In case you haven’t heard, Idaho lawmaker Lynn Luker (R-Boise) is attempting to pass legislation which would protect business owners professional and occupational licenses if they refused to provide service to an individual or a group that were opposed to their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The groups that the lawmaker seeks to protect business owners from: LGBT individuals and single mothers.
Baked goods are powerful political statements, or at least they were in 2013.
While wedding cakes and nuptial photo packages were the focus of last year’s debate, many states are now seeking to protect the ability of businesses to discriminate against LGBT (whether self-identified or perceived) persons.
Dozens of privately held businesses throughout the country found themselves under fire from the media and court orders which ruled that they must provide their services to every individual who sought to purchase their goods. Several refused in protest and found themselves in trouble with the law while others suffered so much negative publicity that they were forced to close their doors.
The ‘right’ of business owners to refuse their professional services due to their personal religious objections is being increasingly cited and many conservative states are attempting to pass legislation to ensure that store owners maintain their ability to discriminate.
Although Representative Luker’s proposal sounds more like the latest viral Onion News posting, he is quite sincere in his efforts and he is not alone. Arizona recently passed similar provisions and several other states are attempting to do the same.
Make no mistake: these provisions are not aimed at sinners breaking the Ten Commandments or who fail to be kosher – they are time and time again aimed against LGBT individuals. Idaho is unique in attacking single mothers, but the trend is clear. This is an issue that will no doubt prove to be increasingly common as same-sex marriages are being held throughout the country.
Though I respect the religious beliefs or the lack thereof of any person, I cannot respect blatant discrimination and degradation.
Religious institutions exist as religious institutions – they are not privately chartered corporations and they have unique tax exemption status. They exist to provide meaning in this life and guidance on spiritual matters. Businesses and corporations exist to provide goods and services in a competitive market to make profit. The two are wholly separate entities and this is something that needs to be remembered, least of all by our lawmakers.
As a private business owner, the sexuality or parenting status of your customer who purchases your products has no bearing on your religion. My sexuality or parenting status has no bearing on your dogma and in no way does my purchase threaten your piousness or Christ-like nature.
The relationship between seller and buyer is, at its core, just a transaction of goods for money.
Baking a cake, taking photos, or selling clothing to an individual who falls into the categories of individuals you deem as less desirable does not condone their lifestyle or their identity: it provides economic profit and fulfils your goal as a business owner.
If my mere presence in your store causes you to question your own beliefs, you may be in need of a serious discussion with your higher power.
While stores are proud to fly their “Right to Refuse Service” signs near their doors, lawmakers should not codify they ability of business owners to discriminate against entire classes of citizens. Lawmakers should not refuse to conduct hearings on these issues and it shouldn’t take the arrest of 43 citizens, including a former state senator, for local news outlets to discuss LGBT news.
Business owners must recognize that they exist to provide goods and services to paying customers. A store keeper is not their religions prophet, their pope, their rabbi, or their spiritual guide – they are private citizens participating in a government regulated industry.
So long as business owners seek to exist within the marketplace they must be willing to play by the rules. These rules have spelled out long ago that “Separate but Equal” is no longer good business practice but is entirely unacceptable.