Preface: I am not against same-sex marriage. I wrote a post – that you can read here – in which I support it. However, I am/was in favor of SB 1062. Lemme explain.
Let’s say there’s a nice, elderly gentleman named Stanley. After many years working in New York City’s garment district, he retired and moved to Arizona to avoid the Northeast’s harsh winters and humid summers that tend to aggravate his arthritis. His father, Simon, was a college student studying photography in Germany before his family fled to the United States in 1938. Now Stanley is pursuing his father’s art and trade. His work has been received well enough that he opened a studio, portraits a specialty.
Many families in town bring their children to Stanley because he has such a gentle way with kids. He has also volunteered to take pictures for the neighborhood school yearbook. There’s a grandmother working in the school who gets a little extra excited when Stanley enters the building, but that’s a story for another day. On this day, the bell over Stanley’s door rings, and a man wants to hire Stanley for a special picture.
“Hi,” says the man holding a rectangular package, about sixteen by twenty.
“Hello,” says Stanley, extending a hand, and it is returned. “I’m Stanley. How can I help you?”
“Hi,” the man says. “Walter. I want to get a portrait taken.” The man has no trouble making eye contact and has a proud posture, which Stanley admires.
“Anything special in mind?” asks Stanley.
“My grandfather was in the military, a general in World War II. My family is really proud of him. I tried to join the military, but I was rejected for physical reasons.” Stanley focuses briefly on the package. “This is a picture of my grandfather.” Walter begins to unwrap it. “I was wondering if you can do a thing where you take my picture, and then you kind of put the two pictures together side by side. Know what I mean?”
“Certainly,” says Stanley. “I’ve done that before.” He waves his hand to the walls around the shop. “There’s a few over there, and over there. We can give your picture some effects to make it look like an older picture, like that Civil War one over there by the window.” Walter’s eyes follow, and he stops on something. “Looks like two people who served at the same time, but that’s really two people more than a hundred years apart. Amazing what we can do with computers these days.”
“Yeah, like that. That would be great.”
“Good,” says Stanley. “Let’s take a look at your grandfather’s picture.”
Walter places the picture, still in the paper, face down on a table and finishes upwrapping carefully. Then he holds up the picture towards Stanley, whose expression changes. His eyes are misting slightly as he reaches behind him for the counter to keep from falling.
“You okay?” Walter asks.
“Not really.” Stanley clears his throat and pulls a handkerchief from his pocket to blow his nose. “I’m wondering why you brought that to me.”
“My mother works at the school down the street, and her I asked if she knew any photographers. She gave me your name, and luckily you were close by.”
“That’s very nice of your mother,” says Stanley. “Thank her for me. But for today, if you don’t mind, I, uh, can you come back tomorrow? I’m suddenly not feeling very well.”
“Yeah, sure. No problem.” Walter begins to wrap the picture. “Oh, wait a second.” Stanley regains his feet. “Let me take a picture of that portrait, so I can do a little research.” He finds his camera, focuses on the picture in the frame, and takes a few shots. “What’s your grandfather’s name?”
“I’m named after him. His name was Walter von Brauchitsch, but when my parents moved to America, they shortened the name to Branch. My dad said they had to blend in.”
“Mrs. Branch?” says Stanley. “That’s your mom, the school secretary?”
“Yeah, you know her?”
“Not really. Anyway, my family probably came to America about the same time,” says Stanley, “but we kept Moskowitz just the way it was. Our way of remembering and honoring those who – who didn’t make it out, if you know what I mean.”
“Yeah,” says Walter. “Not everyone from my family made it over here either. A few died in the war.”
“So, I’ll come back tomorrow?”
“Sure, sure. And don’t forget your uniform.”
“His uniform,” says Walter.
“His uniform. I still have my grandfather’s uniform, same one in the picture. It would be kind of cool that we would both be wearing the same uniform all these years apart.”
