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.