Requiring Businesses to Advertise Their Discrimination

Requiring Businesses to Advertise Their Discrimination March 23, 2015

As more and more states move to pass laws that would allow businesses to discriminate, some people are offering up what I think is a great idea: If they’re going to be allowed to discriminate, they should have to put up a sign announcing their intention to do so and to name those they will refuse to hire or serve.

Don’t want to serve gay people? Fine. But be straight about it.

That’s what some equal rights advocates are saying, as state lawmakers consider passing laws to protect business owners who don’t want gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender customers: Those business owners should post signs, stating who they’ll not do business with.

There’s a threefold benefit: Business owners with strongly held beliefs can state them loud and proud. Prospective LGBT patrons can avoid the frustration and inconvenience of being denied service. And those of us who want to can spend our money elsewhere.

It’s a practical suggestion advanced around the country by state lawmakers, and here in Michigan by the Satanic Temple of Detroit — get past the name, their points are well-made and valid — and it’s difficult to imagine on what grounds any business owner could object. If you believe it’s OK to deny service to individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity, why not say it? And if the idea of saying it, publicly and definitively, makes you uncomfortable — if the idea of hanging a sign in your business saying which groups of people aren’t welcome — well, maybe you should indulge in a little self-examination…

So say it.

If you’re out and gay, you live your authentic self every day. If you’re transgender, your very existence is political. If you’re a business owner who doesn’t want to do business with gay or transgender Michiganders, you should be as brave as those you refuse to serve.

I like that idea. To use a Biblical metaphor, don’t hide your light under a bushel basket, let it shine for all to see. If you truly believe that you’re being righteous in discriminating against gay people: “Say it out loud — I’m a bigot and I’m proud.”

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  • David C Brayton

    That is a really good idea. Wish I would have thought of it.

  • Kengi

    Satan 2, God 0

  • John Pieret

    The same thing happened in Oklahoma. Another of these bills was proposed (but has subsequently died in the Oklahoma House) and an amendment was offered that would:

    “Any person not wanting to participate in any of the activities set forth in subsection A of this section based on sexual orientation, gender identity or race of either party to the marriage shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites,” the amdnement to HB1371 states. “The notice may refer to the person’s religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which couples the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or race.”

    I like the touch that it has to be on any business’ website.

  • alanb

    How about this?

  • Holms

    Well… it’s a decent idea, but still a distant second to preventing them from discriminating in the first place.

  • DaveL

    While this might sound good for those areas of the country where regressive bigots are outliers who can successfully be shamed through social pressure, I can’t help but think there are some places in this country where the “Whites Only” signs would come right back out, with no consequences for the owners.

  • marcus

    “…it’s difficult to imagine on what grounds any business owner could object.”

    Not really. Most assholes resist either being identified, or identifying themselves, as such. It seems that they would rather discriminate privately (or be publicly martyred). It’s much better for business.

  • Friendly

    I’m very concerned that if these types of initiatives are allowed to succeed, there will be whole regions of the country where “WE DO NOT SERVE HOMOSEXUALS OR TRANSVESTITES” signs will be all over large swaths of towns’ business sectors (in particular, on rental and sale notices for housing). Why should LGBTQ people have to drive to the next county to find a restaurant or a place to live? Should we also allow pharmacies to post similar “BECAUSE OF OUR RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS, WE CANNOT FILL PRESCRIPTIONS FOR ABORTIFACIENTS” signs, forcing women who need Plan B to go long distances? Where does this kind of compromise with discrimination stop?

  • Donnie

    If I understand it, the GOP / Teabagger contingency did not support the requirement for businesses to display their bigotry because it made the business’ stand out. I believe that some business’ were putting Rainbow flags on their windows during the debates and business that did not support “teh gays” did not like the implications that they were bigots….something like that.

  • robertfaber

    I can’t wait for the James Brown impersonator to sing that parody song.

  • Echoing what Holms said — this just helps the bigots to legitimize their policies, by giving them a “bipartisan” pro-discrimination law that they can say is supported by both supporters and opponents of discrimination.

    And besides, this bill wouldn’t go far enough. People who want to discriminate should be required to announce their discrimination in every advertisement they have, in every medium, as well as on every Web site they use to advertise or do business. Putting up a sign in their front windows is nowhere near sufficient, since no one would see it until they actually get to the front door.

  • Sastra

    I agree with DaveL and Friendly. This idea needs more consideration.

    In many parts of the country these signs could have the opposite effect, in that if you DON’T have one you will “out” yourself as a liberal or heretic. I could definitely see the bigots deciding to take this attempt at shaming them and turn it to their advantage, flying these signs high, proud, and defiantly. Neighboring business owners who wouldn’t have had a problem servicing gay customers will then feel pressured to join in lest they lose business.

  • raven

    Where in the bible does it say not to serve gay people? Nowhere

    1. We are all sinners according to the magic book. Created sick and commanded to be well according to god’s plan and all that.