“You bet.” Stanley smiles as best he can. “Can’t wait to see one again. See you tomorrow.”
“Right. Thanks again.” Walter extends a hand first this time. Stanley hesitates, but Walter does not notice.
The bell rings again as Walter leaves, turns right, and then disappears at the end of the storefront window. Stanley finds the hat that keeps the sun off his bald head, turns off the lights, and closes early for the day.
Arizona State Bill 1062, which will allow businesses to practice a form of discrimination against gays and perhaps other groups, was likely written with that exact motivation – discrimination. I don’t know for sure, but I could easily believe it. However, that same bill, should it become law, would likely force ol’ Stanley to not just take a picture of young Walter in his grandfather’s SS uniform, it would also force Stanley to “celebrate” one of the darkest periods in our world’s history.
Let’s pretend that a gay couple, may as well go with Adam and Steve, are planning a wedding. They need to hire a florist, but first they need a few slices of pizza because they just spent hours checking out three different locations for the reception. Across the street from each other are Fatso’s Pizza and Anne’s Flowers. (Not really, just pretending.) Which business, if either, will be able to use the language of SB 1062 to refuse serving Adam and Steve? Both? One? Neither? Should be interesting.
Fatso serves food, an everyday item that has no connection to anyone’s orientation or faith, except my uncle who can’t walk past a pizza place without grabbing a slice with mushrooms and, well, never mind. Restaurants cannot use SB 1062 to refuse service to someone. Pizza doesn’t have any connection to anyone’s faith or sexual orientation, as far as I know. Serving pizza to gays or lesbians is simply feeding them, not celebrating their sexual orientation, unless they get really creative with the crust. That doesn’t mean Fatso or other proprietors won’t try, but they would be breaking the law. If Adam and Steve asked Fatso to cater the wedding, that might be a different story.
Let’s pretend that Anne of Anne’s Flowers is a devout Catholic, like Bible-thumping, fire-and-brimstone Catholic. She’s allowed to believe – according to her gospel – that those who participate in a same-sex wedding are destined for hell, or Hell. Is hell capitalized? If a same-sex couple wants to hire Anne to arrange the flowers for their wedding, she should be allowed, based on her faith, to refuse.
Anne’s business celebrates events. Asking Anne to arrange flowers for a same-sex wedding is asking Anne to directly participate in something that is against her faith. Anne is allowed to believe that perhaps God, whom she assumes is against such a union, might punish her for taking part in the event. There are probably a dozen, maybe two dozen florists within a twenty-mile radius of Phoenix. Anne should have the right to say, “I hope the two of you have a lovely wedding day, but I would prefer to not be a part of it. Here’s a list of other florists in the area. I’m sure you will find one who will be happy to help.”
Stanley and Walter are not quite in the same situation. However, there may be a way through which Walter can claim a devotion to Nazism. It could be a “way of life.” Who gets to decide what is or is not a “faith”? If Walter wants to hire Stanley, he might have a case should the old man refuse to help the young man celebrate the life of his grandfather, regardless of how horrible that grandfather may have been. I know this is not the kind of situation for which SB 1062 is intended, but that does not mean it won’t be twisted to fit Walter’s needs.
We have a great tendency to talk about freedom in this country. From what I can observe, we seem to forget that in almost every situation in which someone claims his or her freedom is being denied, to alleviate that cry for freedom will then stomp on someone else’s freedom.
Let’s pretend there are two men, one each on the left and right corner of the street. The man on the right disagrees with the beliefs of the man on the left. Thus, the man on the left demands tolerance from the man on the right for his beliefs. However, does not the man on the left also have an obligation to understand the man on the right’s basis for intolerance?
I do not like this particular expression or cliché, but sometimes we really do have to “agree to disagree” and find a different corner on which to stand. Maybe one that sells coffee and bagels.
