Catholic Blogger: Selling Gay People Flowers for a Wedding is Like Selling Bank Robbers a Bag for the Money

Rebecca Hamilton, a fellow Patheos blogger, recently posted about a small business owner in Washington (state) who is being sued for refusing to provide flowers for a wedding.

As you might expect, the only reason she denied the couple in question flowers for their wedding is because they happened to be gay. Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts in Richland, claimed that she had no problem selling flowers to LGBT people… as long as it’s not for a gay wedding because that would involve “actively participating in something that just about all traditional Christians consider sinful.” As a result, she’s countersuing the state saying that her constitutional rights were violated.

I bring this up not to rehash the story of a Christian business owner who discriminates against LGBT people, but to point out Hamilton’s awful logic in defending Stutzman. To illustrate how damaging it is for a Christian to “participate” in a gay wedding by selling them flowers, Hamilton uses this analogy:

if someone who was getting ready to rob [a] bank came into your store and wanted to buy a carton of milk for their lunch, selling them the milk would not make you part of their bank robbing. However, if they asked you to sell them a bag for the money, and they told you it would be used in a bank robbery, you would be part of the crime.

I am not equating bank robbery with gay marriage. They are entirely different. I just used that as an illustration.

It’s an absurd illustration, though, only partly because the flowers are more akin to the milk since you don’t need flowers for the wedding. (Of course, gay marriage isn’t a crime in Washington either.)

There are plenty of things that Christians participate in that they would generally consider sinful — it’s not like you see Christian waiters refusing to serve food (gluttony!) or Christian gas station workers refuse to sell a lottery ticket (greed!)… The court will be the one to decide to the legality of this matter, but even if Stutzman got off the hook, that wouldn’t make her actions right.

When you run a business, you can’t deny certain people services because of your religious beliefs — remember the florists who refused to deliver flowers to Jessica Ahlquist?

Even other Christian florists don’t seem to mind providing services for other “sinful” things. They’re happy to provide cakes for divorces, Pagan celebrations, and getting awarded a stem cell research grant. Everything, it seems, except gay weddings. The cherry picking is astounding.

When I asked Andrew Seidel of the Freedom From Religion Foundation about the discrimination at play here, he had this to say:

There are two things to understand on this issue. First, the State’s case against the florist are brought under civil rights law, not the Constitution. There is a federal civil rights law and each state has an equivalent. The laws are fairly simple: if you run a business (place of public accommodation), you cannot discriminate against customers based on race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc. (Laws spell out which classes and constitution adds protection in some cases).

It makes sense: if you can refuse to deliver flowers to an atheist or homosexual, you can refuse to sell them gas, or sell them food, or give them a room on a cold night, or give them medical care.

In this case, the State is suing this florist for her actions (refusing to serve all customers equally). They are not punishing or inhibiting her right to believe. Put simply, if she wishes to engage in the secular business of selling flowers, she must obey our secular laws.

Hamilton also points out that there are *other* flower shops that the LGBT community could go to that would be more than willing to honor their requests. But that’s besides the point; just because she feels uncomfortable with a certain class of customers doesn’t give her the right to deny them services she would offer everyone else.

About Kelley Freeman

Kelley is a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina. She is a former president of the Secular Student Alliance at the University of South Carolina and a former intern for both SSA and Foundation Beyond Belief. Kelley is also a board member for both Camp Quest South Carolina and the Carolinas Secular Association, a Volunteer Network Coordinator for the southeastern region for the SSA, runs a vlog series called Secular Start Up, sometimes does stand up comedy and can crochet like a fiend. She's on her way to becoming a Jane of All Trades. Follow her on twitter @ramenneedles

  • anon

    Just to play devil’s advocate, what about the other side of things? What if an pro-choice florist were asked to create floral arrangements as part of an anti-abortion rally?

    I’m not saying it is right to deny services, I’m just asking what you would do in that situation?

    • Kelley

      Provide the flowers?

    • compl3x

      They could counter by saying that creating a floral arrangement for an anti-abortion group would be like putting a gun in the hand of someone who is going to assassinate an abortion doctor!

      Wait. That makes no sense… Oh well, at least it is consistant with the theme of this topic!

      • Spuddie

        It could be worse.

        Another analogy would be that its like selling its like selling K-Y jelly to a Catholic priest.

    • Sven2547

      The article-that-you-did-not-read cites civil rights law. You may not discriminate based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and so forth. Is it against the law to discriminate based on political affiliation?

      • JWH

        In some jurisdictions, yes.

        • velveteenRabbit

          can you cite those jurisdictions?

          • JWH

            No. But I can provide a link to a Volokh Conspiracy post that highlights a few jurisdictions with such laws:

            http://www.volokh.com/2009/12/16/discrimination-against-nazis-in-public-accommodations/

            • unclemike

              Nazi = political affiliation?

              • JWH

                Nazi = political affiliation?

                Irrelevant to the point for which I cited the article.

