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Lawsuit(s) in Washington anti-discrimination case
April 11, 2013 6:48 AM   Subscribe

The state of Washington has filed suit against Arlene's Flowers, whose owner, Barronelle Stutzman, refused to provide flowers for the wedding of regular customers Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed.

The case is set to emerge as the first major test of anti-discrimination protections since Washington State voters legalized same-sex marriage last fall.

Ingersoll and Freed (through their attorneys, in coordination with the ACLU) sent a letter to the florist shop yesterday, saying she has two options: (1) She can vow to never again discriminate in her services for gay people, write an apology letter to be published in the Tri-City Herald, and contribute $5,000 to a local LGBT youth center, or (2) she can get sued a second time for violating the Washington State Civil Rights Act.

Stutzman's lawyers argue that she is entitled to exercise her religious convictions and that arranging flowers is an act of personal expression; any demands or limitations on those expressive flower arrangements is a violation of right to free speech.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (232 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hey, you guys love free speech so much that you want everything to be free speech!
posted by ominous_paws at 6:54 AM on April 11, 2013


Ugh =(

Do not want. Plenty of florists in Washington could sell them flowers, and flowers aren't food or contraception. I also personally have no interest in giving custom to people that think of me as subhuman. And of course the bigots are going to make persecution complex hay off of it. Ughgghhg.
posted by kavasa at 6:54 AM on April 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


That attorney's letter is beautiful. Thanks for this post.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:56 AM on April 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


If they love free speech so much, they should marry it!
Unless it's the same sex as them, in which case, it would be against their religion.
posted by signal at 6:56 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Plenty of florists in Washington could sell them flowers

I keep seeing this argument, and I don't quite get it. This isn't about the availability of florists, it's about a business breaking the law.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:59 AM on April 11, 2013 [22 favorites]


Plenty of florists in Washington could sell them flowers

There is no reason for you to eat lunch at this counter, there are plenty of places to get lunch that serve your race.
posted by shothotbot at 7:02 AM on April 11, 2013 [79 favorites]


Hey Rosa Parks, there's plenty of room to stand in the back of the bus. Or you can just wait for the next bus.
posted by beagle at 7:03 AM on April 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


"You told Mr. Ingersoll that you would not sell flowers for his and Mr. Freed’s wedding because of your religious beliefs. We respect your beliefs and your right to religious freedom. However, we live in a diverse country, and religious beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, may not be used to justify discrimination in the public spheres of commerce and governance."

Really? It would seem to me that they absolutely don't respect her beliefs or her right to religious freedom and they don't have to because that's what religious freedom means.

If you're gonna run a business that serves the general public, you gotta serve the general public. That's the general idea of the Civil Rights Act and it would also seem to make good business sense.
posted by three blind mice at 7:04 AM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


And of course the bigots are going to make persecution complex hay off of it.

This is rapidly changing from "effective fundraising" to "showing one's ass publicly," so I say let it happen.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:06 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


And of course the bigots are going to make persecution complex hay off of it.

The unpleasantness (to some) of the thought that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered U.S. citizens deserve "the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation...without discrimination or segregation" is not a good reason to avoid the fight to achieve that goal.

It is reasonable to request that lgbt citizens deserve exactly the same protections granted to citizens of various races, colors, religions, and national origins.
posted by mediareport at 7:09 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love that this is happening and I hope they win, but it makes life really difficult for those of us working for equality in other states since we can no longer argue "it won't affect straight people at all."
posted by miyabo at 7:14 AM on April 11, 2013


Who was arguing that?
posted by mediareport at 7:16 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since when did arranging flowers become an expression of religious belief?
posted by petrilli at 7:19 AM on April 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


flowers aren't food or contraception

Are you arguing that providers of non-essential services and products should be allowed to discriminate? Setting aside the potential offensiveness of that argument, do you really want to get into the kind of hair-splitting about what is and isn't essential? That could lead to something like a neighborhood grocer telling a black guy, "You can buy the flour, but I'm going to have to take that Snickers bar out of your cart."
posted by MegoSteve at 7:21 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's my new adopted state, but I'm so proud of Washington, both because we got 74 passed and to get here.

Further, if you have trouble seeing the joy in two people committing to each other for the rest of their lives, perhaps floral arranging isn't your ideal line of work.
posted by Apropos of Something at 7:22 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't respect their religious beliefs. If your religion teaches you that it's OK to treat people badly because they are gay, then your religion is wrong and you should find a better one. And I particularly don't care about their religious beliefs when they are licensed to prove a service to the public. The can believe anything they want, but they are obliged to behave like civilized folks.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:22 AM on April 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Since when did arranging flowers become an expression of religious belief?

Arranging flowers is surely a form of personal expression. That's not the point. When you open a shop that sells those arranged flowers, you're in the business of commerce and you have to serve everyone who is prepared to pay for your products.

This is all pretty cut and dried. She should make an offer to settle.
posted by three blind mice at 7:24 AM on April 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


If you're gonna run a business that serves the general public, you gotta serve the general public.

I'm a little sympathetic to "you go your way and I'll go mine," but ultimately this is key. The very idea of "the public" fails if it's up to every individual to decide exactly who is the public they want to serve. There's no more reason why I should be able to say "I'm sorry, Mr. Limbaugh, my flower business will not provide flowers for your 9th wedding because we disapprove of marrying octo-wedded rage-addicts" than I should be able to decline for any other legal reason. It may be true that you cannot serve God and Mammon both, but in that case, you need to get out of the Mammon.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:29 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't respect their religious beliefs. If your religion teaches you that it's OK to treat people badly because they are gay, then your religion is wrong and you should find a better one.

I'm totally on board with this sentiment.

I assume the same would apply to a limo service owned and operated by Muslims, who might also have religious objections to participating in gay weddings?
posted by BobbyVan at 7:32 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why wouldn't it?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:32 AM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Since when did arranging flowers become an expression of religious belief?

Yeah, I'm pretty sure there's a passage in the bible that covers this.... oh wait.
posted by sunshinesky at 7:32 AM on April 11, 2013


kavasa: "And of course the bigots are going to make persecution complex hay off of it."

Fuck 'em. Let them learn that acts of bigotry get punished by tolerant societies, and that we won't allow discrimination.

Religion isn't a free pass to be an asshole to other people.
posted by zarq at 7:36 AM on April 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Did she only find out they were gay when they told her of their intent to marry? Is her religious belief only against same-sex marriage, or against same-sex relationships? If she took money from the plaintiffs before and she knew they were gay at those times, that really takes the already-wobbly legs out from under her argument.

Just to be clear - I'm not arguing in favor of the florist, I'm just thought-exercising strategies to defeat her argument. I think our society is too litigious in general, but there are valid and worthy reasons to sue. This is definitely an appropriate reason to sue, in my opinion.

I don't understand why anyone would think that discrimination based on religious beliefs would be any more acceptable than discrimination based on any other type of belief, except that the delusions of religion have the illusion of authority.

Honestly, I'm getting to the point where I'd prefer it if anti-gay bigots would simply attempt to justify their discrimination by saying "Buttsecks is icky!"
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:36 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


miyabo: "we can no longer argue 'it won't affect straight people at all.'"

I don't see it this way. The woman voluntarily turned down a sale. She did not suffer from any harm because two gay men were getting married, she suffered from financial harm because she decided not to accept their money, and is now suffering from legal harm because she decided not to accept their money because she was illegally discriminating against them.

The only harm she is suffering is self-inflicted. There is no direct link between legalizing gay marriage and harm to this woman. If gay marriage were still illegal in the state, if these flowers were for a date rather than a wedding, etc., she would still be liable under antidiscrimination laws for refusal to sell based on sexual orientation.

If this kind of anti-discrimination law isn't enforced, nothing stops people from putting up "NO QUEERS" signs on the front door of the business. Which is about as offensive to me as a "WHITES ONLY" sign would be.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:39 AM on April 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


That letter was a masterpiece of diplomacy and tact. It appealed to empathy and was designed to make the storeowner feel compassion for the couple, while at the same time being uncompromising in its demands. Also, the attorney made very clear to distinguish between the boundaries of religious freedom and discrimination. I really admire Michael Scott's eloquence here.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:40 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I still don't understand how selling flowers to a couple for their wedding violates religious beliefs. By doing it does she implicitly approve of their lifestyle? Condone their choice of partner? She had no trouble selling flowers to them individually (and presumably she knew of their orientation) so why now is it a violation of her beliefs?

At the same time, the letter from counsel associated with the ACLU rubbed me the wrong way. Forcing her to donate to a charity of their choosing and taking out a giant apology in the newspaper is not the way to go about correcting this kind of behavior IMO. If I were her, I would welcome being sued because then I could legitimately say that I was 'forced' to do it by a court even if in reality she was willing to do stop discriminating anyway. The other option really amounted to public shaming which she would never have gone for.

* I think she's in the wrong here and should sell flowers to anyone who wants to buy them. But, I also don't think that the cause is being helped here by essentially trying to pillory her for her (misguided) beliefs when what might work better is to dispassionately apply the law via a suit and force her not to discriminate by a court judgment.
posted by Leezie at 7:42 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blasdelb: "That attorney's letter is beautiful. Thanks for this post."

It's excellent. Fantastic letter.
posted by zarq at 7:43 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's clear that if someone walked into her shop and wanted to buy pre-cut flowers out of the case and she refused them that would be wrong. But the gray area for me as a designer with my own clients, say a Tea Party candidate wanted me to create a website for them and I refused, is that not similar to what has happened here? I'm not refusing to sell you something, I'm choosing not to work on your project.
posted by FreezBoy at 7:46 AM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


But, I also don't think that the cause is being helped here by essentially trying to pillory her for her (misguided) beliefs when what might work better is to dispassionately apply the law via a suit and force her not to discriminate by a court judgment.
posted by Leezie at 10:42 AM on April 11 [+] [!]


Plenty of settlements and verdicts in anti-discrimination suits include terms and conditions identical to what's offered in the letter.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:46 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


FreezBoy, IANAL, but I believe in many states you can refuse service for any reason. It’s when you give a reason and that reason is discrimination that you get into legal trouble.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:48 AM on April 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


I dunno. Seems like a lot of the support here is because the customers were planning a same-sex wedding. Should she also be required to sell flowers for a Klan rally or some other event that Mefites find repugnant? That kind of event wouldn't mesh too well with my beliefs, and I wouldn't want it to get around that my business was involved.
posted by Longtime Listener at 7:50 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


FreezBoy: "I'm not refusing to sell you something, I'm choosing not to work on your project."

The florist shop is categorized as a place of public accommodation. So if you refuse service you have to have a reason that is not discriminatory as defined by the law. In this case, that includes sexual orientation.

From the attorney's letter:
The Washington State Civil Rights Act, known as the Washington Law Against Discrimination, prohibits discrimination because of sexual orientation. RCW 49.60.030. The right to be free from discrimination includes the right to “full enjoyment of any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges of any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement. . . .” Id. The statute defines “any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement” to include any place “for the sale of goods, merchandise [or] services. . . .” Id. This definition clearly includes businesses such as Arlene’s Flowers, and prohibits Arlene’s Flowers and other similar businesses from refusing to sell goods, merchandise, and services to any person because of their sexual orientation. Any person injured by an act in violation of the Washington Civil Rights Law is entitled to bring legal action, and to seek injunctive relief and actual damages, together with the costs of the lawsuit, including reasonable attorneys' fees. RCW 49.60.030(2).

posted by zarq at 7:53 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Longtime Listener, different groups in society get differing levels of protection. So discrimination on the basis of race is heavily policed (oops irony sentence) but discrimination on the basis of, say, rudeness is not. Call those the extreme endpoints of the spectrum. Discrimination on the basis of gender is treated almost the same way as racial discrimination is. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is being taken more and more seriously.

Discrimination on the basis of being a Klan member is way over on the rudeness end of the spectrum. No one is too worried about it.
posted by prefpara at 7:53 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I appreciate that unrestrained refusal of service can go very bad places indeed, but this is not the same as Jim Crow, which was codified in state statutes and enforced by police, in addition to being an extension of an oppressive history that began with colonialism and slavery.

I wish she'd just sold the flowers to her regular customers instead of callously destroying that relationship with some fellow humans.

I think that Washington statute is a good one.

I liked the letter, although my heart ached at the statement of the couple's deep hurt, because I'd been expecting it and imagining it.

I dunno. Maybe it's for the best? The whole scenario just makes me feel sick and sad.
posted by kavasa at 7:54 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Longtime Listener: "Should she also be required to sell flowers for a Klan rally or some other event that Mefites find repugnant? "

If she's not violating anti-discrimination laws, then she can absolutely refuse. Legally. But she can't do it in a way that the law says is discriminatory. The moment she tries to say, "I'm not taking your business because of your race, gender, religion and/or sexual orientation" is when the refusal steps over the line.
posted by zarq at 7:55 AM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think a Klan rally would be different because it's an outwardly political event, and there's a First Amendment right for her not to support their message.

OTOH, if it were a private wedding between two people she knew to be Klan members, she'd be obligated to provide the service.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:55 AM on April 11, 2013


Should she also be required to sell flowers for a Klan rally

She should want to! Nothing but white sheets and white skin. Klan rallies need some color.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:57 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks, I appreciate the clarification roomthreeseventeen and zarq.
posted by FreezBoy at 7:57 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


OTOH, if it were a private wedding between two people she knew to be Klan members, she'd be obligated to provide the service.

But why? As long as her reason wasn't discriminatory against something in the law?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:57 AM on April 11, 2013


Longtime Listener, different groups in society get differing levels of protection. So discrimination on the basis of race is heavily policed (oops irony sentence) but discrimination on the basis of, say, rudeness is not. Call those the extreme endpoints of the spectrum. Discrimination on the basis of gender is treated almost the same way as racial discrimination is. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is being taken more and more seriously.

This right there can be a huge problem though, because in a sense, you are discriminatory in your non-discrimination. The law discriminates a group of people you cannot discriminate against.
posted by corb at 7:58 AM on April 11, 2013


Discrimination on the basis of gender is treated almost the same way as racial discrimination is.

