A bill making its way through the Kentucky legislature would allow businesses that provide “customized, artistic, expressive, creative, ministerial, or spiritual goods or services” to refuse service to individuals or groups based on religious convictions.
The bill was obviously written to allow the proverbial Christian baker to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding based on religious convictions concerning same-sex marriage.
A group called Winning Democrats turned the hyperbole up to 11 with an article headlined Kentucky Senate Passes GOP Bill Allowing Discrimination Against Interracial Couples.
Despite being legal in the United States since 1967, Kentucky Republicans are trying to turn back the clock on interracial marriage by allowing discrimination against interracial couples. A bill moving forward in the Kentucky Senate would give private businesses and public institutions the right to discriminate against basically anyone they want to as long as they hide behind their Bibles when they do it.”
I suppose theoretically, the proposed law could allow some business to deny service to an interracial couple based on some weird religious belief. But as one-half of an interracial couple, I have to say, I don’t care.
People have every right to discriminate against my wife and I. And I don’t have a right to hit them if they refuse to do business with us. In a free society, people associate with whomever they chose. In a free society, people can discriminate.
I want to live in a free society.
In fact, I would rather know where to find the bigots. Then I can avoid them. Why in the world would I want to go someplace I’m not welcome? Why would I want to force people to accept me? My wife often says she wants people to fly the Confederate Battle Flag. Then she knows the places to avoid.
This doesn’t mean that I approve of discrimination. It simply means that I am not willing to engage in violence – or sanction somebody else to engage in violence on my behalf – in order to force people to associate with me.
Some will argue, “But Mike, you’re suggesting we go back to the era of Jim Crow!”
Actually I’m not. It took government to maintain Jim Crow. It required coercive force to enforce segregation. Notice we call them “Jim Crow laws.” Absent laws, some whites would have been perfectly willing to do business with blacks. Just like today most businesses will happily accept money from gay people.
Walter Williams pointed out the fact that street cars were generally unsegregated until government stepped in.
An interesting example is found in an article by Dr. Jennifer Roback titled ‘The Political Economy of Segregation: The Case of Segregated Streetcars,’ in Journal of Economic History (1986). During the late 1800s, private streetcar companies in Augusta, Houston, Jacksonville, Mobile, Montgomery and Memphis were not segregated, but by the early 1900s, they were. Why? City ordinances forced them to segregate black and white passengers. Numerous Jim Crow laws ruled the day throughout the South mandating segregation in public accommodations. When one sees a law on the books, he should suspect that the law is there because not everyone would voluntarily comply with the law’s specifications. “
In fact, markets provide the best means to deal with discrimination. Those who find it abhorrent can simply refuse to do business with bigots. You’ll know where they are. Heck, you’re probably doing business with some now and don’t even know it. If the racists and homophobes operated out in the open, it would be much easier to ostracize them, boycott them and generally shove them to the fringes of society.
But the bottom line is I’d rather live in a free society with the risk people might discriminate against me than live in a world where government forces people to interact at gunpoint. When you sanction the use of guns to advance your vision for society, that gun will inevitably end up pointed in your face.