                • unclemike

                  Oh, sorry, I just assumed an article titled “Discrimination Against Nazis In Public Accommodations” was about discrimination against Nazis.

              • 3lemenope

                Generally speaking, yes.

    • DKeane123

      I would sell them the flowers and donate the proceeds to Planned Parenthood. I would probably let the customer know about it after they had finalized the sale.

      • allein

        I like the way you think.

        Edit: arrange for PP to send them a thank you note?

        • DKeane123

          Thanks – As long as they knew where the money went.

    • Ross the Boss

      It’s not illegal, to my knowledge, to deny service to people based on their political leanings or beliefs.

      As to what you do, I guess it depends on what kind of business you’re looking to run. And how important a role your personal beliefs will play into your choices.

    • Michael W Busch

      What if an pro-choice florist were asked to create floral arrangements as part of an anti-abortion rally?

      Anti-abortion activists are not a legally-protected class. I suppose you could argue that they should be, but that wouldn’t make much sense.

      Also, your analogy is bad. Providing material for personal use isn’t the same as providing material to be used for political activism.

    • unclemike

      Anti-abortionists aren’t covered by non-discrimination clauses. Gay people are.

  • baal

    “there are *other* flower shops that the LGBT community could go to”
    If history can be used to show the range of usual behavior, those “other” shops would be pressured to stop serving the LGBT community. Separate never winds up being equal.

    • Tom

      The response to crap like that is “Would you serve them if there *weren’t* any other shops?” More subtly, would it be fair if you could refuse to serve someone if there was more than one shop in your location, but in other locations where there was only one shop they weren’t allowed to refuse service? The only option that is truly fair, to both vendors *and* customers, that also prevents refusal of service where only bigoted shops exist is to prohibit such vendor discrimination everywhere, regardless of whether there is another shop they could go to.

    • ortcutt

      When I hear them say this, all I hear in my head is someone in Alabama circa 1963 saying that blacks should eat at their own restaurants. Do they just not get the whole idea of civil rights laws?

    • Stev84

      In some small communities there may actually be only one place to get a certain type of goods.

  • JP

    Sigh…I am from Richland and this has been a pretty hot topic here. While many people think of Washington State as liberal the eastern side of the state is one of the most conservative places I have ever lived. It is a hostile place to be an atheist, gay or even an non-majority religion (unless you are LDS). If you want to see religious bigotry against gays in its most hate filled form I encourage you to visit the local newspapers website (Tri-City Herald) and read the comments on the various opinion pieces written about this there. Regardless of personal beliefs in the end it really comes down to did she break the law? Yes, yes she did.

    • Michael W Busch

      I have been told about how conservative eastern Washington is, based on the experience of my wife and in-laws.

      The Tri-City Herald opinion pages are indeed quite disturbing.

      • JP

        Imagine, those people are actually restraining themselves. The reality is that staying in the closet (as atheist/gay/ect) is almost a necessity here. I have known people who were outed that lost their jobs, friend and/or family because of it. I know most people would say good riddance but the real world is never that black/white.

        • velveteenRabbit

          my niece confided to my daughter that she wanted to leave the church a few years ago (my brother married into LDS and is now more devout than his wife….). When she broke this news to her family, they were horrible about it. She was pestered and isolated and sent to (LDS) counselors, etc. She finally acquiesced and said she would stay LDS. Again, confiding in my daughter, she said she was just doing it to get everyone off her back and that once she was done with college, she was getting the f*ck out of dodge….

      • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

        I once lived in Moses Lake, it’s the dead center of Eastern Washington, went to the library looking for some science fiction to read, and some philosophy. CS Lewis and Tim LaHaye made up most of the sci-fi section. A smattering of Calvin and J.P. Moreland and a few other Xian philosophers were pretty much the only philosophy books available.

    • velveteenRabbit

      *sigh*… I, too, am from the Tri-Cities. It seems like it’s gotten even worse with the conservatism and ultra-religiousness than it was in the 70/80s when I was growing up there. I am acquainted with one of the gentlemen being denied service by Arlenes (oh, if i could only take back the money I’ve spent over the years there on boutineers, funeral flowers, etc.) and it just makes me sick. He is a wonderful person who is highly involved in helping others in the community, particularly at-risk youth… he is an asset to the area. Stutzman, on the other hand, is an old fossil who needs to move out of the state if she doesn’t like the laws here.

      I’m so glad that I moved out of that area many years ago…. i would never want to raise my children there.

  • A3Kr0n

    Isn’t it time to move off Patheos and it’s 14 web trackers?

    • C Peterson

      I suggest you use Ghostery. Patheos kind of sucks, but you’re always going to want to participate in places that aren’t well designed, or which are intrusive. Best just to lock down your browser and don’t worry about it.

      • A3Kr0n

        Ghostery is how I knew there were 14 trackers. I have to enable three of them in order to use Discus comments.