That is both are specifically, explicitly written into the law. Laws against discrimination like the hippie web-deisgner who refuses to accept the Tea Party as a client are not so clearly written into the law and the hippie would always be well-advised to simply say "I'm too busy."

The law discriminates a group of people you cannot discriminate against.

Indeed it does, but one thing is not the same as another.
posted by three blind mice at 7:59 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Longtime Listener: "Should she also be required to sell flowers for a Klan rally or some other event that Mefites find repugnant?"

As the law currently exists, political party or affiliation is a protected characteristic only in CA, NY and DC. (Exceptions exist in DC - and you should be happy about this, since they were implemented to protect against governmental hiring bias, such as the well-publicized case where the Justice Department discriminated in hiring Republicans over Democrats.)

If the florist was in one of those locations, then the answer to your question would be yes - she would probably be required to sell flowers for a Klan rally, just as the hippy web designer could be in legal trouble if she refused to design a web page for the Tea Party (assuming of course it could be proven that this was the reason for her discrimination). Outside of those areas, however, one can legally discriminate based on political beliefs.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:00 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


corb: "The law discriminates a group of people you cannot discriminate against."

Yep. In doing so, the law protects groups which have historically been discriminated against from further acts of discrimination. Anti-discrimination laws were created because minorities were being abused by the majority.
posted by zarq at 8:03 AM on April 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


There's no more reason why I should be able to say "I'm sorry, Mr. Limbaugh, my flower business will not provide flowers for your 9th wedding because we disapprove of marrying octo-wedded rage-addicts" than I should be able to decline for any other legal reason.

Octo-wedded rage-addicts are not a protected class anywhere so feel free not to sell flowers to Rush Limbaugh.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:03 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh man - all arguments aside, and let me say that almost nothing makes me cry - I am tearing up in an airport reading this attorney's letter.
posted by Amplify at 8:05 AM on April 11, 2013


Yep. In doing so, the law protects groups which have historically been discriminated against from further acts of discrimination. Anti-discrimination laws were created because minorities were being abused by the majority.

Well, sort of. As mentioned, gender is not in the same category of protected status while race is - yet it could certainly be argued that women have been abused and discriminated against for a much longer period of time, historically, than racial discrimination even existed. The same with religious discrimination, against, say, Jews and Catholics at various points in time.


On a side note, reading the letter - they say that Arlene's has provided them flowers when they've sent flowers to each other, to the tune of several thousand dollars. Doesn't this actually hurt the case of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation? It seems she just drew the line at weddings, which aren't a protected category.
posted by corb at 8:09 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Discrimination on the basis of gender is treated almost the same way as racial discrimination is

As mentioned, gender is not in the same category of protected status while race is

Right, who have I misread here?
posted by ominous_paws at 8:15 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb: "As mentioned, gender is not in the same category of protected status while race is"

First, that's not what was said upthread.

Second, gender is equally protected in Washington State. Since 2006, it has been illegal to discriminate against anyone based on their gender identity and/or sexual orientation in Washington State.
posted by zarq at 8:23 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Doesn't this actually hurt the case of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation? It seems she just drew the line at weddings, which aren't a protected category.

No, it makes it clear her discrimination is motivated by their sexual orientation. She's happy to sell them flowers, she's happy to sell flowers for weddings. But she's only happy to sell them flowers as long as she can pretend they're not gay, i.e. as long as she can pretend they're two guys who just happen to know each other and send each other flowers. The only thing that differentiates their wedding from the last wedding she sold flowers for is their sexual orientation, and they're protected from discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation, as zarq said.

(Okay, there will be different people invited and stuff. But the only relevant thing. They've not asked for flowers she doesn't stock or something.)
posted by hoyland at 8:32 AM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I have to say I got a chuckle from the fact that as per section VI they're praying for relief on this issue.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:49 AM on April 11, 2013


Right, who have I misread here?

Federally, laws about discrimination that come up for review fall into different classes according to which group is being looked at. So Washington State might have certain laws and they may be equal there, but federally they are not. Hope this clears it up!

Discrimination based on race faces a strict scrutiny test, thus:
It must be justified by a compelling governmental interest.
The law or policy must be narrowly tailored to achieve that goal or interest.
The law or policy must be the least restrictive means for achieving that interest
Discrimination based on gender (or bastardy!) faces an intermediate scrutiny test, thus:
To pass intermediate scrutiny, the challenged law must further an important government interest by means that are substantially related to that interest
Discrimination based on other things (including sexuality) faces a minimum scrutiny, or rational basis test
The court will uphold the law if it is rationally related to a legitimate government purpose
posted by corb at 8:51 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is a god damn shame that a name as awesome as Barronelle Stutzman was wasted on such an undeserving person.
posted by enn at 8:56 AM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Three-Blind-Mice: "If you're gonna run a business that serves the general public, you gotta serve the general public."

Sounds like she doesn't want to run a business that serves the general public, and therefore doesn't have to serve the general public. Your dichotomy confuses me. What is the distinction between a business that serves the general public, and one that doesn't? Does she take public subsidy?
posted by I-Write-Essays at 8:56 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ta. Now just to find out how this works in the UK. Though you don't see stories of this nature cropping up anything like as often over here, for whatever reason...
posted by ominous_paws at 8:58 AM on April 11, 2013


Corb, I don't see how protected classes for the purpose of determining the constitutionality of law on a federal basis is applicable to state anti-discrimination statutes, unless you are arguing that this law is itself discriminatory against some protected class.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:58 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Hi. You've been an asshole. Did you know? Sometimes being an asshole is okay, but not when being an asshole is against the law, which in this case it is. You could eat this tasty pie of crow, which will only cost you $5000, or we will hit you with a very large stick called 'a lawsuit we are guaranteed to win'. What do you think?"

[fist pump]
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:01 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ta. Now just to find out how this works in the UK. Though you don't see stories of this nature cropping up anything like as often over here, for whatever reason...

You do, periodically. The last I remember was something about some B&B wanting to refuse to allow gay couples to stay there. I can't remember what the outcome was, though.
posted by hoyland at 9:03 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is why bigots have fought so hard against laws banning discrimination against gay people--because they wanted to be able to refuse business to them without penalty. Now they can't.

BTW, I live not too far away from Richland, and there's going to be a LOT of local support for what this florist did. This ain't Seattle over here; this part of the state is majority Republican, heavily LDS, and very religious. First day of class last quarter, we did one of those "getting to know you" exercises in one of my classes. One of the things we were supposed to do is say what's the most important thing to us; the prof started off, and his most important thing was his "relationship with God." So I would expect the lawsuit to be a big boon to Arlene's business, and she'll probably be able to get free legal representation from the ACLJ or something similar.

On preview, hoyland, the owner of the B&B lost the case.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 9:07 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


miyabo: "we can no longer argue 'it won't affect straight people at all.'"
I don't see it this way. The woman voluntarily turned down a sale. She did not suffer from any harm because two gay men were getting married, she suffered from financial harm because she decided not to accept their money, and is now suffering from legal harm because she decided not to accept their money because she was illegally discriminating against them.


I think you're cutting it really fine here, and in any case that sort of nuance will make little difference elsewhere.

The takeaway here is that a god-fearing Christian woman was forced to choose between participating in a gay wedding and losing her business license. That's some serious state intervention there -- anti-discrimination laws generally have to be -- and this puts a nice solid face on the issue.

Have no doubt this case will be a poster child for why gay marriage should matter to You, The Tolerant But Disapproving Christian. If you let gays marry they will make you participate.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:09 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The trickle-down effect of gay marriage rights is why I am not totally compelled by critiques of gay marriage as a worthy goal of the gay rights movement.
posted by prefpara at 9:21 AM on April 11, 2013


I agree with your assessment, Tell Me No Lies. But they are on the wrong side of history.
posted by gwint at 9:24 AM on April 11, 2013


hoyland - B&B had to pay £3.6k compensation, but they are considering appealing.
posted by forgetful snow at 9:27 AM on April 11, 2013


If you let gays marry they will make you participate.

Well...yes, if you're in the business of serving weddings.

Let's say Joe is a professional photographer. He shoots student portraits for local schools, and houses for real-estate agents. It's a good business. Joe doesn't want to shoot weddings because they are one-time events, the pressure is much higher, and he would have to buy insurance. That is totally fine. Nobody is going to make Joe shoot weddings. Consequently, he is free to disagree on principle with gay marriage and he will never, ever face a lawsuit like this. It won't be an issue in his business.

Nobody forced Stutzman to run a flower business, or to serve weddings. Once she chooses to do so, however, there are rules.

I don't necessarily see Stutzman as a bigot, but rather as someone who has failed to grasp the difference between personal expression and business transaction. Barronelle Stutzman is free to calculate exactly how much profit she makes from selling flowers for homosexual weddings and donate that profit to a cause that works to ban gay marriage. That is personal expression. This is not.
posted by cribcage at 9:28 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hope that business gets ruined. I hope her religion does not prohibit her from getting welfare/unemployment/food stamps.
posted by Renoroc at 9:35 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Corb, I don't see how protected classes for the purpose of determining the constitutionality of law on a federal basis is applicable to state anti-discrimination statutes, unless you are arguing that this law is itself discriminatory against some protected class.

It might be, if it doesn't grant an exemption for religious belief. For example: very specifically, religious locations that offer weddings are granted exemptions for same-sex marriage. Where does the line fall? It's an interesting kind of tempest when you have protected categories going against protected categories.

But I was mostly trying to explain to someone why I was mentioning that there were different levels of equal protection.
posted by corb at 9:35 AM on April 11, 2013


something about some B&B wanting to refuse to allow gay couples to stay there

Oh yeah, I remember those guys! What an awful shame that they lost.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:43 AM on April 11, 2013


"It might be, if it doesn't grant an exemption for religious belief. For example: very specifically, religious locations that offer weddings are granted exemptions for same-sex marriage. Where does the line fall? It's an interesting kind of tempest when you have protected categories going against protected categories."

Churches are not businesses, they do not engage in commerce and they are not places of accommodation, churches are thus free to discriminate what kinds of weddings they want to perform on whatever basis they feel like. Secular commercial wedding chapels or hotels or whatever, however must abide by state law governing businesses and places of accommodation in who they discriminate against while providing their services.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:50 AM on April 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


And of course the bigots are going to make persecution complex hay off of it.

And as expected, NOM is already bitching:
"Like clockwork, those who disagree with gay marriage are being fined and forced out of the public square -- by the state-imposed redefinition of marriage."
posted by ericb at 9:56 AM on April 11, 2013


I like this clock. Chime on, big boy.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:58 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


And as expected, NOM is already bitching

They're welcome to take it to the courts. I doubt Kennedy or even Roberts will be sympathetic to their argument.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:01 AM on April 11, 2013


For example: very specifically, religious locations that offer weddings are granted exemptions for same-sex marriage.

Not always.

Opponents of same-sex marriage (such as the National Organization for Marriage) like to "muddy the waters" by falsly citing that case of Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (New Jersey), claiming that same-sex marriages will lead to lawsuits against churches.

The facts of the case: Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist organization, refused to rent its boardwalk pavilion to a lesbian couple for their civil union ceremony. The couple filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.

Over the years the association has accepted public funds* for maintenance and repairs of the pavilion and rented it often to straight couples for their weddings. The pavilion "is apart from church premises and open to the public. In order to obtain a tax exemption, they entered into an agreement that specified that they would comply with New Jersey anti-discrimination laws."

The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights ruled that the boardwalk property was indeed open for public use, therefore the Methodist group could not discriminate against gay couples using it. The finding [PDF] was deemed "unlawful public accommodation discrimination based on civil union status."

As a result of the finding, the state's Department of Environmental Protection revoked a portion of the association's tax benefits.

* - "U.S. Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (Democrat), in whose Congressional district Ocean Grove is located, stated 'they've taken state, federal and local funds by representing that they are open to the public.'"
posted by ericb at 10:03 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Since 2006, it has been illegal to discriminate against anyone based on their gender identity and/or sexual orientation in Washington State.

I'm really flabbergasted that this law has been on the books since 2006 and that this is the first/most deserving candidate on which is it enforced. Are people that tolerant in Washington state, or have they just been really good at hiding it? Or have prosecutors just been lazy or quiet about settlements? Being serious.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:07 AM on April 11, 2013


Let's say Joe is a professional photographer.

Previous related FPP: Will Photographing Same-Sex Ceremonies Hurt or Help Your Wedding Photography Business? Wedding photographer Sean Cayton wonders how to deal with gay weddings. "If you're thinking, 'I just won't do same-sex weddings because I don't need the headache,' it's not that simple."
posted by ericb at 10:08 AM on April 11, 2013


Where does the line fall? It's an interesting kind of tempest when you have protected categories going against protected categories.

Once again, if you provide a product or service for sale to straight people, you have to offer such to gay people. Your private religious objection does not trump public accommodation.
posted by ericb at 10:11 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


RobotVoodooPower: " I'm really flabbergasted that this law has been on the books since 2006 and that this is the first/most deserving candidate on which is it enforced. Are people that tolerant in Washington state, or have they just been really good at hiding it? Or have prosecutors just been lazy or quiet about settlements? Being serious."

You may find this paper interesting. I found it while looking for the text of the bill earlier.
posted by zarq at 10:15 AM on April 11, 2013


Reading about bigoted idiots—but I repeat myself—receive their just desserts always gives my day one heck of a boost. There's nothing better than seeing the steamroller of equality rights squish a bigot into a fine paste! Seriously, fuck those retrograde bastards: this is the twenty-first century, it's time to wise the fuck up and join civilized society.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:16 AM on April 11, 2013


She might have a case if she strictly inquired into the religion, practices and sexual habits of every person she sold flowers to and refused to do business with anyone who did not live their lives as she felt they should. But she does not. She does business with anyone who comes along, without regard to how they fit her world view. She did business with these men before without problem. I am sure that she has sold flowers and even arranged weddings for people who eat shellfish and wear clothes with mixed fiber content (both condemned by the bible just as viciously as homosexuality). I am sure she has done wedding arrangements for couples where the bride is already pregnant (which the bible says should cause her to be stoned).

