Arizona’s State Legislature has recently passed SB 1062, a bill that has been deemed “controversial” by most in the media. The bill, passed by a 33-27 vote in the state House of Representatives, allows private business owners, as long as they assert their religious beliefs, to deny service to gay and lesbian customers.
My personal beliefs, as a former small business owner, is that discrimination is stupid and downright wrong. Not only is choosing not to deal with a certain segment of customers whose lifestyle you may disagree with wrong, but its bad business. You are taking cash out of your bottom line.
That being said, my belief as a proponent of liberty, is that in a free society, much like private citizens should be allowed to live their lives as they choose, business owners should have the right to run their businesses as they see fit.
If choosing to discriminate (choose not to sell products to or provide services to) gays and lesbians is made to be illegal, then should it not also be unlawful to give senior citizen discounts or free meals to children? After all that is age discrimination. Or how about discounts to law enforcement or members of the military? Is that not discriminating against civilians?
In a truly free society, it is not just business owners that should have the right to refuse service, but customers have the right to not spend their money with those discriminatory businesses. Furthermore, in a free society people have the right to boycott any business establishment whose actions they disagree with.
Discrimination is a two way street. In the free market it should be an option for both parties involved, the business and the consumer.
As Meredith Ancret wrote on her blog in a post last year:
Look, if you have a private business, whether that is a restaurant, bakery, or an apartment complex or rental home or any other business that you privately own (meaning you have no government subsidies and no shareholders to keep happy) you can, or should, be allowed to discriminate at will.
Now if you decide to discriminate against people (you won’t serve Jews, rent to gays, or hire black people) you may take a blow to your business. This is because of the free market, the same reason why I believe in your right to discriminate. The free market means that you are undoubtedly not the only restaurant, bakery, apartment complex, or landlord within a reasonable distance and if you turn away customers, who then go talk to their friends and family and tell them not the shop there for whatever reason (even if they aren’t Jewish, gay, or black. I’m white and still wouldn’t to a KKK restaurant) that is not good publicity and chances are your local news will catch wind of it and you will end up with loss of business.
I support your right to discriminate. I don’t have to like you for discriminating.
A good businessman usually cares more about their bottom line than they do about the sexuality, race, or religion of their customer. Despite the fact that, if I owned a business, I might be tempted to charge every moron wearing a Che Guevara shirt or driving around with an Obama sticker on their car a 10% increase on services just for dealing with their stupidity, but I highly doubt I would actually do that because it would be really bad for my company’s business.
But I should be able to do that if I want too.
I personally believe that it is a downright heinous act for a business owner to discriminate against a whole segment of the population because they simply disagree with their lifestyle choices. However, it is not mine nor the governments place to impose that judgment of mine on a private business owner.
As the late great Barry Goldwater wrote:
Social and cultural change, however desirable, should not be effected by the engines of national power. Let us, through persuasion and education, seek to improve institutions we deem defective. But let us, in doing so, respect the orderly processes of the law. Any other course enthrones tyrants and dooms freedom.