        • Rob U

          Another good one to use is NoScript, though it can be a bit tough using either Ghostery or NoScript when trying to figure out just what scripts to allow to get the minimum required to actually use a site.

          I miss the old Web 1.0 pre-alpha days when Netscape was this newfangled thing just coming out. And I really miss NNTP and those lovely Usenet groups; remember when discussions were threaded and you could spot replies easily without having to reread an entire thread again?

      • Carmen Sandiego

        Love Ghostery. Using it right now.

  • jdm8

    So she thinks she would be an accessory to the “crime” of same sex marriage? She probably wonders why not everyone takes her beliefs seriously.

    Who knew that flowers were such serious business? Send them to the wrong people and you’ll go to hell!

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

      If you look at the photo, her store has a steeple on it! I think that’s already taking the flower business way too seriously.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Eh? *fumbles for glasses* That’s not even symmetrical. What IS that?

        • Space Cadet

          Makes you wonder if the owner realizes the steeple isn’t…(wait for it)…straight.

  • David Mock

    Yeah sorry but you guys are in the wrong. Do I agree with flower lady? Absolutely not. But it’s their choice who to serve at her establishment and the lawsuit was just a stupid idea.

    • Michael W Busch

      No. You are the one who is wrong here.

      Washington state law specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The florist broke the law. Hence the lawsuit.

      There is currently a proposed exemption to the anti-discrimination law being argued, which would allow people to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. But that exemption is a bad idea for several different reasons, which Seidel describes.

      • Amor DeCosmos

        I would love to discriminate against people based on their religious beliefs. ;)

        • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

          because those people are offending your “thoughtfully reasoned ethical assertions?”

    • Spuddie

      She does not run a private members only club. She is selling wares to the general public. She doesn’t get to make those kinds of decisions about her customers.

      • David Mock

        Yes she does.

        • grindstone

          You are confusing the “we reserve the right to refuse business” idea and the law of protected classes. She might have been okay had she said, “I don’t like John Doe, or John’s family, and I will not sell to him. He is a disruptive customer and he kicked my dog.” John Doe is not a protected class.

          But to say, I will not sell to you based on your color, your religion or in this case, your sexuality, is against the law, and she has no leg to stand on. A good lawyer will likely make hash of her other business practices; for instance does she sell to the local fishmonger (shellfish), or people with tattoos, or divorcees, or children who do not honor their parents. It’s all there in the same book.

          • Carmen Sandiego

            Also, she’s had a longstanding patron/business owner relationship with this guy and she knew he was gay and in a relationship…and likely sleeping with the guy. So…okay to sell flowers to a guy probably sleeping with someone outside wedlock, but the moment they decide to get legally married you say “No.”? WTF?

    • velveteenRabbit

      I’m sorry, but you are in the wrong and are ignorant of Washington State law.

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

      In many of the cases the discrimination occurs as an after thought. Deals, agreements, contracts are made and signed and then “truth” is revealed and the shop owner, retailer, restaurant owner decides to discriminate. There are a thousand ways to refuse service but doing so after the fact is what will get you busted. Nuisance laws don’t apply in this case.

  • Rick

    If we allow this to go on, people in the south will be denied their rights or refuse service in restaurants because of their skin color. This is something that will get out of hand if we start giving business the power to discriminate. Businesses are here to serve people, and not try to punish people for not living by someone’s beliefs system or use to push out a particular agenda. Nobody or business should have the power to step on someone’s civil rights because that is something that is guaranteed to every citizen of America.

    • Kelley

      There are racists elsewhere than just the south.

      • TheG

        Sure. And there are bank robbers everywhere. But there are more bank robbers in prison (for some reason) than anywhere else.

      • Rick

        You are right Kelley, they are, but the bible belt is where you see the most racist acts as they use the bible to justify their corrupt act.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          The South and the Bible Belt aren’t the same thing. I personally know people in Buffalo, Albany and Cincinnati who get routinely pulled over for Driving While Black in the wrong neighborhood… which is to say, their own neighborhoods, because they have the temerity to live near white folks.

  • Alice

    I can’t control how people will use the things they buy from me. My job is to work the cash register, not interrogate them. If they are dumb enough to tell me they are going to do something illegal, then I can call the police when the coast is clear. As long as the transaction is done legally, blaming the cashier or business owner is ridiculous.

  • Amor DeCosmos

    What if a Ku Klux Klan member was asked to provide flowers for a black wedding. He could totally refuse because it goes against his deeply held beliefs, right? Right?

    • JP

      I am so stealing this analogy.

    • Spuddie

      Prior to 1964.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      Wasn’t there a famous singer who died because no hospital in the area where she got sick would admit a black patient?

      I think people overerstimate the common decency of bigots.

      • Spuddie

        That and the guy who invented the process of separating plasma from whole blood. Died bleeding to death while trying to find a hospital which would admit him.