23 thoughts on “Arizona SB 1062 a.k.a. “The Anti-Gay Bill””
Your argument pulls at some extreme examples intended to evoke extreme emotions. I find the extreme examples to be useful thought experiments, but the emotional side to be something that clutters the argument rather than helps. Regardless, let me provide another extreme example:
Adam and Steve live together. One night Steve is having a medical emergency due to some strenuous bedroom activities. Mary is an EMT in the ambulance that arrives. Does she have a right to not provide service and save Steve’s life? This is plainly no: if she cannot provide her service to anyone and everyone, she needs to change professions to one where she is not in that position, or rethink her faith.
So, where do you draw the line for “sincerely held belief” that should allow you to discriminate? I assert that people who did not want black people to order a hamburger in their restaurant held the same argument: “I should have a right to decide who I serve and who I don’t”. I assert that if you can’t provide a service without prejudice, you are in the wrong line of work and it is your responsibility to change professions. This goes for your florist Anne as well. If she feels she cannot provide her service to anyone and everyone, she needs to find a different career that will not present her with that moral dilemma. And, sadly, it applies to Stanley. In this instance, Stanley cannot discriminate, because in our country the idea that “I disagree completely with what you believe in, but I will fight to the death for your right to believe in it” is a core value.
Enough of the extreme cases. When you get down to it, I don’t think the majority case is people worrying they will be judged by their creator for providing a service to people living a lifestyle forbidden by their faith. The majority of people just don’t like that icky thing and wish it would go away. They feel the encroachment of “The Gays” and feel attacked and put upon, so are fighting back in any way they can. This is really just “Privilege Oppression” though, where the people with all the power and privilege feel like they are oppressed because their preferred way of life is being changed without their consent. No privileges are being taken away, no hardships are being heaped on them. But they feel like it. It’s an emotional reaction, and an understandable one. But it’s still wrong.
You raise a good point, but your example doesn’t match the situation. See, the bill protects business owners/businesses from being sued for failing to provide services that violate their moral/religious conscience. The EMT, from your example, would not have a choice in who to provide service to because one EMT services are run by the state, and two, the law protects businesses from lawsuits, it does not protect employees who voice company policy.
The EMT from your example would be fired from her job for violating company policy, and likely open to lawsuits for negligent homicide at the least. As the above post states, a restaurant owner is going to have little grounds to ban people he doesn’t like. The situations where this issue arises, and are in most need of protection, are generally in non-essential services.
And while you may feel that it isn’t about being punished by a Deity, but rather just trying to punish those with an ick factor, those who are most at risk are those who do seriously believe that they are in great peril and it is highly prejudicial of you to insist that it isn’t so. And even if it is an ick factor, does that give anyone the right to force another to violate their moral conscience, while insisting at the same time that their moral conscience be respected?
Thanks for the thoughtful response! Understood that the bill in question wouldn’t affect the EMT, but the spirit of it seems to apply. If we are being specific, then I rescind my example which was an extremist example to begin with, only useful as a counter example to the extremes created by the original post.
Also, to the criticism you give:
You are right: I’m being presumptuous to assume this is not about following the code of a religion and a Deity’s judgement, so I’ll alter my thinking here. I do believe that there are relatively few who take thoughtful and respectful exception to the issue and would respectfully decline to provide service to the “sinners”. I believe the majority have an emotional reaction and wish to assert their morals on the world, not just maintain their own morals to themselves.
For those that do, truly believe this, I still assert that the right thing for them to do is to not put themselves in a position where they have to make a choice to be either true to their religion or treat others without judgement and prejudice.
Perhaps a useful analogy is the Amish (though I might be reaching here as I don’t know as much as I should about the Amish to enlist their lifestyle in an argument… anyway:) The Amish disagree with many things about modern life. So they choose not to participate in them. This is a huge sacrifice, but it is what they choose to do to stay true to their beliefs. This seems like clearly living your beliefs while not forcing your values on others.
