upon our nation. Evangelical Christians came out by the thousands for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, greatly increasing visibility of the business and the number of customers. This example is demonstrative of a trend that would have taken place in Arizona had the law passed. For every customer willing to patronize a more tolerant business, there are five more bigots who will support a business simply because it discriminates against gays.
Another faulty argument used by proponents of the bill was that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not the same as racial or religious discrimination. Homosexuals who equate their struggle with African-Americans during the civil rights struggle are being simply hyperbolic. In a recent editorial, the editors of the National Review argue that a gay couple being denied a wedding cake is not equivalent to the years of slavery and marginalization of black people. Such an argument misses the point. If we allow a business to discriminate based on sexual orientation, we empower businesses to do much more than refuse to bake a wedding cake for two grooms. The law sets a dangerous precedent that can’t be easily reversed.
Dear people of Arizona, even if you hate gay people with every fiber of your being, remember that a dollar is a dollar no matter who gives it to you. This is the United States of America. It doesn’t matter if you smell like BO or have a neck tattoo or believe in extraterrestrials, you can still buy a sandwich without anyone giving it a second thought. We put aside our differences in the name of capitalism, and that’s what makes this country great.