But she chose to pick this one element of her religion to base her discrimination on, out of all the other things her religion tells her are just as wrong. She chose to do so in full knowlege that it was illegal (because there was a lot scare commercials on this very idea). She chose to put herself in this position, and I have no sympathy for her whatsoever.

In the Civil Rights era, there were those whose religious beliefs forbade segregation. They stood up against the law, they deliberately violated the laws, and they paid the price. They went to jail, they were fire-hosed, they were beaten, their homes and businesses and churches were set on fire, but they persisted and they got the laws changed. There were many people who claimed that their religious beliefs required segregation, but they had to obey the new law anyway. If this shop owner wants to take a stand against this law, well and good, but she can't defy the law and not pay the price. If tens of thousands started choosing to go to jail for their right to discriminate, or started marching in the streets for their right to oppress others or shut down their businesses rather than obey the law, maybe the law will change. But I doubt it.
posted by pbrim at 10:17 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think a Klan rally would be different because it's an outwardly political event, and there's a First Amendment right for her not to support their message.

As was the case when a New Jersey grocery store refused to customize a cake 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell in 2008.
"We reserve the right not to print anything on the cake that we deem to be inappropriate," [ShopRite spokesperson Karen] Meleta said. "We considered this inappropriate."
posted by ericb at 10:29 AM on April 11, 2013


> Laws against discrimination like the hippie web-deisgner who refuses to accept the Tea Party as a client are not so clearly written into the law and the hippie would always be well-advised to simply say "I'm too busy."

Not really.

Creatives doing work on behalf of a client are working in implicit endorsement of that client, its products, or its message (depending on what the client is hiring the creative to do). Standards of practice in commercial art allow designers to decline business on grounds that they cannot work on the contract in good faith. This benefits the client, because they want people whose creative minds are inherently aligned with their own goals -- or, at best, not antagonistic to them.

The simple, uncomplicated example would be when the creative is currently doing work for a prospective client's competitor. Everybody involved will agree the creative has a right to decline the work.

For the most part, designers, writers, etc. will work on whatever business they can get -- even when it's a little against their better nature, the job is a job, and staying busy is important. But you won't find many that will work on porn sites, though. Or on sites espousing extreme political views. And I don't think you'll find many experienced creatives who don't have stories about turning down potential gigs simply because of personal opposition to the subject.

In recent memory, I recall the management agency for a certain shock-rap act phoning up what must have been every online marketing firm in their area, and being unable to find anybody willing to take them as a client. Tough for the shock-rap act -- they're entertainers, and they're trying to do a job -- but even the marketing firms whose staff might not personally have issues with them were disinclined to become known locally as becoming the implicit agency of record for them.
posted by ardgedee at 10:29 AM on April 11, 2013


ericb: " As was the case when a New Jersey grocery store refused to customize a cake 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell in 2008."

The parents eventually lost custody of their four children over domestic violence concerns, and then divorced.
Heath and Deborah Campbell, self-proclaimed Nazis from Holland Township, N.J., first made headlines in January 2009, when a store refused to decorate a birthday cake for their oldest child, Adolf Hitler Campbell, now 6. Shortly after the incident, Adolf and his siblings, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation, now 5, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeanne, now 6, were taken into state custody, the Associated Press reported. Child welfare officials also took custody of the Campbells' youngest child, Hons, hours after his birth in November 2011.

posted by zarq at 10:44 AM on April 11, 2013


"FreezBoy, IANAL, but I believe in many states you can refuse service for any reason. It’s when you give a reason and that reason is discrimination that you get into legal trouble."

This is limitedly true; courts (and Civil Rights administrative agencies) are allowed to draw inferences from your actions. There are LOTS of people out there who think that if you, the business owner, simply say, "I can refuse anyone accommodation for any reason" but you never say, "I don't serve gay people," you're in the clear. But that's exactly what the court examines: your motivation for refusing to serve that particular individual. Were you refusing to serve that couple dinner because they were drunk and disorderly, or were you refusing to serve them because they were gay? Were straight drunk and disorderly couples being served? Do you normally throw people out of your restaurant for necking or do you pick and choose who gets to make out at your tables? Do you typically serve gay couples on romantic dates? (As someone noted above, the specific standards that are applied vary by what class of people you're alleged to be discriminating against.)

This comes up a lot with breastfeeding, which is a protected class in many states. A lot of store and restaurant owners who violate the law throw out breastfeeding women shortly after they begin the breastfeeding and refuse to give a reason (or give the reason, "You're no longer shopping, you're just sitting there not buying things.") because they know it's illegal to throw someone out for breastfeeding. But it STILL ILLEGAL even if you don't give that as your reason, and the court (or Civil Rights authority in question) is probably not going to be fooled when as soon as the woman whipped out a boob, you threw her out of the store. Similarly, if this florist just happened to refuse all gay weddings on the grounds she was "already booked," the court could look at the pattern of her refusals and draw inferences about her motivation. (And sometimes, even if your motivation is non-discriminatory, the effect of your actions may be discriminatory and you may be ordered to cut that out.)

There was a local case maybe 8 years ago now of a dance club that was refusing entry to patrons in sneakers (saying you had to be wearing particular sorts of dress shoes, and claiming that the sneakers "didn't meet their dress code" and "damaged the floors"), which was ruled to be racially discriminatory in intent, because white patrons tended to wear traditional dress shoes when dressing for dance clubs and black patrons tended to wear high-end dressy sneakers. Then the owners changed their story and said they were trying to keep out gang members to prevent gang violence in the club, which is a legitimate concern and had been a problem at several clubs in the area, but they were told they had to more narrowly target their exclusion rules to actual known gang members or people clearly wearing gang insignia and could not use a dress code designed to simply exclude an entire racial group in the hopes of excluding a handful of gang members.

Anyway, there are dance clubs in other cities in the state that have (or had at the time) "no sneakers" rules, but the court found no evidence those rules were discriminatory in intent or effect, while in this particular instance in this particular location, the rule was probably discriminatory in intent and certainly discriminatory in effect. (And also not crucial for the club's business -- like if you run a llama farm and give llama farm tours, you are allowed to exclude seeing eye dogs (very unusual to get to exclude) from the tours because the dogs can make the llamas sick, apparently. But the sneakers were not actually damaging the floors in a way that other shoes were not.)

I-Write-Essays: "What is the distinction between a business that serves the general public, and one that doesn't? Does she take public subsidy?"

The difference is basically between a place of public accommodation and a private club (though not so much anymore) or private home. It's a defined legal term with a specific meaning. There's a great deal of clear and settled law on the topic; for example, and Americans with Disabilities Act applies to places of public accommodation: "Q. What are public accommodations? A. A public accommodation is a private entity that owns, operates, leases, or leases to, a place of public accommodation. Places of public accommodation include a wide range of entities, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors' offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and day care centers. Private clubs and religious organizations are exempt from the ADA's title III requirements for public accommodations."

Essentially if you are open to the public, you are a place of public accommodation. Virtually all retail stores are places of public accommodation. A country club may not be.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:48 AM on April 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


corb: This right there can be a huge problem though, because in a sense, you are discriminatory in your non-discrimination. The law discriminates a group of people you cannot discriminate against.

I want to point out that this is precisely the point a bigot attempted to seriously make in my local paper this morning (a couple of times a week they run letters to the editor from random anti-LGBT whackjobs, it's one of the delights of living in the South). These nasty gay people are seeking "special" rights, which he terms discrimination, while they "whine" about being discriminated against - if they want discrimination they should be happy with the kind they already have from people like the letter-writer.
posted by Corinth at 10:55 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I assume the same would apply to a limo service owned and operated by Muslims, who might also have religious objections to participating in gay weddings?

And, just recently: Opposed To Same-Sex Marriage, Company Ends Wedding Business -- "Trolley owner says move made to avoid potential lawsuit."
posted by ericb at 10:55 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I assume the same would apply to a limo service owned and operated by Muslims, who might also have religious objections to participating in gay weddings?

Leviticus 45:76912 strictly forbids invoking lame strawmen arguments. Get ready for the hot place below.

I'm really flabbergasted that this law has been on the books since 2006 and that this is the first/most deserving candidate on which is it enforced. Are people that tolerant in Washington state, or have they just been really good at hiding it? Or have prosecutors just been lazy or quiet about settlements? Being serious.

I think the recent re-endorsement of same-sex marriage laws in Washington has made the environment such that casual discrimination of this sort is actionable. The idea of going after this florist has been thrown about since The Stranger reported on it. I'm glad that the state is enforcing our right not to be discrimated against; at the very least, it sends a clear message to other businesses that discrimation will not be accepted.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:59 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Equal Rights vs. Special Rights
A common Christian Right argument against protecting gays’ basic civil rights is that gays are seeking “special” rights unavailable to others. This is untrue, but it’s rhetorically powerful and sounds convincing. It's also hypocritical because if any group in America is benefiting from and defending special rights for themselves, it’s religious believers. Why do Christians favor restrictions on gays which they would never accept for themselves?

The only “special” status gays have is something they abhor rather than seek: not being fully protected by the Constitution. In too many places, gays have no legal protection from being denied a job, a promotion, or housing merely because they are gay.

... Complaints about “special” rights for gays often rely upon contrasts between homosexuality and characteristics like gender and race. Gender and race cannot be chosen, so it’s reasonable to bar discrimination because of them. Homosexuality, they claim, is a lifestyle choice which does not merit the same protection. That most research shows homosexuality to not be a choice is irrelevant — in part because they define homosexuality as same-sex sexual behavior, not as same-sex attraction.

Even if homosexuality were chosen, though, the “special” rights argument would apply equally to religion. Beliefs may not be chosen through acts of will, but they do involve behaviors and they are not immutable like race or gender. Religion is arguably as much about behavior and lifestyle and homosexuality, if not more so. Thus, a principle argument used by the Christian Right here would deny anti-discrimination protections to religious believers.
posted by ericb at 11:00 AM on April 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


ericb: "In too many places, gays have no legal protection from being denied a job, a promotion, or housing merely because they are gay."

Mostly in red states. At a quick glance, it looks like 20 or 21 states grant no protections to LGBT folks.
posted by zarq at 11:09 AM on April 11, 2013


The defense lawyers' reply is available here (pdf).
posted by IndigoJones at 11:11 AM on April 11, 2013


Wow. Bad typist. I meant "discrimination", not "discrimation", whatever that is.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:12 AM on April 11, 2013


Why do Christians favor restrictions on gays which they would never accept for themselves?

Ironically, this sounds convincing but is facile and somewhat offensive. We're all people. "Christians" and "gays" are not, like, two self-contained flavors of human akin to Pistachio and Rum Raisin. And we don't legislate to protect "Christians." We make a decision as a society about whether we are going to afford certain protections to people on the basis of religion. Similarly, we make decisions as a society about whether we are going to afford certain (similar? identical?) protections to people on the basis of sexual orientation.

Some people may find neither of these decisions relevant to their own lives. Other people identify as both gay and Christian. More to the point, this is why that "special rights" argument resonates—not because it "sounds convincing," but because it's partly true. The aim is indeed to create a new category of protection. The rebuttal is that the individual protections sought are the same that already exist for different categories.
posted by cribcage at 11:13 AM on April 11, 2013


cribcage: "Ironically, this sounds convincing but is facile and somewhat offensive. We're all people.
...
And we don't legislate to protect "Christians."
"

The group of people who are against gay rights and equality in this country overwhelmingly seem to self-identify as Christian and cite the motivation for their opposition as religious belief and the protection of "traditional values" (among other euphemisms) which basically means, "What my Christian religion says."

In the US, the tiny subset of Muslims and Orthodox Jews who openly oppose gay marriage is miniscule compared to the very vocal, very politically active groups of Christians who do the same. The LDS. The Catholic Church. Etc.

The question should have been phrased, "Why do some Christians favor restrictions on gays which they would never accept for themselves" to be more accurate. But no, sorry, a huge part of the push against gay equality and gay marriage seems to be coming from religious Christians.

That's not to say that there aren't groups of Christians who are embracing tolerance and equality. There definitely are! There are a number of Churches that support legal same-sex marriages and perform same-sex religious weddings. Which is wonderful.

But those opposed certainly seem to be Christians, more often than not.
posted by zarq at 11:28 AM on April 11, 2013


The defense lawyers' reply is available here (pdf).

I can't believe they actually wrote gay "marriage" with marriage in quotes.
posted by Slothrup at 11:29 AM on April 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, that is pretty rankling. They also repeatedly refer to gay people as homosexuals, which at this point, given who is saying it and why, is meant fully as a slur (similar to the historical distinction between the use of 'colored' and 'Negro'). They are being assholes and I hope they get burned in court for it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:33 AM on April 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's not to say that there aren't groups of Christians who are embracing tolerance and equality.

Also, homosexuality. Many people are both Christian and gay.

I have no problem acknowledging that many people who are Christian oppose gay marriage. You're correct about the statistics. And I'm perfectly happy to mitigate that statistic by agreeing with you that many other people who are Christian disagree with their respective religions' official positions on this issue. What I found offensive was the article's implication that "gay" and "Christian" are separate. Plenty of people are both.
posted by cribcage at 11:36 AM on April 11, 2013


Does Bristol mean "conscious" or "conscience" in the first graph of the second page in the reply letter? If the former, is there some legal overtone to "conscious" that I'm unaware of?
posted by zarq at 11:36 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


cribcage: "What I found offensive was the article's implication that "gay" and "Christian" are separate. Plenty of people are both."

Oh, absolutely. Totally with you there.
posted by zarq at 11:37 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zarq, don't be so charitable. It's an error. The legal significance is that the writer is a moron.
posted by prefpara at 11:39 AM on April 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


What I found offensive was the article's implication that "gay" and "Christian" are separate. Plenty of people are both.

Yes ... and many religious denominations support equal rights for all, as does mine: The Congregational Church (United Church of Christ).
Marriage is one of the most significant institutions in our culture. The sacred and civil, church and state dimensions of marriage are complex and often muddled, which makes marriage one of the most challenging issues to discuss in the church and beyond.

