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.


    Why should a business not be legally allowed to refuse service to an individual for bigoted reasons?
    One of the foundation principles of economics is that every transaction, every decision, occurs because it increases utility or well-being. It would be consider irrational, from the economist’s viewpoint, for two parties to do business if in the increasing of the first’s well-being it would be to the detriment to that of the other. This is referred as being Pareto efficient.
    A socially acceptable version of this is friends and family. If your parents were having technical problems and you having a fair bit of technical background offered to help, you probably wouldn’t charge them much, if any, money. You have gained utility in using your skills to help someone you love, they from having a fixed computer, and economics is satisfied. For your clients, they still gain utility from having a fixed computer, but your well-being demands some money (based on how much utility they are gaining) on top of a job well done. Still, however, an agreement is met and both sides are better off. The same services yet a different price because you needed more money in the second case for it to be Pareto efficient. Note that if service is refused by either party, both parties are better off; otherwise a suitable agreement would have been reached.
    To the bigot, doing something for someone he loathes would definitely be detrimental to his utility. Sure, the avoiding of the inevitable media whiplash, boycotts, etc. from the action (and currently anti-discrimination laws) would contribute to the amount of utility he would get from the transaction. He still could determine, however, that it would require more money (or no amount could and would refuse service) to meet the necessary utility for him to give the service. If upon raising the price the victim still feels it is his best interest to obtain the service than he can still do so or he can take his business elsewhere.

    Again, note that if service is refused by either party, both parties are better off; otherwise a suitable agreement would have been reached.

    Therefore, why should a business not be legally allowed to refuse service to an individual for bigoted reasons?

    1. Christopher,

      I am also against bigotry in all forms, which is exactly why I have posted these two blog entires. It’s horrific how much bigotry is levied against individuals such as Jack Phillips, whom as far as I can tell, want nothing more than to live according to the dictates of their own, respective consciences.

      So that being said, I respond to your question with two more:

      1) What gives you the idea that any of the victims listed on refused service for bigoted reasons?

      2) Is it okay for people to sue them for bigoted reasons?


    2. I am sorry that I might not have explained myself well. I was asking a theoretical question about hypothetical and not about any events or people, real or perceived.

      I am in total agreement of everything that has been stated explicitly in those two blog posts. I didn't not mean to imply any belief that anyone associated with has refused service for bigoted reason, and in particular, Jack Phillips. I agree that what has happened to him, as well as the many other business owners that have suffered due to the overreaching of anti-discrimination laws, is in direct contradiction to what those persecuting them claim to stand for.

      What I was hoping for was an intellectual discussion on if the government should intervene IF a hypothetical person (not based on anyone, real or otherwise) were to choose to refuse services for bigoted reasons based on the principle of economics and the governments theoretical role in governments. If it is found that the government shouldn't intervene in such events, then the case that you have made, while well stated, would be moot. If it is found that the government should intervene, then the case you have made is well-stated, valid, and I hope those working for Jack Phillips and others will learn from your case.

    3. Sorry that should have read "the government's theoretical role in economics."

  2. Thanks for the clarification, Christopher. That’s a very interesting point, one that I’m sure we could debate for quite a while. :-)