Freedom and Phobias
The Arizona legislature has once again thrust our state into the midst of a nationwide controversy. The have passed SB 1062, which would protect businesses from being sued for refusing services to individuals if that action is based on religious beliefs. Critics call it a license to discriminate against gays. In reality it’s more complicated than that, which is why I have mixed feelings about the law.
On one hand, I have many gay and lesbian friends and I personally find anti-gay bigotry to be stupid and offensive. In my opinion, the idea that homosexuality is a sin rather than a biological condition is 100% wrong. There are other rules in the holy books that modern people choose to ignore (how many people shun clothing made from multiple fabrics?) It’s about time this one becomes one of those.
On the other hand, as a libertarian I am opposed to anti-discrimination laws of any kind. Why?
- They’re unnecessary. The quest for profit gives businesses an incentive NOT to discriminate, which is why southern states passed Jim Crow laws to force them to do so.
- They’re unenforceable. Nobody can look into the heart of a business owner or employer. They can choose not to hire a person, drag their feet on a rental contract, or make certain customers feel unwelcome, all of which achieve the same discriminatory effect.
- They have unintended consequences. These laws allow members of protected minority groups to file frivolous lawsuits based on real or imagined offenses. Doubtless this is only done by a few bad apples, but one malcontent with an agenda can cause a business lots of trouble. Thus businesses are discouraged from dealing with the very people the law is supposed to protect.
- They could promote a violent backlash. Why antagonize a tiny minority of bigots, who might be inclined to see themselves as victims?
Despite these facts, I feel that enacting SB 1062 would be a mistake. It would be largely symbolic, given that gays and lesbians aren’t currently protected in Arizona at present. Some people might see it as an endorsement of discrimination by the state, rather than a more appropriate stance of complete neutrality.It would antagonize national public opinion needlessly, possibly giving rise to boycotts of the state. Furthermore, it fails to address the real issue, which is judicial activism, in which judges whose proper role is to interpret the law take it upon themselves to write the law. Despite the fact that activist judges sometimes further causes I support, such as marriage equality, they can just as easily do things I find odious, such as forcing governments to spend money on favored groups.
C’mon, Jan, let’s have a veto.
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