On July 4, 2005, at the 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Atlanta, delegates voted to adopt the resolution, "Equal Marriage Rights for All." [PDF]
posted by ericb at 11:42 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


roomthreeseventeen: FreezBoy, IANAL, but I believe in many states you can refuse service for any reason. It’s when you give a reason and that reason is discrimination that you get into legal trouble.
Not true. If your private reason for not selling houses in your neighborhood to black people is you don't want them in your neighborhood, but never explicitly state that reason, you are still violating anti-discrimination laws. It is hardly a requirement for the bigot to "out" themself in so many words, or else much of the Civil Rights Act would be fairly toothless.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:46 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


prefpara: "Zarq, don't be so charitable. It's an error. The legal significance is that the writer is a moron."

Heh.
posted by zarq at 11:52 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am still confused on this notion of public accomodation.

Suppose I have a store that sells vases (with pictures of seals and the words "Seals forever" because...well...I love seals damn it). There is a religious group which finds it perfect for their annual baby seal clubbing activity relevant to their rites (for simplification. let's assume that it is legal).

Do I have a say in whether or not I can sell my vases to these people?
posted by 7life at 11:54 AM on April 11, 2013


7life, seal clubbers are not a protected group, so you get to discriminate against them.
posted by prefpara at 11:55 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


prefpara - suppose that it is a religious rite. Religion is a protected class.
posted by 7life at 11:58 AM on April 11, 2013


You'd likely end up in court arguing about whether or not you were really discriminating on the basis of religion or not. Specific religious practices are a bit murky. For example, the use of peyote in religious ceremonies. Can we ban this drug use without discrimination on the basis of religion? Many years in many courts.
posted by prefpara at 12:00 PM on April 11, 2013




Corb, please look at this photo. And if you can't stomach that, at least read the context for what lead that photo to be taken. Because discrimination starts with florists and Etsy vendors, and it ends with people getting beaten and killed. Today. In 2013.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:22 PM on April 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


ericb, that's ridiculous. I mean, those ladies got engaged in front of Cinderella castle. They are pretty much the greatest people ever.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:48 PM on April 11, 2013


I don't think she should have to donate to a cause she is opposed to. However in my mind she is not sinning to sell them flowers particularly since the law requires it. I work for a florist and our gay clientele is increasing so this won't be academic much longer. I know for a fact I sell to many people who conduct their lives in ways scripture doesn't condone...that is on them, not me. And frankly not my concern in a business sense. Maybe she could have just talked to these two and let them decide if they wanted her to recommend someone else under the circumstances. That is what my doctor did when I wanted a birth control prescription but he couldnt write one because he had a contract with the Catholic hospital. Another doc in the same practice wrote it for him.
Both sides could be kinder to each other in my opinion. My conscience wouldn't bother me but if hers does that is a real thing and cruel to disregard.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:51 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


By the way I hate selling to stalkers and adulterers as they are more trouble than they are worth.
Can we ban that?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:54 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure you're allowed to not sell flowers to anyone you please as long as your basis for doing so is not discriminatory.
posted by hoyland at 1:00 PM on April 11, 2013




St. Alia of the Bunnies: " Both sides could be kinder to each other in my opinion. My conscience wouldn't bother me but if hers does that is a real thing and cruel to disregard."

It's not cruel.

You're blaming the victims, inappropriately. The onus of kindness is entirely on her. She's the one being intolerant here.

It's not cruel.
She doesn't have to be a florist.
She chose to be one.
She doesn't have to own and run a business.
She chose to do so.
She doesn't have to be a bigot.
She's choosing to be one.

She has made voluntary choices that have brought her to this point.

When you open a public business, part of the agreement you make with the government (and by extension your community) in order to be approved for a license is that you will obey the law. Washington State law says she can't discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation or race. She chose to open the business. If for whatever reason she now finds she can't obey the law, that's her prerogative. But the state has every right to put a stop to it.

Would you similarly think it was cruel if she said her religious beliefs prevented her from selling flowers to Black people? Asians? Latinos? Catholics? The disabled? How about Muslims? Jews? Women? I suspect not, on all counts. Preventing someone from "getting their hate on" is not cruelty. Not when she's serving the public.

As long as the state is licensing her business, she needs to obey the law. She should not be held to a different standard than any other business owner.
posted by zarq at 1:15 PM on April 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


homunculus, apparently that situation has been rectified, and the man can now go visit his partner.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:18 PM on April 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, good. Thanks for the update.
posted by homunculus at 1:23 PM on April 11, 2013


By the way I hate selling to stalkers and adulterers as they are more trouble than they are worth.

A statement like that is right up there with that of the new Republican sweetheart Ben Carson (who has stepped down from being the commencement speaker for Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine this year due to the uproar over his abhorrent comments):
"Well, my thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It's a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA [pedophilia], be they people who believe in bestiality. It doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition. So he, it's not something that is against gays, it's against anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society. It has significant ramifications."
posted by ericb at 1:26 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


zarq:
> It's not cruel.
> She doesn't have to be a florist.
> She chose to be one.
> She doesn't have to own and run a business.
> She chose to do so.
> She doesn't have to be a bigot.
> She's choosing to be one.

You don't have to ride the bus.
You don't have to eat in the same restaurant as everyone else.
You don't have to act on your evil homosexual instincts.
Those are all choices we make.

And it is the goal of a free society that people of all races and creeds, even ones we dislike, should be able to make these choices. Those people we disagree with, also disagree with us.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 1:41 PM on April 11, 2013


homunculus, apparently that situation has been rectified, and the man can now go visit his partner

UPDATE: Hospital: Man OK to visit sick husband
“Research Medical Center was one of the first hospitals in Kansas City to offer domestic partner benefits, which have been in place since 2005, and we have had a policy specifically acknowledging domestic partners’ visitation rights in place for years.

This was an issue of disruptive and belligerent behavior by the visitor that affected patient care. The hospital’s response followed the same policies that would apply to any individual engaged in this behavior in a patient care setting and was not in any way related to the patient’s or the visitor’s sexual orientation or marital status. This visitor created a barrier for us to care for the patient. Attempts were made to deescalate the situation. Unfortunately, we had no choice but to involve security and the Kansas City MO Police Department.”
posted by ericb at 1:47 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zarq:

Snark aside: I want to be perfectly clear. The idea that someone should be excluded from running a business because of their religious orientation is just as abhorrent as the idea that someone should be excluded from getting married because of their sexual orientation.

People gotta eat somehow, and people who have a choice on that "how" are living in luxury.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 1:47 PM on April 11, 2013


Erichb, you haven't had to deal with pissed off wives or former girlfriends with restraining orders at work.......Boy howdy I have.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:51 PM on April 11, 2013


The idea that someone should be excluded from running a business because of their religious orientation is ... abhorrent....

I must have missed the part where somebody made that suggestion.
posted by Floydd at 1:56 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know for a fact I sell to many people who conduct their lives in ways scripture doesn't condone...By the way I hate selling to stalkers and adulterers as they are more trouble than they are worth. Can we ban that?

I take your comments as equating gays to be on similar standing to stalkers and adulterers, just as Ben Carson's equation of gays with pedophiles and those who practice bestiality.

Horrible ideas and words, IMHO.
posted by ericb at 1:56 PM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't think ericb was objecting to your characterization of stalkers or adulterers, descriptions defined by being creeps that hurt people, but of your gay clientele, a description defined by love and an appreciation for your flowers, as being anything like them. I don't envy the creeps you have to deal with but I for one do envy the loving couples, both gay and straight.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:58 PM on April 11, 2013


Floydd, I was refering to this:

> She doesn't have to own and run a business.
> She chose to do so.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 2:08 PM on April 11, 2013


I-Write-Essays: "You don't have to ride the bus.
You don't have to eat in the same restaurant as everyone else.
You don't have to act on your evil homosexual instincts.
Those are all choices we make.


Eating in a restaurant, riding the bus and/or having gay sex are not illegal in Washington State. Discriminating against people for their sexual orientation is.

And it is the goal of a free society that people of all races and creeds, even ones we dislike, should be able to make these choices. Those people we disagree with, also disagree with us."

We don't live in an anarchy. Our country and each state has laws and a formalized legal structure. If people deliberately choose not to comply with a law then they really have no justification to argue when they're punished for non-compliance. In this case, the justification given for non-compliance is being applied unevenly and hypocritically.

The idea that someone should be excluded from running a business because of their religious orientation

I did not say this.

However, it is worth noting that a business license is a privilege, not a right. If someone proves to be incapable of operating a business lawfully for any reason, religious or otherwise, state authorities always reserve the right to rescind that license. So, people who break the law get fined. If they continue to break the law, they might be subject to deeper punitive action.

The idea that someone should be excluded from running a business because of their religious orientation is just as abhorrent as the idea that someone should be excluded from getting married because of their sexual orientation.

Religious belief is simply not an adequate justification for breaking the law. Many of us theists manage to stumble through life without using belief in G-d as an excuse to be assholes to people.

People gotta eat somehow, and people who have a choice on that "how" are living in luxury."

She already has a choice. Obey the law or face a fine and lawsuits, and risk losing her business license.
posted by zarq at 2:18 PM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


People gotta eat somehow, and people who have a choice on that "how" are living in luxury

What a ridiculous assertion. She would be making more money by accepting custom from people regardless of how icky she thought their sexytimes were.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:20 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Snark aside: I want to be perfectly clear. The idea that someone should be excluded from running a business because of their religious orientation is just as abhorrent as the idea that someone should be excluded from getting married because of their sexual orientation.

There are lots of careers and businesses that people don't enter because of their religion. There's a whole litany of religious groups whose members won't join the military, for example. Others might avoid working in (or running) casinos. Or selling certain types of food. This is a choice they have made about how they choose to observe their religion. Hobby Lobby chooses to lose revenue by being shut on Sundays. If people only bought craft supplies on Sundays, it's not abhorrent that they'd go out of business.

Frankly, it's pretty darn abhorrent that you equated civil rights with the ability to make money in whatever way one pleases.
posted by hoyland at 2:52 PM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is all pretty cut and dried. She should make an offer to settle.

ISWYDT. Perhaps it is time for her to...

*slips on sunglasses*

... make arrangements.
posted by dhartung at 4:21 PM on April 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


three blind mice: "Since when did arranging flowers become an expression of religious belief?

Arranging flowers is surely a form of personal expression. That's not the point. When you open a shop that sells those arranged flowers, you're in the business of commerce and you have to serve everyone who is prepared to pay for your products.

This is all pretty cut and dried. She should make an offer to settle.
"

Good pun, and she should. It is not as if the case is requesting anything unreasonable from her.
posted by Samizdata at 4:22 PM on April 11, 2013


And that is all I am going to say. During the photographer gay discrimination thread, things got rather unpleasant, so I am going to beg off any further involvement.
posted by Samizdata at 4:33 PM on April 11, 2013


I don't think ericb was objecting to your characterization of stalkers or adulterers, descriptions defined by being creeps that hurt people, but of your gay clientele, a description defined by love and an appreciation for your flowers, as being anything like them. I don't envy the creeps you have to deal with but I for one do envy the loving couples, both gay and straight.

Oh, I was typing on my phone and didn't elaborate. I was simply saying that if I had to pick and choose customers the stalkers and adulterers would be the ones I would rather not mess with. I was thinking "category: customer."

For what it's worth over on the Charisma magazine website (a magazine aimed at charismatic Christians) they did a story on this. So far only two comments, both mildly taking the florist to task for turning them down-which was a (pleasant) surprise.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:58 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those people we disagree with, also disagree with us.

This much is well put. I think the onus of kindness falls on everybody. It's an unpleasant situation to be sure, but not of the type that excuses unkindness or discourtesy even if someone else falters in that regard.

It is not as if the case is requesting anything unreasonable from her.

Maybe, maybe not. The demand letter, in addition to requesting a newspaper-published apology and a promise to serve homosexual weddings in the future, calls for a $5,000 donation to an LGBT charity. Servicing a wedding with flowers may not constitute expressive speech, but charitable donations do.

If I'm understanding St Alia's earlier point about cruelty, it wasn't that compelling a wedding florist to serve homosexual weddings would be cruel. The point was that it would be cruel—I'm not sure I agree with the word "cruel," but I understand the sentiment St Alia was getting at—to disregard Stutzman's convictions, assuming what's behind this mess is a sincere religious belief. In other words, the point is to require her to change her business practices, not to change or abandon her beliefs.

I don't know Stutzman's beliefs. Maybe she disapproves of gay marriage; maybe she disapproves of all homosexual behavior. Maybe donating to a LGBT cause doesn't conflict with her beliefs and is a totally reasonable thing to ask. But I imagine it's possible that she might bristle at that suggestion in a way she wouldn't if they demanded $5,000 for a local homeless shelter, or the Make-a-Wish Foundation, or the Jimmy Fund.
posted by cribcage at 4:59 PM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


cribcage: "In other words, the point is to require her to change her business practices, not to change or abandon her beliefs."

This is exactly what I was trying to point out. Thanks for stating it clearly.

hoyland: "Frankly, it's pretty darn abhorrent that you equated civil rights with the ability to make money in whatever way one pleases."

What I am equating is the civil rights of one protected class with the civil rights of another protected class. That some people in one of the two classes wish to abridge the civil rights of the other does not give us the right to abridge the civil rights of the first, and I detect a strong sentiment here in that direction. Don't just sue them: Destroy them; they are evil people.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 5:20 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


That some people in one of the two classes wish to abridge the civil rights of the other does not give us the right to abridge the civil rights of the first, and I detect a strong sentiment here in that direction. Don't just sue them: Destroy them; they are evil people.

What civil right of the religious is at risk? Selling flowers isn't a religious practice.

This situation is only murky because there are gay people involved. No one would be quibbling if she were discriminating against one of the other groups protected by the same legislation (aside from trans people, anyway).
posted by hoyland at 6:35 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


What I am equating is the civil rights of one protected class with the civil rights of another protected class.

Religious people aren't a protected class; religion is a protected activity.
posted by hippybear at 6:47 PM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


For what it's worth over on the Charisma magazine website (a magazine aimed at charismatic Christians) they did a story on this. So far only two comments, both mildly taking the florist to task for turning them down-which was a (pleasant) surprise.

Is this the piece?

