No Way to Cabin the License to Discriminate

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Good Christian

The owner of a flower store in Washington state is again appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has already remanded her case to the Washington supreme court. That court has upheld the judgment against her, which is why she is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

She’s a good Christian. She refused to sell flowers to a same sex couple for their wedding. The State of Washington prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, so the State fined her $1,000. She claims that providing flowers is a form of speech, so the enforcement action against her violates her rights under the First Amendment to free speech and to freedom of religious belief and practice.

Amusingly, it was the arch opponent of gay rights and devout Catholic, Antonin Scalia, in a case upholding the firing of two men for using peyote as part of their religious practices, who articulated the rule that should operate here: “The government’s ability to enforce generally applicable prohibitions of socially harmful conduct, like its ability to carry out other aspects of public policy, ‘cannot depend on measuring the effects of a governmental action on a religious objector’s spiritual development.’ To make an individual’s obligation to obey such a law contingent upon the law’s coincidence with his religious beliefs, except where the State’s interest is ‘compelling’ — permitting him, by virtue of his beliefs, ‘to become a law unto himself,’— contradicts both constitutional tradition and common sense.” Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990).

Most good Christians really want to be a law unto themselves, invoking their personal understanding of what their magic sky friend wants as their justification. The claim here is not much different from that of Kim Davis, notorious county clerk from Kentucky, who claimed that giving marriage licenses to same sex couples would violate her right to free exercise of her religion. The federal judge in that case pointed out that issuing any marriage license in no way interferes with her various specifically religious activities, such as attending church and bible study and ministering to inmates at the women’s prison.

The same principle holds here. Our flower lady is in the flower business. If that occupation alone does not interfere with her exercise of her religion, which it must not if she runs the business, then selling any given bunch of flowers cannot very well so interfere.

The bigger problem with her argument is that, unless one adopts a special rule excluding queers, which is obviously a violation of equal protection of the laws itself, there is no way to limit the religious exemption from nondiscrimination only to LGBT people. If she can escape enforcement of the law when she discriminates against queers, then she can escape it when she discriminates against African Americans and Hispanics and Asians and Jews and anyone else she does not like.

Good Christians genuinely do not like queers and want to discriminate against them. Discrimination against queers also, however, operates as a psychologically gratifying proxy for their ongoing opposition to civil rights laws generally, including — especially — as they apply to African Americans, an idea good Christians have never reconciled themselves to, but they know they cannot get away with stating that position publicly, so they double down on discriminating against queers, as this good Christian is doing now.

There is no rule prohibiting any appeal of the same issue twice to the Supreme Court, but the Supremes apparently would much rather avoid this issue, which is not at all different from the recent Colorado cake baker case, where they reversed the decision on the narrowest grounds possible, because of a tiny flaw in the enforcement process that is not an issue in this case while stating that laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation are valid on their faces, which in no way helps our good Christian here.

She just wants to discriminate.

Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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