  • flanoggin

    Can a christian clerk at a CVS refuse to sell condoms to a customer if against their beliefs? Can a vegetarian county clerk deny a hunting license based on their beliefs? sigh…..

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

      We had a Marriage License clerk here in Seattle refuse to grant licenses but she walked off her job with out much fuss and little media attention.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      I was just thinking that statistics overwhelmingly suggest that Rebecca Hamilton would pitch a shit-fit if a pharmacist refused to sell contraception to her because she’s Catholic.

      • Carmen Sandiego

        This, right here. You know it.

  • allein

    How does selling someone flowers make you a “participant” in their wedding ceremony? You’re selling them some decorations. Deliver the flowers and leave; nobody’s asking you to stay and be a witness to the marriage certificate.

    • McAtheist

      We must find these other willing participants in a gay wedding in order to properly name and shame them.

      The caterer and everyone who worked for the caterer, the food and liquor distributors who supplied the caterer, the rental company who rented glasses, cutlery, napkins and the chocolate fountain, the limo driver, the tailor who fitted the tuxedo’s, the stationer who sold them wedding invitations, the U.S. mail who delivered the invitations (what were they thinking? Surely they should check the mail to make sure there are no gay wedding invitations!), the local newspaper who printed a wedding notice, the kid who delivered the newspapers, the hotel that rented them the honeymoon suite, the airline that flew them to their honeymoon destination, the taxi driver that took them to the airport, the travel agent who booked their flights.

      Any one of them could have stepped up to try and prevent this abomination! But none did, only the florist had the courage to stand up for god. I hope all you other ‘participants’ in this crime against god and nature are suitably ashamed of yourselves.

  • Jason Hinchliffe

    I’m not sure I agree with this. Part of me feels public reaction would serve a far better than legal action. If a business wants to refuse service to someone based on race/gender/sexual orientation/etc. I can’t help but feel its their right. Conversely, it is also our right to make sure they are run up the flagpole of public opinion, that their sales suffer for it and their reputation. They will be forced to change or suffer. Objections of these sorts should be covered before positions are offered. Dr. refuse to help gay patient? Good. Hospitals should bar them for failing to be able to provide care adequately to all possible patients. Have fun at your private practice serving only your shrinking Christian community. I don’t like legislating what people can and can’t do with their own business.

    • kagekiri

      That leaves minorities in particularly bigoted areas high and dry.

      Relying on public reaction/punishment to ensure rights and equality is far too trusting of the public’s morality and ethics across the nation.

      • Jason Hinchliffe

        You’re right, we should legislate morality. I trust politicians for that task.

        • kagekiri

          You’re missing the point, badly.

          Legislate CIVIL RIGHTS, not all morality. Don’t pretend this is the same thing.

          You really think public pressuring alone against the racist segregation of the past would’ve accomplished much in a culture full of racism? You don’t mind leaving people exposed to that crap while waiting multiple generations for mindsets to magically change?

          That seems like a profound blindness to the past and rather blatant callousness about the plight of minorities still dealing with this kind of crap in the present.

          • Jason Hinchliffe

            First, I can’t stand when people capitalize things for emphasis. I could’ve read that in standard type and perfectly understood your nuance. It’s very easy to trot out amorphous statements like “CIVIL RIGHTS” and cry that they need to be defended, but please, come up with a good legal definition. Do we force Catholic Priests to perform gay weddings? Aren’t they allowed to conscientiously object? If so, why is a the flower lady not allowed to? Where do we draw the line? So as much as I appreciate civil rights cheer leading (and apparently the community does to) your entire argument is essentially sugary vacuous blathering. Unless you have some substantive argument I don’t see how your response adds any value. I think you have a profound blindness to the true scale of this conversation and the externalities it creates. You’re also completely blind to the change in our environment by trotting out the past as if it is a perfect parallel to the present, which it clearly is not.

            • Spuddie

              Since when is civil rights amorphous? When you don’t want to acknowledge their existence. It is well defined under the law. Laws which that store owner chose to ignore at her own peril.

              We have personal liberties enshrined in our laws because the majority can’t be trusted to protect the rights of the minorities. They vote such things down if they had the power and usually do. Civil rights are not morality, it is keeping people from stripping the dignity and personal autonomy of others under the color of law. They do not eliminate bigotry. They just make it harder for bigotry to have the force of law.

              Trotting out the strawman of the priests being forced to performing weddings is clear proof you are not interested in an honest discussion. Like all bad analogies there are clear factual and situational differences between a clergyman and the owner of a store which serves the general public.

              • Jason Hinchliffe

                Spuddie, what you are referring to is called the Tyranny of the Majority, and the constitution is the answer to that issue. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Further your abuse of the “Straw Man” (which is now the most easily abused of logical fallacies) is terribly flawed. Its not a straw man. A straw man is a false parallel. The entire point of my example was that these things were not parallel. I asked “where do we draw the line”. They are two distinct but related issues. My argument acknowledges that, hence, no straw man. A better response (but its one you can’t just knee-jerk out) is to define the line. There, suddenly, we have a point for debate. Of course, I don’t think the line can be effectively defined, hence I do not think it worth doing.