Florist Won't Back-Petal on Marriage
posted by homunculus at 6:58 PM on April 11, 2013


That's the one.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:09 PM on April 11, 2013


I can't wait until all this nonsense over gay marriage is over. I know there's still a long haul, but enough already. Christians against people loving each other is so bizarre.
posted by agregoli at 6:29 AM on April 12, 2013


Christians against people loving each other is so bizarre.

But it's icky and in violation of Leviticus 20:13 - "'If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."

It's right next to Leviticus 11:7 (no pork), 15:19 (menstruating women are to be ostracized), 12:1-8 (snip the foreskin), 3:17 (don't eat fat) and 19:19 (mixing wool and linen) that Christians obviously hold sacred above all other things Jesus taught like loving one another and selling all their shit and giving the money to the poor.
posted by Talez at 7:30 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Churches are not businesses, they do not engage in commerce and they are not places of accommodation, churches are thus free to discriminate what kinds of weddings they want to perform on whatever basis they feel like.

Except here's the thing - how do you define a business? Churches do engage in commerce - oh, they do funny things to go around it, but they do. You pay money for services. Even if it's a "mandatory donation". Church organizations charge money for the things they do.

If I want to go to pre-cana counseling, I have to be Catholic, and a priest has to approve of my intended marriage in order to let me go there. But at the same time, I have to pay money for that service to the Archdiocese.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that the lines are a little blurry. We carve exemptions for religions, but define them as "churches". What about religions that don't have churches? What about religions where everyone is a priest? What about, for example, a religion that practices the right to discriminate?

We make arbitary rules, and call them permanent, but it's important to never forget that they are created by us.
posted by corb at 8:09 AM on April 12, 2013


If I may play devil's advocate for a moment here, I think that a lot of the baseline animosity for intolerant Christians stems from a fundamental assumption that may not in fact be true - namely, that religious people have a choice in what they believe. To me, that seems almost as irrational as saying that gay people "choose" to be gay.

I think that in everybody's head, their own beliefs make rational sense, because most people operate on a set of "first principles" that they don't really question. For example, I'm an aggressive person who doesn't really pay attention to my environment. One of my S/Os always used to tell me that I needed to be more attentive to the world around me - that one of these days somebody I accidentally bumped into wouldn't accept my apology, and they would have a gun or knife and kill me. This made logical sense to her, because from her perspective being alive is better than being dead. But is it really? After all, if you're dead, it's not like you're aware of it and have some basis of comparison. A lot of people make the assumption that one state is better than the other, but it's not truly grounded in reason - it's an irrational instinct that people just assume as an article of faith. There are a lot of similar "first principles" that people don't question, but are every bit as irrational as religious principles. Before one claims that conservative Christians have a "choice" to abandon their beliefs, consider a few of your own fundamental beliefs, like the survival instinct, the scientific mindset, or affective empathy. Could you "choose" to abandon any of those? These are core values that most people never even question - they just believe in those principles blindly, just like a lot of fundamentalists believe blindly in the principles of their religion.

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't fight the conservative religious movement - it's important to recognize that for the most part, the world they want to live in is one that is fundamentally irreconcilable with our own vision of the worlds, and in the long term that means that one of these worldviews will either have to be converted or destroyed - when you get right down to brass tacks, it's either us or them. But I also think it's possible to work towards that goal without actively hating the other side simply for being born with different core beliefs. Does that make any sense?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:01 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


No one has to abandon their beliefs - but their actions must follow the law, like all of us must do. And when their actions not only break the law but are hurtful towards people who haven't caused them any harm whatsoever, it's not surprising there is animosity.
posted by agregoli at 9:07 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, I don't think it makes any sense. I do not accept your baseline assumption that humans are born with belief.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:36 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The baseline assumption is that free will does not exist. Belief is necessary to change belief.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 10:07 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb: " Except here's the thing - how do you define a business? Churches do engage in commerce - oh, they do funny things to go around it, but they do. You pay money for services. Even if it's a "mandatory donation". Church organizations charge money for the things they do."

The simplest answer to your question is that here in the US, the IRS defines them.

The IRS has created specific guidelines for churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious entities to both determine and maintain their tax status. Those guidelines have evolved over time, often in response to various court cases. They include: Must have a recognizable form of worship, established places of worship, an organization of ordained religious leaders such as rabbis, priests or ministers, a congregation and regular religious services, as well as some sort of institutional history. (I'm paraphrasing, and there are additional criteria.)

More details here.

The IRS determines whether a religious organization qualifies for tax-exemption status. It also differentiates between Churches and non-Church religious organizations.

What about religions that don't have churches?

A church doesn't have to meet every single criteria to be recognized as one by the IRS. The IRS assesses each 501/501c3 application on an individual basis. In 2005, a religious organization named "Young Life" requested that their status be changed to a Church. The IRS agreed, even though Young Life obviously didn't meet every requirement. There's more about this in "Beyond the Congregation: Christian Nonprofits in the United States
posted by zarq at 10:09 AM on April 12, 2013 [4 favorites]




Fischer: 'Homofascists' Will Force Christians to Wear Patches, Just Like Nazis Did to the Jews.
"We're getting to the point where these homofascists are going to force us to wear on our sleeve some kind of identifying marker so people will know who the racists and the homophobes and the bigots are."
posted by ericb at 10:21 AM on April 12, 2013


Hit post by mistake. :P

We make arbitary rules, and call them permanent, but it's important to never forget that they are created by us."

The rules aren't arbitrary. Tax exemptions for religious groups have existed for centuries. They're a holdover from Europe and have essentially existed since the country was founded. They're also a very complex topic which have been heavily debated over time. The tax codes have evolved, been debated and fine-tuned for many, many years in response to numerous court cases.

They're in place to give a financial advantage to religious institutions for a number of reasons, including an assumption that the organizations will function primarily as non-profits and should therefore not have a high tax burden, and that they will use the money they aren't paying to the government to fund and empower charitable works. That they will encourage their congregations to support their communities in a variety of positive ways.

There are a lot of issues that can be delved into here, including that tax-exemption status can be seen as gov't support for religious organizations. But whether you or I agree with them or not, that's a separate discussion that I don't think we should be derailing this thread over.
posted by zarq at 10:29 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]




Yes, but what do Muslim-owned limo services think?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:00 AM on April 12, 2013


…going to force us to wear on our sleeve some kind of identifying marker…

No need for a marker: you just have to flap your mouth. Fookin idjit.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:23 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Differing Accounts Emerge in Story of Gay Man Arrested at Patient's Bedside at Kansas City Hospital
The office began karate chopping his wrist to get him to release the gurney. Then they wrestled him to the ground forcefully enough to knock his glasses off of his face, his hearing aids out of his ears, and nearly break his wrist while they took him down. To handcuff him, they pushed a knee into his back and wrenched his wrists around.

It didn’t end there. The police changed his handcuffs 4 times! They assumed because he was a gay man that he was HIV+. When they drew blood from accosting him in such a brutal manner they freaked out. One of the arresting officers was so offended by my father’s presence that he would not touch him with his bare hands.
What the actual fuck. This is what is the matter with Kansas.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:48 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]






"When arguing what a fundamental right actually is, Keyes gave an offbeat example of a young child who had a habit of “picking in their nostrils and “eating what came out.”
Ladies and gentlemen, your GOP Presidential candidate on the hotly debated issue of nose-picking.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:50 PM on April 12, 2013


Zarq: Man, that would be a conversation I'd love to have! But you're definitely right, especially in how in depth that could get.

I do think though that this issue can be divided into two: was Arlene's Flowers legally wrong? (I think it was, under the law) And was Arlene's Flowers morally wrong?

The question of moral wrongness also falls into two categories:
1) Is it morally wrong to disobey the law, if it violates your principles? (I personally think no)
2) Was it morally wrong for her to refuse service to the gentlemen? (That's a harder one)

Now, my own principles do not align with hers. I'd happily make flowers for whoever wants to get married, whenever they want to do so. But at the same time, there's a real question: is it morally right to force someone else to violate their principles? For example, forcing someone to give money to a cause they're morally opposed to in this case? A lot of people are saying that she shouldn't be a florist, but she went into being a florist prior to this being a legal issue.
posted by corb at 1:10 PM on April 12, 2013


I don't care how anyone feels morally about the issue - their feelings about human rights are irrelevant. Gay people should have the same rights as everyone - full stop. The government isn't concerned with morality - they are concerned with harm.
posted by agregoli at 1:16 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb: "Zarq: Man, that would be a conversation I'd love to have! But you're definitely right, especially in how in depth that could get."

Yep. It's a very interesting conversation. I just don't wanna completely derail the thread!

Some light reading for you: ;)

This is an index of some of the more prominent court decisions in the last 100+ years about religious tax exemptions, but if you want to narrow it down to just one landmark case, try Walz vs. Tax Commission of City of New York. It's a case from 1970. The short version: A NYC taxpayer sued to prevent the city from giving religious groups a tax exemption on any property used exclusively for religious purposes, saying that it was not permitted under the First Amendment's establishment cause. He lost. Text of the decision.
posted by zarq at 1:28 PM on April 12, 2013




Thanks, homunculus. That was one of the best things I've read in ages.
posted by hippybear at 4:09 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't really think morality enters into it. To be part of a society, you agree to abide by that society's laws, and the law in question here states that you cannot refuse service to someone based on their sexual orientation.

If someone is opposed to that law, they can try to fight it if they wish. It isn't immoral to stand up against a law you disagree with. But there are risks and repercussions for doing so, and one has to accept that they're taking a risk that may not turn out well for them, and the consequences are on their own heads.

I don't think LSD should be illegal, and I ignored that law on occasion, back in the day. If I'd bought some from a cop, or if some had been found on me in a rave bust, I would have gone to jail. Stamping my feet and moaning that my right to do with my body as I please was being violated would not have helped me in the least.
posted by rifflesby at 4:55 PM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I understand that for many of you it is important to make an example of this lady. Trust me, if you are a florist you do it for love not money, because it is a tough business and even tougher in a bad economy. But something else about this industry? There are a very large number of gay people in it. You literally cannot be in this industry if you hate gay people. Is it really necessary in the big scheme of things to ruin this lady's life and income to force her to violate her conscience? (Even though I myself might think she's not sinning here if she does the flowers, it's what SHE thinks, and the Bible does say what is not of faith is sin, etc.) By which I mean, you cannot tell me there are not a plethora of gay florists in that area that would have been ecstatic to do that wedding.

This is on the lines of forcing a kosher Jew to eat ham. I know that a ton of you will find all kinds of things wrong with my analogy, and that's fine, this is Metafilter, I understand, but I can chew on my ham sandwich with mayonnaise with whole wheat and enjoy it immensely and still find it in my heart to respect someone who thinks ham is anathema. For that matter, I am a Christian who thinks it is fine to have a glass of wine or even a margarita once in awhile without it being a sin but I would never ever force that on another believer that thinks that alcohol in all its forms is of the devil.

There are some places that the majority thought can never go. And one place is that between a person and his or her Creator. Every one of you has a conscience, and things that you would never do. I won't list them, because that really isn't important. The important thing is YOU have that line with YOUR particular thing, and I wonder if you can imagine being forced to violate YOUR line just because the law and/or everybody else thinks you should.

I am not asking you to change your viewpoint, only to just imagine, just for a little bit, what it must be like for that woman.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:51 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am not asking you to change your viewpoint, only to just imagine, just for a little bit, what it must be like for that woman.

It's not as if none of us have ever declined to do something we sort of wanted to out of moral conviction. I know I have. And, yeah, it kind of sucked. However, I've also not done things because I'm queer and it was made it pretty damn clear my presence wasn't wanted. That sucked more. If you don't do something out of conviction, you can at least cling to your conviction and moral superiority.

This is on the lines of forcing a kosher Jew to eat ham.

I don't even want to touch this with a ten foot pole.
posted by hoyland at 6:30 PM on April 12, 2013


I can chew on my ham sandwich with mayonnaise with whole wheat and enjoy it immensely and still find it in my heart to respect someone who thinks ham is anathema.

Sure, but if you're in a business which serves sandwiches, and business law in your area requires that you offer ham as one of your meats, and you refuse to offer ham as part of your religious convictions, and someone legally takes you to task for defying the law, then whatever penalty is dealt you for not following the law in your jurisdiction is yours to accept or stand in contempt of court.

It's not a weak analogy. It's a strong one. It's just that nobody who thinks that the queers can be stigmatized even in states where it's explicitly stated that businesses cannot do this will accept it.
posted by hippybear at 6:53 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hippybear, you use the word stigmatization. Can you understand that in her view she would have been condoning something she felt was not in their best interests? I am not saying you are legally incorrect at all, as far as it goes. I just would never put her in the same category as people who use epithets and beat up gay people because they are gay because this is NOT at all the same thing-although I can understand why you might think it was.

I can understand trying to persuade her she could serve these customers in good conscience. But I wish people could understand just what it is they are asking her to do from HER standpoint.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:20 PM on April 12, 2013


But I wish people could understand just what it is they are asking her to do from HER standpoint.

She's being asked to recognize that this is the 21st century, gay peoples' rights are no different from anyone else's, and to attempt to prevent any two people from professing their love for each other is abhorrent by any reasonable moral code, particularly one that claims to be founded on compassion for one's fellow man.

If she doesn't wish to recognize that, her alternative is to break the law and suffer the consequences for doing so.
posted by rifflesby at 7:37 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


rifflesby, she wasn't preventing anything, she was choosing not to participate. Which, again, you know and I know in that state apparently was illegal, and again, you believe and I share that belief that simply providing flowers did not have to mean anything except she was providing flowers.

What concerns me is that it seems that no one is seeing it from the angle that people should not be forced to participate in something that violates their conscience. Just because it wouldn't have violated MY conscience doesn't mean that I am not troubled that so many of us couldn't care less about HER conscience. Because every single last one of us has a conscience and every single last one of us have the right to have our conscience respected. ALL of us.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:49 PM on April 12, 2013


I try to see it from her point of view, but her point of view simply seems crazy to me, and society is moving to a point where it agrees. If she tried to refuse service to a Hispanic couple because God tells her that Hispanics are actually bipedal lizards wearing human skin, I don't think anyone would object to her being forced to abide by the terms of her business license regardless of the fact that her conscience forbids her to sell flowers to Reptilloids. It is a crazy conscience.
posted by rifflesby at 8:05 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Folks, over-the-top offensive sarcasm is not a productive tool. Please find another rhetorical device. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 8:16 PM on April 12, 2013


Can you understand that in her view she would have been condoning something she felt was not in their best interests?

