With marriage equality being decided at the Federal level by the Supreme Court the focus of this debate now shifts to the states. And while it may be some time before the legal challenges to state laws banning marriage equality start making headlines, the battle for equal rights for the LGBT community is already underway.
Across the country a number of private businesses, mainly those associated with the wedding industry, contend they have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. This is not true in cases covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which includes discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, but the line is less clear when it comes to sexual preference. A number of states have already addressed this ambiguity with state laws against any arbitrary discrimination but many other states will have such decisions made for them through the court system.
In many of these cases religious beliefs are the justification for the discrimination. In the state of Washington, for example, a florist has refused to provide service to a gay couple stating “I am sorry. I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ”. The florist also stated that this was the first time she had refused service in 37 years of business.
These two claims together are a giant red flag. The “sin” of homosexuality is no worse than any other sin discussed in the bible so the fact that this florist had never been compelled to refuse service to an obese person who could be suffering from the sin of gluttony or a person who is on their second or third marriage who may have been guilty of coveting thy neighbor’s wife suggests that this is not a person with strong moral convictions but a person who arbitrarily hides behind their faith to discriminate.
No one is arguing that these business owners are not entitled to their religious freedom. The point is that as a business operating with the general public there must be a business case for denying service and the owners religious beliefs are not one of them.