What the Arizona bill seems to say instead is “this type of person makes my chosen profession inconvenient, please allow me to negate them”. Instead I think the person who feels this should take it on themselves to craft a life that can be lived in accordance with their beliefs, not ask society to conform to their beliefs.
I can understand your concern that some people would use this to force their religious views on others. The difficulty with that ever occurring though, is that this bill doesn’t really allow that. It protects non-essential services, mainly small businesses. Yes, a Christian wedding photographer can refuse to photograph a gay wedding…but there is going to be dozens of other photographers out there who would be happy for the pay check, so really all this does is let the business owner not take a job. Refusing service doesn’t force your view on society, all it really does is help you keep to your moral conscience and lose out on some pay. Sure, this might lead to some negation, but for every negation the market will open up and a new person will arrive to provide the same service.
And yes, one could remove themselves from the situation that might lead to them having to compromise their beliefs. You used the Amish as an example. That actually is a very good example, because imagine if your dream is to be a concert pianist, well, music is verboten in Amish culture so…you can violate your moral code or live your dream. You would recommend simply giving up ones dream. Say the above wedding photographer is a Christian, and has dreamed ever since she was a little girl about being a photographer. By your logic she should give up on her dream simply because someday, she might have to violate her moral code to live it.
Which in the end, might deny the world a very talented photographer/artist. So in the end, the banning the bill goes from being “preventing discrimination against gays” to “don’t chase your dreams if you’re a religious person, because you’ll have to chose between your morals and your life.” And I’m sorry, but that strikes me not only as discrimination, but also incredibly depressing. “You’re not the right kind of person, so don’t you dare to dream, because you aren’t worth the same as these people over there.”
If we told a lesbian who doesn’t find men attractive that “don’t go into acting, you might have to play a straight woman in a sex scene” how do you think people would react? Would they be supportive of telling someone to not live their dream, or would they be disgusted by the action of telling someone they shouldn’t try to be something they want to be, simply because of who they are?
I agree. If you are going to serve the public, then serve the public. Unless something poses a physical for for you or anyone else.
i draw the line about a “sincerely held belief” when what is asked of a business person causes them to be directly involved with the belief in question. there is a difference between asking a photographer to take a studio picture of a gay couple sitting together and asking a photographer to be at the same-sex wedding and take pictures of the entire ceremony from start to finish. i find it okay for that photographer to decline the wedding.
Reblogged this on A Heathen's Path and commented:
Another person who gets it, and even provides a better example than I have, on the matter of this bill and it’s protection/discrimination
I am a native Arizonian. I understand what you’re saying, but Arizona has a long history of this kind of sheep-in-wolf’s clothing “freedoms”.
while i have never been to arizona, i have relatives there who have told me – unhappily – how crazy things seem to be getting. the idea that – in arizona – john mccain is actually seen as very liberal is kind of amazing. thanks for reading and commenting.
Rich, you bring up a very good point about freedom. When people hold differing beliefs, whether religious or not, one person’s freedom may likely infringe on the other and the other way around. The difficulty is where to draw the line.
As you know, I’m a Christian, which means I believe homosexuality is wrong. That doesn’t mean I hate gay people or anyone else who does something I think is wrong. I do plenty wrong things myself. (I think you know me well enough to know I don’t hate people who have opinions that go against my beliefs.) I think they should be allowed to leave their property to whomever they wish, visit partners in the hospital, and so on, which from what I’ve seen, often isn’t a problem. And in many situations, I wouldn’t have a problem having a gay person in my business. But if I were a Christian pastor, I wouldn’t want have to marry a gay couple, as that would mean I had to sanction something I felt was wrong. I think providing abortion coverage falls in that category, too. If someone disagrees with me on that, that’s OK.
There’s plenty of Christian-bashing that goes on as well and gay activist groups have gone into churches, disrupted services and done some pretty disgusting things. I think you’re right that we have to agree to disagree on some isses, yet be able to realize that both sides are just people who should try to get along. And that means that gays or pro-gay people need to “not be hatin'” on Christians who disagree with their beliefs, either. We need to find some common ground and see what we can do to make each side happy. It won’t always work, but we need to try.