These are the best intentions with which the road to hell is paved.

Anyway, I don't see anywhere that it is scripture that exchanging money for services or products is in any way condoning anything having to do with what the services or products will eventually be put to use toward.

What if these gentlemen had approached her, ordering an array of flower arrangements in a specific color scheme, in specific quantities of specific styles, and had asked that they all be delivered to Location X for a specific event. They never stated that it was going to be a wedding. So she takes the job and delivers the flowers and is paid for it and the flowers are used in a wedding.

What, if anything, is the difference? Nothing, other than the florist's knowledge about the event in which her flowers will be used.

There's nothing like forcing legally marrying homosexuals back into the closet of secrecy in order for them to gain your business, is there? Welcome to 1952.
posted by hippybear at 8:18 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, woe, the burdened bigot. "But what about her feelings!"

Sorry, but I don't give a good goddamn. If she intends to operate a business, her personal convictions count for nothing. Cash hits the counter and she does her damn job.

If she wishes to moralize, she can do arrangements for love, not money.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:50 PM on April 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Anyway, I don't see anywhere that it is scripture that exchanging money for services or products is in any way condoning anything having to do with what the services or products will eventually be put to use toward.

And again, I agree with you.

But it seems that everyone seems to be arguing that she SHOULDN'T have a problem with it. But she DOES.

What do we do as a society with that? Because if we have the right to tell her she has to violate her conscience, none of us here has the right to our own individual consciences either and I don't like where that goes.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:52 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


no one is seeing it from the angle that people should not be forced to participate in something that violates their conscience.

Nonsense. I can clearly see it from that angle, just as I can clearly see earlier civil rights law from the angle of someone who couldn't bear to bring themselves to serve African-American customers a meal in the same dining room as white customers. There's a long-established answer to that in the USA: TOUGH SHIT.

Seriously, St. Alia, that's the enshrined law of the USA on your dilemma of "conscience." If you're a "public accomodation" you have to treat people equally under the law, and that includes florists as well as lunch counters. I suppose if folks don't like it they can work to change the Supreme Court case law and/or legislatures (though the momentum is against them on both counts), or just leave the country. But the battle to run your business based soley on your own conscience without regard to social notions like basic civil equality was settled years ago. The USA is not a country that allows you to do that.
posted by mediareport at 9:10 PM on April 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


no one is seeing it from the angle that people should not be forced to participate in something that violates their conscience.

I don't think that's true. People are seeing that angle, but they disagree that it's valid. Specifically, people have disagreed with two parts of it: (1) that selling flowers for a wedding constitutes "participating in" or "condoning" the wedding; and (2) that Washington law "forces" Stutzman to sell flowers in the first place.

she went into being a florist prior to this being a legal issue.

That's a fair point. The simplest rebuttal is that laws change, and you assume this risk when you open a business. It's a fair point and might cause me to have sympathy for her position, but it doesn't mean she should prevail on the law.

For what it's worth, Stutzman's attorneys assert that floral arrangement is creative expression. That is a potentially valid answer. I'm not familiar with any relevant caselaw, although it may be telling that they didn't cite any. I'm skeptical, but I don't know much about floral arrangement. They had better be prepared to seriously school a judge.
posted by cribcage at 9:18 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, Stutzman's attorneys assert that floral arrangement is creative expression

They might have something there. I have seen a lot of wedding designs over the years, done by people who wind up kinda specializing in it. (At our florist one or two people do most of the wedding work.) You can almost always tell who has done an arrangement. For that matter I know when I take an order to the back, depending on what it is I may slip it to the person I think will do the best job with it. Every single one of those people has his or own quirks when they design. And all the designers in town seem to know each other and know who the gifted ones are, etc.

I personally don't design, which now that I think about it might make a difference in my personal feelings that, hey, I sell flowers. Because while I sell them, I don't put my heart and soul into them. The designers do that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:25 PM on April 12, 2013


St. Alia of the Bunnies: "What concerns me is that it seems that no one is seeing it from the angle that people should not be forced to participate in something that violates their conscience."

I actually did have this thought when I saw the article, and I knew that there would be people who would react negatively to the case because the couple is demanding the florist violate her conscience.

But the thing is, marriage is a pretty fundamental right (in the United States); "being a florist" isn't a fundamental right anywhere that I know. I'd be willing to accept, arguendo, that you have a right to make a living, but I don't think that means (or that I have ever seen anyone argue) that you have a right to make a particular living of your choosing. If she genuinely can't abide by the laws protecting other people's fundamental rights while engaging in this particular business, she needs to find a different business to engage in. This is a thing that happens all the time, where people decide that because of their religious beliefs they cannot engage in a particular way of making a living because they would be required to violate their conscience or their religious belief. Their religious beliefs are protected, and the right to believe and worship according to the dictates of one's own conscience is a profoundly important fundamental right. But protecting the right to believe and worship as one sees fit doesn't mean that religious persons will be able to engage limitlessly in any behavior they wish with the excuse that their religion demands it.

I know she was already in business and the law changed. But that is a thing that happens literally all the time, and that is a risk that any business owner takes. It's profoundly unfortunate when a changing business environment deprives someone of their income or of a job that they love or a business that they have built, but American civil society doesn't prioritize the protection of specific jobs over the right of individuals to equal treatment.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:31 PM on April 12, 2013


This is on the lines of forcing a kosher Jew to eat ham.

I wonder if it will now become common practice for dominionist Christians in the US to use some sort of ill-conceived "but what about kosher laws!?" argument as a bludgeon to try justify dismantling the Establishment Clause.

You can't come up with a better justification for a supposed Christian right to discriminate against gays and fight equality than a reference to Jewish kosher laws? Which are neither discriminatory nor oppressive, and do not affect non-Jews?

Seriously?

Do you understand the meanings of Kashrut? Do you understand that there is a difference between someone who keeps kosher, (which is for the most part a private, individual and personal ritual,) and someone who deliberately and publicly shames others and denies them services to which they are entitled by law, out of self-righteous disapproval of that other person's sexual orientation or identity?

Are you aware that religious Jews usually spend a great deal of time, effort and money to adapt to the cultures we live in instead of demanding special treatment by the law? We don't demand that non-Jews follow our beliefs! For the most part we keep entirely to ourselves and don't ask for laws to be changed that would force our religious beliefs on an entire population? That those who keep kosher often do their best to be as flexible as possible while still following Kosher strictures in public gatherings so we don't offend or make people uncomfortable?

That Jews are NEVER, EVER, EVER supposed to shame, humiliate or oppress others into keeping kosher? That there are Talmud tractate parables which specifically say that humiliating other Jews is tantamount to rampant murder?

History doesn't even agree with you. There have been laws regarding kosher slaughter which have actually been struck down for violating the Establishment Clause. American Jews solved this by making kosher verification and approval a private enterprise.

This isn't about religious conscience. It's not about religious freedom. It's about bigotry. If it were about her religious conscience, she wouldn't be treating her customers in such an unChristian manner. Once again I invite you to answer the question I posed to you upthread:
Would you similarly think it was cruel if she said her religious beliefs prevented her from selling flowers to Black people? Asians? Latinos? Catholics? The disabled? How about Muslims? Jews? Women? I suspect not, on all counts.


No one is forcing American religious Jews to eat ham. No one. No one is holding us down and stuffing pork chops or shrimp or clams down our throats. No one. And one reason for this is we have both an Establishment Clause and a Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment, which protect us from such things.

I know that a ton of you will find all kinds of things wrong with my analogy, and that's fine, this is Metafilter, I understand,

As a Jew who keeps a kosher home and as someone who has been personally fighting for years for greater acceptance and tolerance for LGBT's within my religious community, I find your analogy rather insulting.

No one is forcing her to break the law. No one.
posted by zarq at 9:38 PM on April 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


First, to address your question:
Would you similarly think it was cruel if she said her religious beliefs prevented her from selling flowers to Black people? Asians? Latinos? Catholics? The disabled? How about Muslims? Jews? Women? I suspect not, on all counts.

Okay, not the same thing. She was selling to these men all along, and simply drew the line at wanting to provide flowers for their wedding ceremony because she had issues of conscience with that particular thing. She was not refusing to sell flowers to gay people in general even if they were sending flowers to their lovers.

As to forcing her to break the law, perhaps she sees her allegiance to God as more important than any particular sale. Many of you point out that she has to bear the consequences for that, and that is true. But so many of you are just seeing this as a case of pure stubbornness and hatefulness on her part, and that is an incredibly poor characterization of what is going on. You didn't like my ham analogy, but I think you would be incredibly insulted with me if I was treating your kosher keeping as narrowminded and wrong. You are keeping kosher because that is what you feel God requires of you. She felt that God required her not to do that wedding. That is what I am trying to get at.

Now, truly, her customers had the right to get angry about this and to put her in the position she is now in. But as regular customers of hers, presuming that before they had a relationship with her (after all, when she told them she couldn't do this wedding they concluded the discussion with a hug and on good terms) I am disappointed with them on a personal level that they couldn't at least try to understand where she was coming from.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:44 AM on April 13, 2013


Where she is coming from is "I think you people are disgusting, and I won't sell you flowers because of it".

That's pretty easy to understand. I don't think they had to try very hard to understand it. Do you?

And while the first part is protected speech, yeah go ahead you can be as much of an asshole as you want in your private life, the second part is illegal because once you engage in commerce you have to treat your customers equally.

As for the whole "part with a hug" thing, come on. What a fucking awkward moment. When someone you liked doing business with tells you with sorrow and regret that they feel you're disgusting and won't sell to you, you probably go into shock and don't know exactly how to deal with the situation, so you probably try to defuse it and then get the hell out so you can figure out just what happened, exactly how and why you were betrayed as a human being, and then figure out how you'll respond to it. That's just how we're trained and socialized as adults these days: defuse anger that arises socially, leave the immediate vicinity, figure out motivations, reasons, and exactly how you'll respond later.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:55 AM on April 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Alia, why do you think that they didn't? Are you privy to the conversation or conversations they had with her? Do you think they remember the conversation that ended "on good terms" in exactly the same way that she remembers it?

What about the position she put them in? I have to imagine myself in their shoes, and I would be wounded if someone I'd thought I had a good relationship with said "oh, no, I think it's wrong for you to be able to get married. You do not, by virtue of what you are, deserve the same care and respect I would give to someone I had never met before in my life."

I mean, let's be real: if a straight couple found the shop in the yellow pages and walked in, she'd fulfill that order without any concerns about compromise of her free expression. So when she says she objects to their wedding, she objects on a very basic level to the innate worth of their love for one another, their relationship with her, and their worth as human beings. They are literally worth less than utter strangers to her. I mean, the default response to a wedding announcement, even from a stranger, is "congratulations!" not "you shouldn't be able to get married." Doesn't the mere idea of saying that to someone stop up your tongue and throat with revulsion? How is it even possible to say it to a couple you've known and done business with for years?

I'm not sure how I would react in the moment to a - I struggle for a word - to an assault like that. Maybe I would react as they did. Maybe you would too.

I think it's a bit much to be "disappointed with them" unless you personally know them and they've said to you that well, actually, they somehow weren't that bothered by it, but decided to go ahead with the legal action for ... some weird reasons? I dunno.

It's all so ugly.

When your god or your conscience demands that you cease caring for people you know and cease wanting them to be happy, something has gone wrong. And yes, this includes statements like "they may be unhappy now, but it'll be even worse in the afterlife unless they immediately sever their long-term, loving, romantic relationship."
posted by kavasa at 6:12 AM on April 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Okay, not the same thing. She was selling to these men all along, and simply drew the line at wanting to provide flowers for their wedding ceremony because she had issues of conscience with that particular thing. She was not refusing to sell flowers to gay people in general even if they were sending flowers to their lovers.

I think you're trying to draw a distinction that doesn't exist. They're not proposing to marry in her church. In the eyes of her religion, their marriage won't be a marriage. In her eyes, they're sinning whether they're married or not and she was happy to help them in that. I don't think we need to have sympathy for someone who is hiding their bigotry behind an inability to distinguish civil and religious marriage. Maybe if I was feeling charitable, I would sit down and explain the concept to her in very simple language. But I don't think she's confused. I think she knows damn well that same sex marriage doesn't affect her religion unless they want it to.
posted by hoyland at 6:16 AM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Look, I think she could and should have sold them the flowers, I am not arguing that. But I don't think she was saying they were disgusting either. This issue has a lot of nuances and I understand people are very sensitive about the issue but if she was "disgusted" I doubt she would have been selling them flowers all along. Maybe it's easier just to paint people you disagree with with that broad brush, but there are a multitude of brush sizes on this issue. Let me repeat, not trying to change opinions here, just trying to shine a light on her particular motivation.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:24 AM on April 13, 2013


But the thing is, marriage is a pretty fundamental right (in the United States); "being a florist" isn't a fundamental right anywhere that I know.

Sure - but neither is "getting flowers for your wedding ceremony from any specific florist you please."

Are you aware that religious Jews usually spend a great deal of time, effort and money to adapt to the cultures we live in instead of demanding special treatment by the law? We don't demand that non-Jews follow our beliefs!

Some may not. Others do. I've been shamed - or whatever the word is when the attempt to shame is there, but it miserably fails - that I shouldn't eat cheeseburgers in front of kosher Jews. I don't, personally, care, because, free country and they can say what they want. My fiance, however, bitterly remembers this one time that he went to get some sort of meat sandwich and the guy wouldn't put cheese on it, and wouldn't even give him the cheese so he could put it on himself, despite possessing both cheese and meat in the store. I differ with him - I think the guy should have been able to do what he wanted - but to say that this never happens is not quite true.
posted by corb at 6:26 AM on April 13, 2013


Screwtape, is that your voice I'm hearing? You sneaky damn devil!
posted by five fresh fish at 7:11 AM on April 13, 2013


corb, was your fiancé perhaps in a kosher restaurant?

