Friday, January 3, 2014

Equal Rights, Part II

Yesterday morning, I posted a blog entry entitled Equal Rights, which dealt with Fair to All’s efforts to protect the rights of those who disagree with marriage redefinition. Strangely, no one chose to respond on this page, but I did get several responses in a thread on Mormons Building Bridges. I have dealt with each individually, but one was lengthy enough that I have chosen to add it as a separate blog entry, as well.

MBB member Gina Crivello stated:
“Jeff's blog post to show how inaccurate my and Erin’s comparison between segregation and basic LGBTQ rights. He asked for my thoughts.) - ‘Should bakers and photographers and florists also be forced to provide services to Westboro Baptist Church rallies? How about a KKK lynching?’
“You are comparing a group of people who need housing and employment protection as well as legal protection for their family (which marriage would provide) to groups of people who seek to harass and kill others. Our comparison is not ‘severely’ inappropriate, imo. Supporters of segregation had (in their mind) sound scriptural, Bible-based reasons to continue to discriminate, separate themselves, and to justify their right to not serve black people in white-only establishments and felt it was ‘God’s way.’”

Much like yesterday, the remainder of my comments will be addressed to her.

First of all, Gina, I’m not talking about “God’s way”; I’m talking about legality and logic. “God’s way” is certainly a valid consideration, but when there is significant debate as to what “God’s way” is, it would be extremely difficult to enter it into law. So, let’s deal with what I am talking about.

Despite your erroneous charge, I have never once argued that people should be able to deny housing to certain people. What I argue is that a business owner should be able to deny any specific service to everyone (as opposed to specific individuals or groups). It’s all well and good that gay people require housing, but if I’m going to be sued for not renting a property to a gay person, I would think the fact that I don’t own any properties to rent might be a relevant consideration.

So, let’s speak from what services I can provide. Personally, I’m a database developer. So let’s imagine a gay man comes to me and asks me to develop a database in Servoy. I respond that I’m very sorry, but I don’t do Servoy development. If he would like a database designed in FileMaker or SQL, I’d be happy to help him, but Servoy is outside my list of services provided. The man walks away, finds someone else to design his Servoy database, then proceeds to sue me for discrimination.

When the case arrives before the court, I argue that there was no personal discrimination involved, that it wouldn’t matter if he were gay, straight, or anything else; I don’t design Servoy databases and never have. The judge, however, sees that I have provided databases for many clients, so I must also provide a database for this client, and I must provide the specific kind of database the client requests. I am fined and sentenced to prison for violation of anti-discrimination laws.

Does this sound ridiculous? Of course! But it is no different than Jack Phillips being told that even though his business does not provide garriage cakes, the fact that he provides any type of cake requires him to provide all types of cake. It doesn’t matter that he wouldn’t provide that specific type of cake to a straight person; it doesn’t matter that he would provide other types of cake to a gay person. A gay person requested a cake and he said no, so he’s a criminal.

As far as I can see, Gina, there is definitely discrimination at work here, but the plaintiffs aren’t the victim. From what I can see, FairToAll is fighting to end discrimination; is discriminating against Jack Phillips somehow less wrong, just because he doesn’t happen to be gay?

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Equal Rights

I am a member of a Facebook group called “Mormons Building Bridges,” the purpose of which is as follows:
“Mormons Building Bridges is dedicated to conveying love and acceptance to LGBTQI individuals. We support all our brothers and sisters—those who identify as LGBTQI and those who identify as same-sex attracted—and work to make them feel welcome in our homes and congregations. Mormons Building Bridges is not sponsored by nor do we represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or any political party or caucus.”

I wholly support this endeavor and am actively involved in the group. However, I am constantly surprised by how much many group members’ politics diverge from my own Moderate positions. For example, the most active members seem to trend morally Liberal and consequently support current redefinition efforts. To wit, a recent post linked to a web site called, which demands equality for those who disagree with marriage redefinition, calling it—as ultraliberals often do—an “anti-equality group.” My purpose today is to show that this allegation is not only erroneous, but exactly opposite the truth.