                Further, all rights are moral constructs.The only non moral right is might.

                Finally, let me say, the biggest issue I have with all of you who are harping on my position, is you fail to engage the nuance and debate. It’s just a constant stream of posturing and pontificating.

                • Spuddie

                  Actually a strawman is an argument against a fictitious proposition. Yours being that priests will be forced to perform gay marriages against their faith. Nobody is suggesting such things except as something to rail against. It is a phony position.

                  “Where one draws the line” is like most issues, dependent on the individual facts. Slippery slope arguments are used by people who want to avoid discussion of the facts and engage in hypothetical nonsense.

                  Rights are not moral constructions. They are legal constructs. They have the force of law behind them. Rights are permissions under the law. Actions which are either circumscribed or protected based on notions of personal autonomy. The only moral concern being that some things are not in the purview of the government to control. Individuals require certain things to live with a measure of dignity and sanity.

                  You fail to provide an honest discussion on the facts and engage in useless and phony sophistry to cover up such dishonesty. You have a position which is not really defensible on its own merits and are dancing around it.

                • Jason Hinchliffe

                  What “facts” are you proposing Spuddie? You mention that I like to avoid them, but you haven’t proposed any that actually run counter to my very clearly defined position.

                  Rights are codified in law, but their base is in morality. Though, I guess such distinctions are just “phony sophistry”?

                  Can you please point out where I suggest priests will be forced to perform gay marriages? I’ve made no such “slippery slope” argument, but rather, have posited that people should be allowed to be assholes, and suffer the consequences for it individually.

                • Spuddie

                  Proposing? How about the facts of the article? How about the facts of anti-discrimination laws?

                  It has nothing to do with what a clergyman does as part of their sacramental rites. But bringing it up in discussion was a great way to avoid the subject at hand.

                  So now you go from saying we don’t legislate morality (but should) to saying laws are legislated morality. Classic bullshit flipflop.

                  Laws do not have their base in morality. They have their base in societal needs. Laws may be moral but morals are not laws. Morality is personal in nature, laws are societal. Laws against murder, theft and forms of lying (fraud, perjury and defamation) suit needs for public order and social interactions. They are not only moral, but useful, rational and secular as well. There is neither morality nor rational and secular societal needs given to opposing marriage equality.

                  “Do we force Catholic Priests to perform gay weddings? Aren’t they allowed to conscientiously object? If so, why is a the flower lady not allowed to?”

                  You made the strawman argument and slippery slope argument here. Are you done lying?

                • Jason Hinchliffe

                  A slippery slope contends that one can lead to another. I’ve made no such suggestion, and I don’t think it does in this case. A strawman once again posits a false equivalence. My argument does not posit that. My question looks to highlight the differences. So no, I’m not done lying, as I never started. Are you done being stupid?

                  Answer the fucking question – why is a priest allowed to abstain from participating but the flower lady isn’t? What is the legal rationale behind this?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Churches are not, and never have been, public accommodations. Businesses are.

                • Jason Hinchliffe

                  You’ve got it backwards. Churches, by receiving tax exemption, are far more public than a privately held business. Further, a business is not an accommodation, it is an enterprise. If it were a taxpayer funded public service I would have a very different opinion.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Nono, you’re arguing common sense. Silly Jason, I’m arguing law here. Religions get a great many accommodations, exceptions, and exemptions in the law, for various traditional reasons that don’t actually make a lot of sense. Also a fair bit about the First Amendment and trying to keep government out of churches (and vice versa, not that churches live up to their end of that implicit bargain). The US government is not constitutionally obligated not to regulate or entangle itself with businesses, though. Businesses are considered public places that must not discriminate against their customers. It’s part of 14th Amendment equal protection jurisprudence.

                  So a person who starts a business is legally obligated to not discriminate against certain classes of people; people of ‘alternate’ sexual orientation are a protected class in many states. That means the flower seller broke the law and should be held responsible for it. Churches, on the other hand, are not covered by nondiscrimination laws, so they can feel free to discriminate at will.

                • Jason Hinchliffe

                  Ok, from a legal standpoint, I get your argument, and it is correct. I believe I already said as much. From what I understand, there is a State Law preventing private businesses from discriminating against customers, and the equal protection clause extends that automatically to all classes of citizen. I get that.