When I went to Thanksgiving with my friend who keeps kosher and he'd been tasked with making a parve pumpkin pie, he wasn't imposing his views on me by making me eat pumpkin pie made in a way unusual to me, those were the parameters of our interaction and we both knew that going in.

Of course, the 'what food will a restaurant sell' question is in no way analogous to the situation being discussed here because the restaurant is making a blanket decision, not picking and choosing who they'll serve (in contravention of the law!).
posted by hoyland at 7:41 AM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


So can a gay photographer be forced to take photos at a Westboro Baptist Church wedding?
posted by republican at 8:18 AM on April 13, 2013


Where she is coming from is "I think you people are disgusting, and I won't sell you flowers because of it".

She has, in fact, sold them flowers.

In her eyes, they're sinning whether they're married or not

I don't see any evidence this is true. If anything, the evidence contradicts this.

So when she says she objects to their wedding, she objects on a very basic level to the innate worth of their love for one another, their relationship with her, and their worth as human beings. They are literally worth less than utter strangers to her.

This is a totally valid (if a bit lit-crit) interpretation, but it's just one interpretation and it's yours. I'm looking at the same evidence you are and I disagree with your interpretation. Likewise, I don't see any indication that Stutzman "cease[d] wanting them to be happy." She simply did not want to participate in this particular ceremony.

I think she's wrong, but I really don't see a need to make up a bunch of fictional facts to paint her as a terrible human being who wishes ill for this couple. Maybe she does. Maybe she doesn't.
posted by cribcage at 8:27 AM on April 13, 2013


corb: "But the thing is, marriage is a pretty fundamental right (in the United States); "being a florist" isn't a fundamental right anywhere that I know.

Sure - but neither is "getting flowers for your wedding ceremony from any specific florist you please."
"

Yes, but "doing business with any business I choose without being discriminated against for these specific characteristics" turns out to totally be included in the fundamental right to equal treatment. Which is the entire point of this thread.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:42 AM on April 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Indeed. If Arlene's Flowers had a six-month backlog and Ingersoll and Freed had demanded flowers for their wedding next weekend, that would be a different situation. Similarly, if a gay couple demanded that Arlene's Flowers service their wedding three hundred miles away in Bellingham, WA, that would be different.

The law doesn't prohibit Stutzman from saying no. It prohibits her from saying, "No, because you are gay."
posted by cribcage at 8:49 AM on April 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


cribcage, I'm not trying to paint her in a terrible light. Further, I doubt she meant to make those implied statements. I just don't see how she could do what she did without having made those implied statements, whether she wanted to or not. My concern is the hurt and betrayal felt by the couple and explaining why they almost certainly felt them.
posted by kavasa at 9:05 AM on April 13, 2013


But so many of you are just seeing this as a case of pure stubbornness and hatefulness on her part ...

... and outright naked BIGOTRY and illegal DISCRIMINATION.
posted by ericb at 9:42 AM on April 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is religious bigotry okay, then? Serious question.

There are lots of times that religious exemptions exist in US law. For example, if you have possession of eagle feathers you darn well better be a Native American. Otherwise you are in legal trouble.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:49 AM on April 13, 2013


Because if we have the right to tell her she has to violate her conscience, none of us here has the right to our own individual consciences either and I don't like where that goes.

Alia, I can see where you're coming from, but this is a very limited thing. The law isn't forcing her to perform an act she finds inherently morally objectionable.

All she's being asked to do is serve anyone who walks in and pays, which is part and parcel of being open to the general public. She knows or should have known that being a public accommodation means that she has to serve anyone who walks in, no matter what reasons she has to object.

If she really wants to pick and choose her clients carefully according to whatever reasons seem best to her, she can still do this by ceasing to be a public accommodation and operating as a legitimate private club. This would mean keeping her door closed, not selling to anyone who is not a member of her club, and so on, and it would invite investigation as to how legitimately private this club is. And it would mean taking a hit to her bottom line. But she's free to do this if she wants.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:17 AM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


So can a gay photographer be forced to take photos at a Westboro Baptist Church wedding?

Well, photographers aren't florists.

But if a member of Westboro walks across the street from the soldier's funeral they're protesting, sets down their GOD HATES FAGS sign, and walks into the improbable GAY VETERANS' FLOWERS -- WHERE ALL OUR STAFF ARE GAY VETERANS! and says "I'd like three dozen roses for our protest," then:

Yes, the florist should be required to sell him the flowers.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:22 AM on April 13, 2013


Actually, no, the florist can say "we're out of the flowers you want" or "those are reserved" or any of a number of excuses. What they can't say is "we won't sell you flowers because you're from WBC." The gay photographer headfake has no correlation to this case (which I'm positive the commenter already knew), and even if it did, there's no wrongdoing if the photographer just says no or offers some excuse.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:03 AM on April 13, 2013


Yes, but "doing business with any business I choose without being discriminated against for these specific characteristics" turns out to totally be included in the fundamental right to equal treatment.

Legally, absolutely.

But morally? It's, again, a really interesting question. Assuming the law did not exist yet, should someone have the right to engage in business without being forced to violate strongly held moral practices in order to do so?

I think it's really easy for people to empathize with the case of the couple wanting flowers, rather than the florist. But I think the Westboro Baptist Church example is actually really similar.

We make an exception for "creatives", but what if we didn't?

Let's suppose you have an LGBT marketing guru. Hell, let's make it a LGBT veteran - which are not really that uncommon. And the Westboro Baptist Church came to him and said, "I want you to make a marketing campaign to convince everyone those no-good gays are terrible people and everyone should hate them." (Let's assume this was legal speech)

Should the LGBT veteran have the right to say, "No, I don't believe in what you do or say, and I will not lend the work of my hands or mind to anything that hateful"?

I think not - that anyone should have the right to refuse their labor for any cause whatsoever. That includes our hypothetical LGBT marketing guru, and the florist.
posted by corb at 11:11 AM on April 13, 2013


Well, really, if any of you were any type of wedding vendor and Westboro Baptist called and wanted to patronize your business, would that pose any sort of dilemma for you, particularly if it got out that you worked their wedding? I don't know that any of us of any persuasion would want to do anything for that bunch on principle.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:11 AM on April 13, 2013


-being a public accommodation means that she has to serve anyone who walks in

-The law doesn't prohibit Stutzman from saying no. It prohibits her from saying, "No, because you are gay."

So - genuine question about the law here; which is it? Stores can put up signs like "no shirt, no shoes, no service" or "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason" - what is the legal status of those policies? Or does the law just say that public accommodations cannot refuse service on the basis of membership in a protected class? (And what are the protected classes? That would seem relevant to the Westboro Baptist analogy.)

Further question - surely there is more to determining discrimination that just what the service provider says is their rationale for refusing service? (If there weren't, a business could just say "golly, we're sure busy right now" in order to escape claims of discrimination, but that doesn't seem right.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:31 AM on April 13, 2013


We Support Gay Marriage but Oppose Forcing People to Support It

"Elane Photography, a Christian-identified business in Albuquerque, N.M., declined to photograph Vanessa Willock’s same-sex commitment ceremony based on the business owners’ personal beliefs. New Mexico law prohibits any refusal to render business services because of sexual orientation, however, so Willock filed a claim with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. She argued that Elane Photography is a “public accommodation,” akin to a hotel or restaurant, that is subject to the state’s anti-discrimination law.

The commission found against Elane and ordered it to pay $6,600 in attorney fees. Elane Photography’s owners appealed the ruling, arguing that they are being denied their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion (and a similar provision in the state constitution). Furthermore, New Mexico’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act defines “free exercise” as “an act or a refusal to act that is substantially motivated by religious belief” and forbids government from abridging that right except to “further a compelling government interest.”

The state trial and appellate courts affirmed the commission’s order. Elane Photography v. Willock is now before the New Mexico Supreme Court, where Cato has joined UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh and University of Minnesota law professor Dale Carpenter—who, like Cato, support gay marriage—in filing an amicus brief siding with Elane Photography on free speech grounds."

posted by republican at 11:38 AM on April 13, 2013


There are lots of times that religious exemptions exist in US law. For example, if you have possession of eagle feathers you darn well better be a Native American. Otherwise you are in legal trouble.

So you're saying that businesses should be allowed to discriminate against black/female/etc. customers, because Native Americans can possess eagle feathers in a very narrow, very specific context.

Okay.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:56 AM on April 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Er, sounds like my question was answered above by zarq.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:59 AM on April 13, 2013


I am not licensed in Washington. Further, I do not specialize in this area of law. The following is not legal advice.

does the law just say that public accommodations cannot refuse service on the basis of membership in a protected class?

Basically, yes. You can refuse service to people for lots of reasons. Whether or not your individual state, county, or town has a health code regarding shirts and shoes, you can hang a sign to that effect on your door and screen customers on that basis. You can refuse service to someone who is behaving boorishly, or to someone who is obviously drunk. You can ask someone to leave your store for wearing a shirt that reads, "KILL ALL GRANDMAS."

However, we have enacted laws that prohibit you from refusing service to someone because that person is Jewish. As a society, we've recognized that this is something that might actually happen a lot, and we think it would be severely detrimental to allow it. For those reasons, we prohibit it. Generally speaking, if those two reasons don't apply, then we won't enact a similar law. For instance, it's unlikely that many people will be kicked out of stores for wearing red sweaters; the store owner would have to be pretty kooky, and there's no institutionalized prejudice that would have his back. So we don't prohibit that. It's more likely that people will be refused service for being barefoot, but we don't think that practice is severely detrimental to society so we allow it.

surely there is more to determining discrimination that just what the service provider says is their rationale for refusing service?

Yes. This is where it pays to have a good attorney, but basically you're looking for patterns. Does the real-estate agent always show three different neighborhoods to white families but only one neighborhood to black families? Is the clothing store always "out of stock" when the man wearing the yarmulke comes in? Did the florist tell the gay couple that she has a six-month backlog, but then book a wedding for next month for the heterosexual couple who walked in an hour later?

It's much easier to prove discrimination if a vendor explicitly admits it, as Stutzman appears to have done, but the admission isn't necessary to prove that discrimination is happening. You just need to amass the evidence.
posted by cribcage at 11:59 AM on April 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thank you cribcage!
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:04 PM on April 13, 2013


Well, then, if someone was planning to have a Christmas party for swingers, and wanted a bunch of centerpieces to decorate for the occasion, and she knew what they wanted the centerpieces for and refused to serve that particular customer, would THAT be legal?

In that case she would not be "discriminating against a protected class" or are spouse swappers protected under the law?

OR, to take it out of the sexual realm, let's say it was an atheist recruitment party. Would she be legally obligated to do those flowers?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:06 PM on April 13, 2013


Let's suppose you have an LGBT marketing guru. Hell, let's make it a LGBT veteran - which are not really that uncommon. And the Westboro Baptist Church came to him and said, "I want you to make a marketing campaign to convince everyone those no-good gays are terrible people and everyone should hate them." (Let's assume this was legal speech)

Perhaps a hypothetical that didn't involve something that completely changed the circumstance would be a better choice, no?
posted by zombieflanders at 12:14 PM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]




Having more than one sexual partner, whether within or without marriage, does not put one in a protected class.

The law in WA is very clear about what exactly constitutes a protected class, and it has already been listed in this thread.

Coming up with some new group of people who aren't on that list and saying "well, what about refusing service to THESE PEOPLE" isn't a good way to work this argument. The law is specific and clear about who cannot be discriminated against.

If you're upset because sexual orientation IS a protected class in some states, well, that's something else entirely. But honestly, they wouldn't even BE on that list in those states to begin with if there weren't a deep historical record showing society-wide tendencies to be assholes toward them to begin with.
posted by hippybear at 12:18 PM on April 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well, so much of this hinges on definitions, and definitions depend on who has the authority to make the definitions at the time. Interesting exercise in ethics, anyway.

When you have two classes of freedoms that clash, there are winners and losers. And none of us ever has a guarantee we won't find ourselves on the wrong end of the clash at any given point in time. So, to quote an internet friend of mine: Babies, you got to be KIND.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:26 PM on April 13, 2013




Elane Photography, a Christian-identified business in Albuquerque, N.M., declined to photograph Vanessa Willock’s same-sex commitment ceremony ...

... previously on MeFi.
posted by ericb at 12:32 PM on April 13, 2013


And previous FPP on Elane Photography (as mentioned above).
posted by ericb at 12:35 PM on April 13, 2013


Is religious bigotry okay, then? Serious question.

Any religious bigotry expressed in this thread? No.

Related:
FOX News's Starnes and Rios: Gay Rights Opponents 'Second-Class Citizens,' Face 'Punishment' and 'Persecution'.

Marriage Equality Threatens Faith and Freedom, Right-Wingers Say.

Opponents of Gay Marriage Say They're Not Bigots.

Why Marriage Equality Opponents Who ‘Love’ Gays Are Still Bigoted.
Boo-hoo-hoo, you 'persecuted' and 'misunderstood' Christians.* Call the WHAMBULANCE! Dial 911!

* -- FWIW, I am a practicing Christian and gay ... and I am supported, accepted and LOVED by my denomination (as stated above).
posted by ericb at 4:23 PM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're upset because sexual orientation IS a protected class in some states, well, that's something else entirely. But honestly, they wouldn't even BE on that list in those states to begin with if there weren't a deep historical record showing society-wide tendencies to be assholes toward them to begin with.

I think the problem is less "offense because sexual orientation is a protected class" and more "think that the idea of having specific protected classes which have more rights than other protected or unprotected classes is bad."

Society tends to be assholes to the less attractive, to the less wealthy, to the politically obnoxious (whatever that flavor happens to be at the moment.) We don't name protected classes based on who is historically discriminated against. We name protected classes based on who has the best lawyers and momentum to say we should.
posted by corb at 4:38 PM on April 13, 2013


Any religious bigotry expressed in this thread? No.


That isn't what I asked. There's a great big world out there.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:39 PM on April 13, 2013


We name protected classes based on who has the best lawyers and momentum to say we should.

No, you're very confused. We have protected classes because, in this decade, women (for example) still get paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:09 PM on April 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


We don't name protected classes based on who is historically discriminated against. We name protected classes based on who has the best lawyers and momentum to say we should.

