You may have heard about Indiana this week and its new RFRA law. For many, this has made the state the latest focal point in the LGBTQ rights struggle with sides falling in, rather predictably, for and against.
Just to be clear at the top: it’s a bad law. It is overreaching. If the act’s goals are as many have defended them, RFRA is a hammer where a scalpel should have been used. But that is not how I am engaging the topic here.
What I am concerned with, here and now, is our seeming preoccupation with wanting to deny services to people of stripes different than our own. I have seen several people comment with something along these lines: “I am for gay rights, but what if I own a cake store and someone (a conservative Christian, a KKK member, a Scientologist) comes in and wants a cake. I want to be able to say no to them.”
Ok, but…why? I know I am being hopelessly Pollyannaish here. I know it, but I still have to ask. Why are we so hellbent on protecting our ability to discriminate? How is making anyone a cake an endorsement of their politics, sexuality, religious persuasion, racial identity, gender identity, ethnic identity, or favorite sports team? (I am aware the law specifically protects religious objections, but all of these have now or at one time been singled out for discrimination with a religious justification) Unless they are forcing you to write something on the cake (God Hates the Lakers, to choose a demonstrative but wildly facile example) that is inflammatory, the process is entirely the same. Take order, make cake, collect money, hand over cake. Repeat as necessary to keep the business running.
To be clear here, this is not me saying and “therefore this law is unconstitutional” or whatnot. I don’t like it, but more my point here is what is in our collective DNA that wants this? What makes us so hardwired to discriminate that we would argue in favor of a law (If, in fact, those people are arguing in good faith, which is a discussion for another time) even though it stands to hurt people who we do support more than it would hurt those we disagree with?
I do not have any answers here, it just struck me as…fundamentally disappointing. The fact is that, yes, any movement that demands inclusion inherently opens the door to those we would prefer not be included. That is the price of equality. For me, it is a price worth paying. I hate everything the Ku Klux Klan stands for, every last bit of it, but I would rather the whole of the Mississippi state chapter of the KKK be served in a restaurant in deep blue CT, then one gay couple be unable to get a wedding cake from whomever they want in Indiana. It is worth more to me to include those who have been discriminated against for too long than exclude those who make my blood boil.
If I can take a moment to overextend the issue, it is something I notice a lot in culture, period. We often seek to punish over lift up. A small segment of our population abuses the “privilege” (sarcasm should be read heavy on that word) of welfare? We need to cut welfare for all and spend a disproportionate amount of effort and funds on curtailing welfare fraud. An almost nil percentage of people engage in voting fraud? We need to limit suffrage by getting rid of early voting hours and demanding IDs. Some people who use state funded assistance also use illegal substances? We need to create a cumbersome expensive mandatory drug testing system that will result in almost no positives but will serve to make help even harder to access. And on and on.
So yes, perhaps the price of not having an RFRA law is that you may find yourself someday selling a member of the Focus on the Family 20 pounds of pulled pork for a family reunion he is attending. For me that (probably fairly minor) risk is worth all the people who have long been discriminated against in the name of “religion” being able to walk into any store or restaurant and knowing they will be able to access those goods and services like everyone else. I hunger for equality. I am tired of discrimination.