SB2279 is legislation which would add homosexuals to the list of protected classes in North Dakota who cannot be discriminated against. It passed the state Senate, but received a “do not pass” recommendation from a committee in the state House yesterday and seems destined for failure in a full vote of that chamber tomorrow.
I abhor the idea of discrimination against gays. I look forward to the day when North Dakota’s ban on gay marriage is lifted (hopefully through the democratic process and not because of a court order). But I cannot stand the idea of removing protections for unpopular points of views on homosexuality.
I oppose SB2279 for the same reason why I support the right of Ku Klux Klan members to rally, march, and speak. The litmus test for our commitment to freedom isn’t whether or not we’re willing to tolerate unpopular speech and beliefs. The supporters of SB2279, and those opposing policies such as Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, are failing that test in a big way.
What’s irksome about this legislation is that its proponents suggest that it is about equality when it really has nothing to do with equality.
There is nothing “equal” about telling a business owner that they must serve people they don’t want to serve. There’s nothing “equal” about discriminating against minority social viewpoints about homosexuality, however disgusting we might find them. There’s nothing “equal” about individual consumers having the right to choose which businesses they will patronize, based on whatever criteria they care to apply, but telling business owners they cannot choose who they wish to serve.
And I struggle to understand how this legislation will serve to address discrimination.
The proponents of this legislation insist that discrimination against homosexuals for housing and jobs and service at businesses happens regularly, yet they offer no concrete evidence of it ever happening anywhere in the state. There is no testimony from those discriminated against naming specific instances involving specific businesses. That’s either because it isn’t happening, or because it’s being done covertly.
Either way, a law is going to be about as effective in addressing discrimination against gays as “gun free zones” are in preventing school shootings. Which is to say, not very effective at all.
Which is why I oppose this sort of legislation in the first place. We cannot force people to be accepting of homosexuality by passing a law. Rather we must inspire that sort of social change to happen organically, something that’s difficult when we’re forcing cake bakers and wedding photographers to provide their unwilling service to homosexuals at risk of facing big government fines.
Equality is everyone getting a choice. Cake bakers can refuse service to gays. Gays can refuse to patronize bigoted cake bakers. The public in general can boycott businesses with hostile attitudes toward gays.
What equality is not is enforcing compliance with a certain social point of view.