It’s a tough situation but I think is better handled through moderation and not trying to force people on either side to do something they don’t want to do.
it’s possible i would not have had this opinion had i not had as many discussions with you on similar topics. there is hate on both sides, and there is intolerance on both sides. it feels like “tolerate me or i’ll bring you some problems” is the phrase behind all this.
if you were the type who could not agree to disagree, i doubt we would still be friends. thanks for stopping by and sharing your very important thoughts.
Rich, I was thinking about this a bit more. The example of Jesus in the Bible is that He loved sinners, despite their sins. But He also didn’t let them think it was OK to keep sinning, and this again is for any sin, not specific ones. In the instance we’re discussing here, Christians have to believe he would love gay people and be willing to eat with them, heal their wounds, etc. But He wouldn’t agree to marry them. More Christians might try to take His example.
On the other hand, people who are gay or support gay marriage might try to understand that someone with strong religious beliefs doesn’t necessarily hate them just because they disapprove of the lifestyle. Perhaps rather than put a Christian in the position of having to make that decision, the gay/liberal could respect them enough to try elsewhere for whatever service the Christian business offers, even if they disagree with the belief. After all, each side has their own belief/religion.
All that being said, no one should be refused basic services and so forth. I think the line where there has to be understanding and discussion is on, in this case, areas such as marriage, being a Scout leader or similar areas. A lot more trying to understand the other position and make allowances without hate and preconceived notions would go a long way.
Labeling the bill as “anti-gay” is already setting up a certain point of view. (I realize you didn’t do this, but that’s how it being labeled in the media.) From the other side, it’s trying to protect the rights of people who believe differently. Words count!
i actually wish it had passed for two reasons. one, because i agree with it, but two, because it makes the arizona GOP leadership seem like opportunists trying to protect national reputation instead of doing what they believe in. however, they may have shot themselves in their feet with local voters. we shall see. i think it was a misunderstood bill, and the media, as you said, is partly to blame.
on CNN yesterday morning, i watched chris cuomo interview a woman who supported the bill. at first, i thought she was embarrassing. then, as i listened to her argument, i realized she was right. it helps to listen instead of just waiting for the other person to stop speaking. i’m glad i listened.
That second-to-last sentence is so important and too often neglected, in reading and writing, too. There’s a distinct lack of civil debate as well.
As for your first statements, you’re so right.
can’t disagree with any of that. there’s a difference between asking a strict catholic to serve gays a slice of cake in a diner and asking one to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
But the problem with using the bible, or religion to be anti-gay is that…
The real fucking bible that rules today’s catholics has ZERO anti-gay statement whatsoever! The bible that does have these rules is the old testament. In other words, the jewish bible. And the funny thing about bible thumpers using the bible is that those who could use it to slam against the gay, the jewish, don’t even speak up about the issue with their bible in hand!
Trust me on this one Rich. It is not in the Catholic’s bible. I went to catholic schools my whole life, even my University was the most devout place on earth. A place where if you want any kind of Master’s or Phd, you must first do a full year of theology. And that gay rule! It’s gone. It is just not in our bible. So they need to re-read that fucking book from the part where JC has died for our sins since everything before is old news. And by old news, I mean not our bible.
p.s. don’t even try to picture me in those catholic school uniforms that feeds most men’s sexual fantasies, my schools didn’t have uniforms 🙂
And on another note, the bible is just an excuse to be bigot assholes. You can’t compare a biz refusing to offer their services to gays to nazies. One group loves, one group hates and destroys. And I thought any company had the right to refuse service to anybody they wanted anyways?
I dunno. I can’t get past the uniform thing.
*snicker* maybe i planted that image in your head for a reason… 🙂
then i owe you great thanks.