Let’s Talk About Small Businesses and Gay Rights

Ron Car

If I ever had to run for political office, this would be my slogan.

Once again, Facebook delivers the news: “Texas lawmaker proposes ‘license to discriminate’ against LGBT employees, customers”

Oh dear. We’re doing this again.

Essentially what’s happening is that there are mom-and-pop businesses, primarily in the south and southwest, that are denying their services to LGBTQ people or couples; the most prolific cases are of photographers that won’t shoot gay weddings and bakeries that won’t make same-sex wedding cakes. These businesspeople usually use their religious belief as defense when they are inevitably sued. Because suing is what we do in America when we don’t like the way we’ve been treated. (Hint: we need to stop that. Seriously. That would solve most of the issue here).

A State Senator from Texas is proposing a bill that protects businesspeople from lawsuits when they reject clients based on religious beliefs. This wouldn’t be so complicated if extremists on both sides—Tea Party spokespeople who happen to be ruining the image of the GOP, and sue-happy individuals who love nothing more than a story that involves any infringement on individual rights, no matter how petty the offence. Neither of these two factions are at all representative of the country we live in, but somehow they have the biggest mouths.

Declining service to this portion of the population is only going to hurt the bottom line of the small business in question. Discrimination comes with the price of a worse public image and less revenue. It’s a stupid business practice because justice (if you’re looking for it) is served only to the businessman. I’m sure that whatever service you’re being denied can be provided by places that want to take your money.

Another thing to keep in mind: there are other forms of discrimination happening every single day in the world of business. I’ve seen it happen. Contractors will select suppliers that have higher prices but more honest/knowledgeable/connected business owners. They check criminal records. Technically speaking, that’s discrimination: they’re using information other than job performance to inform their decision. And have you ever seen that “no shirt, no shoes, no service” sign? That’s discrimination against people who like to go barefoot. (You don’t think people like that exist? Go check out UMBC or any other college campus. Even in January. I kid you not, people walk around as barefoot as Hobbits.)

The original title for this article was “let the market do its job”. Look at these businesses that have turned down LGBTQ clients. The people of this country look down on intolerance. If discrimination against gays or crazy cat ladies is such a defining characteristic of a small business, its doors will close quickly. I think we’ve learned from the history. CNN did a piece when the Arizona State Congress passed a bill like this back in February; it all too happily threw around words like Holocaust and Internment.

This is a different society than the one that saw Jim Crow. Tolerance is the norm. Everyone is visible at all times and communication is instant. I challenge you to find a profit-turning, successfully growing business that refuses people based on sexual orientation or any other legal thing. They want to make money and will do accept it no matter whose hand it comes from.

Some people put their religion before profit. That’s their choice. It’s not a great business choice, but it’s their choice. It’s their business. Let them sink or swim on their own.

Proposing these bills through the government is not the right move. It puts what could be a very easy-to-solve problem on the national news scene and makes everyone involved seem entitled and selfish. It puts people in uncomfortable positions and decreases the legitimacy of our political system. There is no place in a representative, for-the-people government for legislation like this because someone is going to lose. Someone is going to lose their rights—either to fair treatment or religious freedom in the private marketplace.

What this boils down to: stop running to court because you don’t get your way. There are other ways to hurt hateful people. Discrimination primarily hurts the business owner. And get the government out of business—the Invisible Hand knows what it’s doing.

Credit to NBC for images of Ron Swanson

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