Bullshit.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:12 PM on April 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


We don't name protected classes based on who is historically discriminated against. We name protected classes based on who has the best lawyers and momentum to say we should.

If this were true, White Male Christian Landowners would have been named a protected class centuries ago. As it stands, they are the ones who have "written" the non-codified but mostly accepted rules of societal behavior for generations, and it is against their proclivities which we act when we name protected classes.
posted by hippybear at 5:15 PM on April 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyway, these protected classes aren't asking for "more rights"... they are asking for equal treatment. The fact that a gay couple requiring that business owners accept their money in exchange for services or purchase of objects is somehow considered special treatment underscores a basic problem with our society at its core, and protected class designation seems to be the only way to give them equal footing in our society.

Want to not deal with laws which address unequal treatment of what is known as protected classes? Stop treating people as unequal in your business transactions. It's a pretty basic equation.
posted by hippybear at 5:22 PM on April 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Some may not. Others do. I've been shamed - or whatever the word is when the attempt to shame is there, but it miserably fails - that I shouldn't eat cheeseburgers in front of kosher Jews. I don't, personally, care, because, free country and they can say what they want. My fiance, however, bitterly remembers this one time that he went to get some sort of meat sandwich and the guy wouldn't put cheese on it, and wouldn't even give him the cheese so he could put it on himself, despite possessing both cheese and meat in the store. I differ with him - I think the guy should have been able to do what he wanted - but to say that this never happens is not quite true.

I boldfaced a phrase in your comment. Here's why:

I don't know the circumstances of your fiance's experience, so I can't really speak to it. But by deliberate design, kosher meat restaurants do not keep dairy products on the premises. They literally do not stock cheese, milk, butter or any other dairy product. If a customer said, "I'd like a cheeseburger," the server would reply, "Sorry, we don't carry cheese. This is a kosher restaurant/deli/cafe." I've seen that happen a few times. Of course, what the customer does with their own meal after they leave a deli is their business. But if a restaurant doesn't keep an ingredient in stock, it is impossible to include it with a meal. There are kosher dairy / vegetarian restaurants as well, and they do not stock any kind of meat.

I also have never been in a "kosher-style" meat restaurant which carried dairy products. I've eaten in many of them. Here in New York, Ben's Kosher Deli is considered kosher-style by Jews. They serve meat that has been slaughtered in the traditional kosher manner, but since they are open on Shabbat, on Saturdays, they would not be considered perfectly kosher by very observant Jews.

As I said, I can't speak to what happened to your fiance. But it is highly unlikely that he was in a kosher meat deli which carried cheese. It strikes me as quite unlikely as well that he was in a kosher-style meat deli that carried cheese. If he were in a non-kosher deli being waited on by a religious Jew who refused to give him cheese, then the guy was being an ass who probably shouldn't have been handling non-kosher meat in the first place.

In my experience, observant Jews who keep kosher generally don't complain about people who eat cheeseburgers in front of them. Our religion not only does not tell them to do that, it tells them not to. As a non-Jew, our religion explicitly says that y'all can do whatever you like on that end, and we're not supposed to care. But again, people can be asses irrespective of their religious teachings. As a vegan, my mother likes to talk about the horrors of eating "flesh" to people eating meat in front of her. Personally, I think that's asinine and obnoxious.
posted by zarq at 5:18 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I guess what I'm trying to say is that people can be self-righteous asses, but that doesn't mean their religion told them to be that way. Even if they say it did.
posted by zarq at 5:36 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


St. Alia of the Bunnies: "Okay, not the same thing. She was selling to these men all along, and simply drew the line at wanting to provide flowers for their wedding ceremony because she had issues of conscience with that particular thing. She was not refusing to sell flowers to gay people in general even if they were sending flowers to their lovers.

Except, it is the same thing. She's not selling to them because they're gay. If this were a straight couple then presumably she would not have a problem selling them flowers for their wedding. Her whole justification hinges on the fact that they're both gay and are getting married. You can't separate those two facts and say, "it's not about them being gay." It absolutely is.

As to forcing her to break the law, perhaps she sees her allegiance to God as more important than any particular sale. Many of you point out that she has to bear the consequences for that, and that is true. But so many of you are just seeing this as a case of pure stubbornness and hatefulness on her part, and that is an incredibly poor characterization of what is going on.

Other people have answered you on this, but I'll chime in anyway. I don't really understand how "I think two people who are obviously in love with each other shouldn't be allowed to get married" (in what is presumably a non-religious ceremony) isn't an act of intolerance.

You didn't like my ham analogy, but I think you would be incredibly insulted with me if I was treating your kosher keeping as narrowminded and wrong.

Maybe. Maybe not. If you made a good, knowledgeable argument, I'd probably discuss it with you seriously.

I apologize to everyone in advance for the following derail:

Religious Jews do joke about the insanities involved in keeping kosher. Cases in point. Adding to the weirdness is the fact that 2000 years ago, chickens were considered "pareve." That means they were neither meat nor dairy. So back then you could conceivably make Chicken Parmigiana and still keep kosher. Somewhere along the line, a bunch of rabbis said, "chickens are now meat" and considering how delicious chicken parm is, I think that's a sin against humanity. :D

Today, chicken eggs are considered pareve. But when they grow up into a chicken the animal is considered meat. Fish (kosher ones, that aren't bottom dwellers) are considered pareve. There are clear justifications given for all of this, and speaking as a heathen who still craves chicken parm and cheeseburgers, they don't always make sense to me. The Torah directives are simple: 'Don't boil a kid in its mother's milk.' 'Don't eat unclean foods.' How that was turned into "chicken parm is off the 'approved' list" is beyond me. I'm not bitter. Well, okay maybe just a little. :)

Jokes and snark aside, there is a philosophy behind keeping kosher.

A more serious and valid argument can be made that there are less cruel ways for the animals to be slaughtered and Jews are being narrowminded for not embracing them. The way kosher animals are killed, their necks are slit and they are drained of blood. This was and is considered by in Judaism to be the least cruel way -- a virtually painless method -- of slaughtering an animal. And perhaps way back in the old days, it was. But in modern times, other methods are available. From a Judaic perspective, this is a discussion worth having because it focuses on a reason we keep kosher.

You are keeping kosher because that is what you feel God requires of you.

Yes, that's probably how most religious Jews see it. I'm personally keeping kosher for a number of reasons, which aren't strictly speaking, religious.

She felt that God required her not to do that wedding. That is what I am trying to get at.

My point above is still relevant here. My keeping kosher doesn't impact on anyone but me and my family. I'm not imposing myself on the public by keeping kosher. She's not serving the public equally and for a business owner that's a serious problem.

Now, truly, her customers had the right to get angry about this and to put her in the position she is now in. But as regular customers of hers, presuming that before they had a relationship with her (after all, when she told them she couldn't do this wedding they concluded the discussion with a hug and on good terms) I am disappointed with them on a personal level that they couldn't at least try to understand where she was coming from."

I'm really not understanding why they should feel any obligation to do so. She's treating them intolerantly, so they should respect her intolerance?
posted by zarq at 8:48 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]






HONOLULU (AP) — A judge has ruled a Hawaii bed and breakfast violated the law when two women were denied a room because they're gay.

The Hawaii First Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of a Southern California couple who sued Aloha Bed & Breakfast for discrimination in 2011, Lambda Legal announced Monday. In 2007, Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford tried to book a room at the bed and breakfast because it's in Hawaii Kai, the same east Honolulu neighborhood where the friend they were visiting lived.

When Cervelli specified they would need one bed, the owner [Phyllis Young] asked if they were lesbians. Cervelli responded truthfully and the owner said she was uncomfortable having lesbians in her house because of her religious views, the lawsuit said.
and
During an HCRC investigation, Young admitted that she turned the couple away because she believes that same-sex relationships are "detestable" and that they "defile the land."

Hawaii first passed LGBT nondiscrimination protections in public accommodations in 2006, and Cervelli and Bufford experienced their discrimination in 2007. The law stipulates that it is illegal to refuse services based on sexual orientation. Notably, Hawaii does not have same-sex marriage, so though conservatives have already started to claim that this lawsuit victory “tramples religious liberty,” they cannot claim that this case has anything to with the advance of marriage equality. Instead, it’s a clear example of how religious beliefs simply do not justify blatant discrimination.
PDF of the decision
posted by zarq at 8:15 AM on April 17, 2013




Pat Buchanan Calls For ‘A New Era Of Civil Disobedience’ Against LGBT Equality

He also has called for a fence with Mexico out of the goodness in his heart, in order to "save 3000 Mexicans" crossing over from vicious desert coyotes (~6 min. mark).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:56 PM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Having this debate referred to as "an interesting exercise in ethics" still really bothers me several days later. I walked away but I did want to just say how it made me felt now that I'm not seeing red.

A phrase like that is a facile trivialization bordering on academic reduction. It's not an exercise. There are real people suffering real pain and discrimination -- not just being unable to buy flowers.

And saying it's "interesting" is a dismissive handwave used in that way, oh, yes, it's interesting allright, shall we choose teal or seafoam curtains for the parlour, now let me get back to my sandwich.

This stuff matters.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:13 AM on April 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


For people more up on the law than me:what, specifically, defines something as a public accomodation? If someone rents out a room in their house, is that a public accomodation? Or is it just when you become a Business, with all the bells and whistles?
posted by corb at 11:13 AM on April 18, 2013


The Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title II - Public Accommodation.

Also, there are state laws, such as those here in Massachusetts
Section 92A. No owner, lessee, proprietor, manager, superintendent, agent or employee of any place of public accommodation, resort or amusement shall, directly or indirectly, by himself or another, publish, issue, circulate, distribute or display, or cause to be published, issued, circulated, distributed or displayed, in any way, any advertisement, circular, folder, book, pamphlet, written or painted or printed notice or sign, of any kind or description, intended to discriminate against or actually discriminating against persons of any religious sect, creed, class, race, color, denomination, sex, sexual orientation, which shall not include persons whose sexual orientation involves minor children as the sex object, nationality, or because of deafness or blindness, or any physical or mental disability, in the full enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges offered to the general public by such places of public accommodation, resort or amusement.

A place of public accommodation, resort or amusement within the meaning hereof shall be defined as and shall be deemed to include any place, whether licensed or unlicensed, which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public and, without limiting the generality of this definition, whether or not it be (1) an inn, tavern, hotel, shelter, roadhouse, motel, trailer camp or resort for transient or permanent guests or patrons seeking housing or lodging, food, drink, entertainment, health, recreation or rest; (2) a carrier, conveyance or elevator for the transportation of persons, whether operated on land, water or in the air, and the stations, terminals and facilities appurtenant thereto; (3) a gas station, garage, retail store or establishment, including those dispensing personal services; (4) a restaurant, bar or eating place, where food, beverages, confections or their derivatives are sold for consumption on or off the premises; (5) a rest room, barber shop, beauty parlor, bathhouse, seashore facilities or swimming pool, except such rest room, bathhouse or seashore facility as may be segregated on the basis of sex; (6) a boardwalk or other public highway; (7) an auditorium, theatre, music hall, meeting place or hall, including the common halls of buildings; (8) a place of public amusement, recreation, sport, exercise or entertainment; (9) a public library, museum or planetarium; or (10) a hospital, dispensary or clinic operating for profit; provided, however, that with regard to the prohibition on sex discrimination, this section shall not apply to a place of exercise for the exclusive use of persons of the same sex which is a bona fide fitness facility established for the sole purpose of promoting and maintaining physical and mental health through physical exercise and instruction, if such facility does not receive funds from a government source, nor to any corporation or entity authorized, created or chartered by federal law for the express purpose of promoting the health, social, educational vocational, and character development of a single sex; provided, further, that with regard to the prohibition of sex discrimination, those establishments which rent rooms on a temporary or permanent basis for the exclusive use of persons of the same sex shall not be considered places of public accommodation and shall not apply to any other part of such an establishment.
Also in Massachusetts, as a private homeowner who is renting out a room, apartment or home you cannot discriminate.
2.01: General Provisions Pertaining to Housing Discrimination

(1) Applicable Law. The Massachusetts Fair Housing statute, as contained in M.G.L. c. 151B, s. 4 prohibits discrimination because of race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, age, ancestry, veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status, children, handicap, and receipt of public assistance or housing subsidy in the selling, renting or leasing of housing accommodations, commercial space, or land intended for use as such.
posted by ericb at 12:49 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, there are state laws, such as those here in Massachusetts

Edit: "Also, there are state laws, such as those here in Massachusetts that would prohibit you from discriminating against gay people from renting a room in your house."

Massachusetts Public Accommodation law includes the following classes:
The Attorney General's Office enforces state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination in places of public accommodation. The Massachusetts Public Accommodation Law ( M.G.L c. 272, s. 92A, 98 and 98A ) prohibits making any distinction, discrimination, or restriction in admission to or treatment in a place of public accommodation based on religion, creed, class, race, color, denomination, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, or because of deafness or blindness, or any physical or mental disability.
posted by ericb at 1:00 PM on April 18, 2013


Sex After Christianity

I read this and I was amused by the sight of Rod Dreher, a man who used to be a Methodist, who then became a Roman Catholic, and who then coverted to Orthodoxy, rely on the work of a Jewish intellectual to justify his fears that the gays will destroy the West.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:23 PM on April 18, 2013






Although Texas is one of 29 states where employers can legally discriminate against and even fire workers for being gay, LGBT advocacy group Equality Texas found in a poll taken earlier this year that 65.7 percent of Texas voters favor legalization of civil unions and domestic partnerships, while 47.9 percent support legalizing full marriage equality.

Missouri is also a state where sexuality can get you canned, and have been once before. I am surprised at the Texas numbers. Also, that Perry page ad A LOT of Claire McCaskill ads and support on it. Claire is my Senator from MO, (Along with douche-bag Roy Blunt) and I see her many times on the PBS Newshour, in Senate meetings, and press releases were she seems to stand up as the voice of Reason. I wonder if she doesn't have bigger plans. As Americans in other states, does her name ring a bell to you?
She too has a gay son (as does Roy).
posted by QueerAngel28 at 12:26 PM on May 8, 2013


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