    2. This fundie xian preoccupation with gays is a newly evolved belief. It’s only a decade or two old. In the magic book, gays get a few lines here and there and that is it.

    And they are right up there with nonvirgin brides, adulterers, disobedient children, heretics, witches, sabbath breakers, and atheists. These are all death penalty crimes.

    What makes serving gays worse than serving adulterers, nonvirgin brides, witches, or atheists? In the bible they are equivalently bad.

    3. The fundie xians just need someone to hate. It’s the basis of their religion.

    No Hate = No Fundie Xianity

    And they aren’t very bright. There are other groups to hate and they are already dragging them up the To Hate list. Moslems and atheists are the new gays.

  • It wasn’t that long ago that people had no problem posting “Whites Only” signs, so I’m sure “Cis Straights Only” should be perfectly acceptable to them.

  • marcus

    I agree with all that say discrimination should not be tolerated in any form. The upcoming SCOTUS decision on marriage equality will, most likely, find these laws unconstitutional as well.

    I do think that adding the amendment requiring businesses to announce their bigotry is a useful tactic, because I don’t think most businesses would like to be required by law to advertise the fact that they are Chribigots.

  • samgardner

    “…it’s difficult to imagine on what grounds any business owner could object.”

    Oh,I have no doubt their imaginations will come up with something. After all, this is the same group that claimed that businesses which state they DON’T discriminate were somehow persecuting Christians.

  • Trebuchet

    I’m reminded of the “No Dogs or Indians” signs in my Montana childhood.

  • wreck

    As long as the sign they have to post is something like:






  • abb3w

    Sorry, I’m inclined to dislike the idea. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would seem to suggest that the 1950s “NO COLORED” signs were clearly insufficient; and bigot businesses seem likely to post such signs and consider it sufficient, rather than merely an utterly minimal necessary accommodation to public commerce.

  • Michael Heath

    Bad idea. We need to continue to work to turn-out the vote and use the courts to demand equal protection. We also need to start working to end tax subsidies for those organizations who discriminate against protected classes, including religious organizations.

    I live in a part of the country where some businesses overtly promote bigotry as a way to increase their revenue. E.g., a local hunting and fishing retailer ran radio ads defaming secularists for their supposed attacks on Christmas and religion in the “public square”. The national chain Hobby Lobby uses full-page ads in the local newspapers to do the same.

  • matty1

    Here is an image of an earlier version of this policy.

  • lofgren

    I think this idea is a good step, but not sufficient for preventing discrimination. Others have already pointed out the problems with it. However, as one plank in a more comprehensive anti-discrimination law, I think it could be very helpful.

    I couldn’t find it just now, but I was fairly certain this was already the law in one state. Businesses that discriminate would be required to mention in any advertising that they were censured for discrimination. Again, not sufficient, but helpful.

    I think it speaks to how far civil rights have come in the past 50 years or so that what once would have been considered common is now considered so shameful that it is a deterrent.

  • otrame

    In reality those laws are all unconstitutional and they should be going bye bye, with the possible exception of Mom and Pop stores, because they are “closely held”. But as long as those laws are on the books the stores who want to discriminate should say so. And it can’t be “We’re fine with your business unless one of our regular customers are in here when you come in and might rat us out to the church.” I think that will bring the whole thing home to a bunch of the “yeah, right” crowd. It has been my observation that money comes before dogma for most business people, of what ever faith.

  • Alverant

    I like the idea of signs, it’s not a perfect solution but it’s better than letting a customer get humiliated by a moronic business owners.

  • wreck

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  • Numenaster

    Requiring the signs means requiring the businesses to generate the very evidence that will be used against them in a court of law. I’m for it.

  • As others have said, bigots used to willingly post “whites only” signs. So why not require them to do the same about LGBTQ and other minorities if that’s their attitude?

    Oh, wait, I forgot: the majority of the public no longer agree with them, and their own attitudes might hurt their business. Boo hoo hoo.

  • dingojack

    I’ve an even simpler solution: if you want to discriminate based on race, gender-identity, religion & etc., you can – it’s just that your business is closed for business and punitive fines apply.

    You’re perfectly free to trade with the public — as long as it’s with all of the public.

    That should appeal to the ‘you can marry anyone you like, as long as they’re of the opposite sex’ types, right?


  • Eric O

    I’m going to have to agree with the other commenters here that this seems like a bad idea. In liberal areas, it might hurt to publicly out oneself as a bigot, but there are definitely regions where displaying one’s bigotry would be a very popular political statement. Businesses were voluntarily putting up “Whites Only” signs only a few decades ago, after all.

    I prefer @28 dingojack’s solution.

  • marcus

    The point of this idea is to discourage the passage of these laws in the first place. A lot of people are not getting that point. If you have a legislature with the will and the votes to pass these discriminatory laws then often the only recourse is for those in opposition to insert language or amendments that make it politically or economically unattractive to those who support this type of bigotry.

    If passed every effort should be made, of course, to repeal or have these laws overturned, This is merely one of the steps in making these types of idiotic laws more difficult to pass.