                  What it doesn’t respond to though, is my feeling that perhaps, we should just let people be assholes. I’m pretty sure the assholes are outnumbered. In fact, perhaps if we let the markets do the job, we’d get deeper more meaningful change. Maybe it would take longer, but it would be real rather than forced. I mean, if I were in that area right now, I’d be opening a flower shop next door with a big sign in the window saying “WE WELCOME ALL COLOURS, RELIGIONS AND SEXUAL ORIENTATIONS! SHE DOESN’T —–>” and sucking up the profit. Maybe that’s cynical. Maybe it does lead to slow plodding change. However, I feel that forcing people doesn’t really effect change, it only makes them bitter, and more stoic in their beliefs.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Eh, we’ve tried it that way before. It was a pretty miserable failure (see: Jim Crow). What if there aren’t any other options, like in small towns? What if there’s severe peer pressure to not serve a certain type of person? The problem with not mandating nondiscrimination is that sometimes, discrimination is so widespread that means no service for some people at all. Markets are just manifestations of society which are made up of people. If the people are irrational about something, the market won’t fix it. People who tried to serve African-Americans in the South often went out of business through losing all their white business (whites, of course, being where the majority of the money and power was) or through severe peer pressure tactics (stop being egalitarian or we’ll burn down your shop).

                  Additionally, laws create as well as support norms. One of the best ways to get a norm into people’s heads is to enact it into law. Nondiscrimination is a norm that should be supported and encouraged, so it should be law.

                • Jason Hinchliffe

                  I understand that, but this, is in fact a strawman (pay attention Spuddie). The social climate of the 50′s and 60′s is very different than the climate we have today. The advent of the internet has forever, fundamentally changed the way we interact with each other and share information. Although I agree in small towns you will likely find issues, it seems that is a minority of people, and the large urban centers are the catalysts for social change. In other words, although there may be a small number of people who suffer, the larger majority would benefit from the natural selection of more liberal behaviour. In short, deeper more meaningful social change may be worth the cost.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  I disagree completely. There are still a lot of people in small rural towns (note: my view may be skewed by living in Texas), and rights are called rights for a reason. They are, by definition, not supposed to be dependent on how the majority feels or wants to act. Putting a right at the whims of the majority is a bad, bad precedent to set.

                  Plus, I really think you are underestimating the power of law to set norms. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 were triumphs in part because they meant the federal government recognized people’s rights and was going to make sure they were respected. It sent a strong signal to the bigots that their views were no longer acceptable. Legal equality tells people that their discrimination is wrong. People respond to that sort of moral calculus and/or to the punishments in the law. Conversely, no law against it means discrimination is seen as societally acceptable. It takes a generation or two to really sink in, but deep meaningful social change happens because of legal equality, not in spite of it. You can’t have one without the other.

    • velveteenRabbit

      She owns the store. And she is being sued by the state of washington because she violated the civil rights of the couple. It is quite clear in state law that you CAN NOT use religion as a cloak for discrimination.

      • Jason Hinchliffe

        Holy shit, you capitalized. My argument is rendered invalid.

    • PoodleSheep

      Is it also a business’s right to dump toxic waste into the nearest stream? Just let public opinion sort that out too? Let them keep breaking the law until enough people get fed up with it? There’s a law being broken, so the state is punishing for it. As has been mentioned, if you provide services to the public, you have to follow the laws, even if you disagree with them. She can turn it into a members-only club if she’s that concerned.

      • Jason Hinchliffe

        Really? That is hands down the worst analogy I have ever read, and there are 5 other colossally uncritical people who have thumbed you up. Obviously (well, not to you) dumping toxic waste into a fresh water supply like a river or stream, is directly damaging other people by compromising their health and safety, which is a violation of the very principles American society was founded on. Good one.

        • PoodleSheep

          Talk about uncritical, you just can’t seem to fathom that laws like non-discrimination were passed by people who were voted for by the public, and generally supported by that same public. The very principles American society was founded on said slavery was OK and women can’t vote. Public opinion, backed by law, changed these attributes. Public opinion created laws that prohibit dumping of toxic waste into water supplies. If the only consequence to a business is that they’ll lose customers, do you REALLY think they will care about safety? If so, why is it that polluting companies didn’t start cleaning up until forced to do so by law? Good one indeed.

    • Martinrc

      Doesn’t matter what would have a better effect, the store applied for a business license in the state so they have to abide by the law. They didn’t follow the law for business to not discriminate, so they will have legal action taken against them.

      • Jason Hinchliffe

        In a related story, the sky is blue. No one is discussing this from a purely legal perspective.

    • Phil

      Would you feel the same way if that business was an apartment building and the landlord refused service to someone based on his/her beliefs, or a realtor, or a clinic, or hospital, etc.?

      • Jason Hinchliffe

        Realtor, yes. Apartment building? Yes, insofar as he receives zero public money, tax incentive or subsidy. Hospital/Clinic? No. Those are basic human needs, and refusing service would potentially be harming someone’s well being. There is a clear and distinct line.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      That used to be how the law worked and we had whites only lunch counters and things like that. Most of us thought that was bad and passed a federal law. I think it’s naive to think that customers could just go somewhere else if they were refused service or that societal pressure would eventually create the change without any legal coercion, but I grew up in East Texas and I have relatives who had to fight to get their (national) company to allow them to hire workers who weren’t white (and only did so under a court order). It was a horrible time for a lot of people and not one I’d like to see return for anyone.