Drilling down a bit, I’d like to focus on the first comment on this thread, which deals with the section of Fair to All entitled “Real People, Real Harm.” This section gives examples of actual individuals who have been sued or charged with crimes, each for having the audacity to exercise his or her right of conscience. The comment, by a woman named Erin (whom I actually really like), states:
“Bakers & photographers & florists cannot refuse to serve homosexuals. This strikes me as exactly like the colored lunch counter phenomena of the Jim Crow era. I agree that it is painful, but I also believe that it is necessary. If you want to do business in America, you have to do it fairly.”

This blog post is to show how inaccurate that comparison is. I thus address the remainder of this post to her.

Erin, the problem I have with your argument, re: “real people,” is that none of the people on this site—and frankly, no one in history, of whom I am aware—has “refuse[d] to serve homosexuals.” For example, in several of the cases cited, the store owners specifically stated that they would be happy to serve gay people; they just refuse to support certain events. Should bakers and photographers and florists also be forced to provide services to Westboro Baptist Church rallies? How about a KKK lynching? If the services are being refused because of the event instead of the individual(s), there is no legal discrimination at play.

Because of this, the question becomes one of how we define “gay.” Obviously, there are two logical possibilities: either sexual orientation is hardwired into our person, or it is not. I assume most people in Mormons Building Bridges would argue that it is indeed hardwired, and while I don’t believe it’s that simple, I basically agree. However, let’s consider both possibilities and see how things turn out.

Scenario 1: Sexual Orientation Is a Choice.

Put differently, a person’s sexuality is based on his or her relationship: a gay man who enters into a relationship with a woman suddenly becomes straight; a straight woman who enters into a relationship with a woman suddenly becomes gay. I don’t think anyone really accepts this position, but it is logical and thus must be dealt with.

If we argue that a person’s sexuality is based on one’s actions, then Jack Phillips—the Colorado baker who is facing jail time for discrimination—is guilty as charged. He has openly admitted that he will bake a cake for an opposite-sex commitment ceremony (which, if sexual orientation be a choice, renders its participants straight), but he will not bake a cake for a same-sex commitment ceremony (which renders its participants gay).

The point is that if it‘s impossible for a gay person to be in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, and it is also impossible for a straight person to to be in a relationship with someone of the same sex, then denying cakes to same-sex couples is discriminatory against gays. However, even though Mr. Phillips is clearly guilty, there is no crime to be prosecuted, because being gay is clearly a choice that one makes and thus not subject to nondiscrimination law.

So, if Scenario 1 be true, then Fair to All’s assertion is also true and Mr. Phillips’ rights must be protected.

Scenario 2: Sexual Orientation Is Not a Choice.

If sexual orientation is an immutable personal characteristic, something hardwired into one’s psyche, then a gay person who chooses to enter into a “traditional” (opposite-sex) relationship does not cease to be gay; and a straight person who chooses to enter into a same-sex relationship does not cease to be straight. Again, I suspect this is the position taken by most people in MBB.

If this be the case, then the validity of the lawsuit against Phillips is based entirely on whether he would offer services to straight people that are not available to gays. This could be shown in one of two ways:

a) We could establish that if a gay person asked him to bake a graduation cake, he would refuse; if a gay person asked him to bake a baptismal cake, he would refuse; etc..


b) We could establish that if a straight person asked him to bake a cake for a same-sex commitment ceremony, he would not refuse the request.

Barring either of the above criteria, Mr. Phillips is clearly not discriminating based on personal characteristics. If there is no service he would provide to a straight person that he would not provide to a gay person, there is no discrimination against persons and thus, no violation.

So, if Scenario 2 be true, then Fair to All’s assertion is also true and Mr. Phillips’ rights must be protected.

If anyone can come up with a third scenario, please post it in the comments. I’m more than happy to listen! Otherwise, I think I have sufficiently shown that Fair to All is anything but “anti-equality”; on the contrary, it is performing a great work for humanity, protecting otherwise helpless individuals from persons who use the word “equality” as code for “bigotry.”

As always, my 2¢.

Update: check out Part II!