      • Jason Hinchliffe

        You can’t go back. Modern values and the ability to share and organize digitally are not going to vanish because we allow people to be bigots. I believe the social price would be very steep for these people. Vote me down all you want, but I support a persons right to be however they wish so long as they do not harm a 3rd party. Not selling a gay couple flowers for their wedding does not count as harm. Charging a gay couple more would. Those laws may have served a purpose to speed up a worthwhile agenda, however, I question if they are truly necessary anymore.

        • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

          In some areas, that is probably true. there are certainly others that would be thrilled to go back to segregation and would do so if they had the chance. I hope you are from one of the more enlightened parts of the country. Lucky for you. Some people are stuck in a less progressive region because of employment or family responsibilities. They shouldn’t have to be treated like crap until they can manage to move.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Back when we used to do things that way, black people died because hospitals would refuse to take them in, instead referring them to the BLACK hospital 20, 30 or 50 miles away.

      • Jason Hinchliffe

        Well CL, that’s a violation of the hippocratic oath. If a Dr. is unwilling to treat someone, they shouldn’t be a Dr. in the first place. So, we never “used to do things that way”, we simply didn’t have awareness. Try opening a “Whites Only” restaurant these days and see how many customers you get. My point is, where do we draw the line? What about Christian Wedding Officiants? Do we force them to marry gay couples? Why are they allowed to object, but a flower shop isn’t? Direct participation versus indirect?

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Yes, we did do things that way. It was public knowledge, and it was considered normal, even among those who took and understood the oath.

          Try claiming that gays are oppressing your chicken sandwich chain, when you are the one spending eight million dollars specifically to slander them and even push to have them imprisoned and executed where you think you can get away with it, and see how many customers you get. It’s a big number. Libertarian ideals don’t work for the same reason that Communism doesn’t work: they aren’t grounded in actual human behavior. It’s very easy for a bigot to stay in business, even today, because bigotry has actually been forced by changes in societal mores to develop more sophisticated rationalizations and deceptions in order to survive. Mass societal aversion to racial discrimination did not inspire laws against it; it was mainly the other way around. A majority of people had to be dragged forward by the courts, which is something we see over and over again. It isn’t hard to imagine race relations backsliding if such laws suddenly didn’t exist. We’re barely nudging forward as it is, and the Internet alone shows us that there are a metric fuckton of bigots who only mostly behave because they are being made to do so.

          Church services are generally open to church members, not the public at large, and they decide who is a member. This is how, for instance, country clubs or the Boy Scouts get away with discrimination. They can set the rules for admission and play it that way (Yes, I know. It amounts to the same behavior.) A drive-through chapel is open to the public, and would be subject to discrimination laws.

          Since some churches will rent out space or services to non-members, I suppose maybe one could sue them for discrimination if they refused a gay wedding, but in practice, they have ways around that (complicated, strict scheduling for instance) and you won’t likely win a civil suit. They’ll claim First Amendment protection, and everyone will see it as nothing more than an attempt to troll the church and set up a lawsuit (which is all it would be, since nobody just randomly chooses a hostile venue for their wedding.)

  • ZeldasCrown

    I think there’s a distinction to be made between selling whatever you want vs choosing to not sell your wares to a specific subsection of the population. When I first heard about this case, I saw many commentators confusing the two. If I own a store that only sells women’s shoes, that’s fine, but I need to sell to anyone who enters, regardless of whether they are a woman or not. If I own a religious bookstore, that’s fine, but I have to sell the books to anyone who walks in the door, regardless if they are Christian, atheist, gay, straight, whatever. The goods being sold don’t have to be applicable to everyone, but anybody who walks in the door, whether they are the intended recipients or not, is allowed to make a purchase.

    Honestly, once I sell something to somebody, I couldn’t care less what they do with it. It’s not longer my property and no longer my concern.

  • MD

    I doubt this florist checks to see that her customer isn’t buying flowers in the hope it will lead to premarital sex. Or if a married guy is looking for a bouquet for his mistress.

  • Tobias2772

    I don’t get it. It’s OK to sell flowers to gays ( isn’t that the christian sin ?) but not if they are getting married ?? Is it the being gay that jebus hates or is it the making a life-long committment to someone you love ???

    • MD

      Jesus cries because gay men are no longer shamed into staying in the closet and so don’t feel like the priesthood is their only chance at a good social standing.

      • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

        You hit the nail on the head there.

      • Tobias2772

        You’d think that a guy tough enough to stand up to a crucifiction would be able to better handle a few gay people getting married. Hey jebus, cowboy up !!

        • pRinzler

          “Hey jebus, cowboy up !!”

          You hit the nail on the head there. (thanks, Tanner)

  • Carmelita Spats

    Catholic bloggers with atrocious analogies? Their analogies don’t have enough clothes on to wad a shotgun. Always and forever. Since we’re rounding up the tropes, it’s those allegories-gone-wild that make them swallow their God in cookie form. Ask wide-eyed Jesus. He runs scared from sharp-toothed, literal-minded, and super enthused devotees. Nobody likes to be eaten.

  • L.Long

    And what is wrong with selling bags to bank robbers? And just how do you know they are using the bags to rob a bank?

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

    This is ludicrous but on the other-side of the coin, this florist must be doing pretty good in this slow economy to be cherry-picking her customers and risking public backlash for it.

    • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

      Either that or she’s assuming she will get lots of added business from other militant Christianists, after having made a spectacle of herself.

      • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

        Well I’m sure she is now, considering the many displays of backslapping and high fives we often hear about, I wouldn’t be surprised if her email/post box isn’t being flooded with letters of admiration and christian patriotism.

        • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

          And plenty of rational people will be emailing her too, don’t worry about that.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    It occurs to me that Catholics who obsess over somehow being involved in somebody else’s gay weddings are just being self-centered. It’s as though the entire world revolves around them. They believe themselves to matter, much more than they do.

    Whether or not a gay couple gets flowers from a Catholic florist, can’t make their wedding happen, or not happen. It IS possible (really!) to get married without any flowers at all. Flowers won’t make or break the wedding.

    As for the analogy with bank robbery, again you see the self-obsession at work here. A gay wedding is a fully-legal event; a bank robbery is a crime. Catholics actually think that crossing their dogmatic line is the same as a crime. But … really?

    It’s time for Catholics — and even other kinds of Christians — who think the world revolves around what they subjectively think is permissible and not, need to grow up for once and stop being so self-involved. What other people do, as long as it’s legal, is none of their f-ing business, and they need to get their noses out of their lives just ’cause they feel entitled to get involved in them.

    • Alice

      “The Puritan’s idea of hell is a place where everybody has to mind his own business.’” -Quote from “The Damnation Of Theron Ware”

  • decathelite

    “I am not equating bank robbery with gay marriage. They are entirely different. I just used that as an illustration.”

    Yes you are. Yes you fucking are.

  • LesterBallard

    Eat shit and die, Barronelle Stutzman.

  • Stev84

    All the Catholic bloggers on Patheos are fucking nuts. If they didn’t mention Catholic-specific things now and then, you could not tell them apart from Protestant fundamentalists.

    • Anna

      It’s so weird because it’s the opposite of Catholics in real life. I’ve been wondering for a long time where all of these fundamentalist Catholics come from. Like, are they more prevalent in certain parts of the country? Certain age groups? Do they tend to gravitate towards certain schools or parishes? I’ve never met one, despite having attended a Catholic university and having numerous Catholics in my extended family.

      • Artor

        Exactly. Half my family is Catholic, and they’re all liberal union members, Democratic voters, pro-education, pro-mind-your-own-business on abortion, etc. I think they look at gay marriage as squicky, but it doesn’t affect them, so why would they want to vote against it? I can’t envision a single one of them supporting some kook like Bill Donohue, Wiiliam Lane Craig, etc.

    • Rob U

      All the Catholic bloggers on Patheos are fucking nuts.

      Its worse in Mrs. Hamilton’s case as she’s a sitting representative for the state of Oklahoma and clearly takes this attitude with her into the Legislature.

      When reading her site, which I do from time to time, I can’t help but wonder how often she disregards the First Amendment’s provision against the establishment of religion; when she writes articles stating that she’ll let God use her as he wishes during legislative sessions, its hard to imagine she’s making much of a concerted effort to honour her oath to uphold the Constitution.

      I’m not so worried about the rest of the Catholic bloggers, though I have to admit I haven’t spent much time looking at the Catholic portal (what I have read challenges my Cognitive Dissonance beyond limits), but in Mrs. Hamilton’s case I’m deeply troubled because she has some real power to push her religious agendas and, if her articles are any indication, has no qualms about doing so.

  • Robster

    Seems a belief in this god/jesus/holy spook nonsense does nasty things to people. Sad really.

  • Rain

    I never realized how much florists were an integral part of our civilization. But here we are again with their constitutional rights being at the forefront of societal development. They have more constitutional rights than J.J. Abrams has cheesy action films. The things we take for granted.

  • Kengi

    I see what she means.

    It’s kind of like Patheos giving Catholics a public forum. To use an analogy, if a priest who was getting ready to sexually abuse school children got a blog on Patheos and wanted to write about homophobia, giving them the forum would not make you part of their child abuse. However, if they asked the readers to suggest schools with a policy of hiding the abuse instead of reporting it, you would be part of the crime.

    I am not equating being Catholic with sexual abuse of children. They are entirely different. I just used that as an illustration.

  • Martin

    I am not too sure about Andrew Seidal’s comment about the person being in the “secular” business of selling flowers. How can we go through a person’s life and arbitrarily divide things into secular and non-secular – why is the business of selling flowers a secular thing?


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