The Supreme Court is currently debating a case in which a Web designer has denied services to a same-sex couple who wanted her to create a wedding website for them. The problem resulted because the designer is against same sex marriage, and refused to provide service.
Since there are already laws preventing denial of accommodation to protected classes such as on the basis of sexual orientation or race, the issue being decided is if people in creative positions are to be held to the same standard. Most people remember the case about the baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Supreme Court didn’t come to a definitive conclusion on that case, and we are back to debating this issue.
Some of the concerns brought up make sense, such as whether allowing creatives to deny access to their services to same-sex couples could spread to disabled persons or mixed race couples. Other, less likely scenarios, such as a black mall Santa having to entertain kiddos dressed in Klan costumes make less sense, but are meant to test the strengths of how far are we willing to stretch.
I can’t say that I know definitively what the right answer is here. My knee jerk reaction was that there should never be a restriction on who businesses serve. The days of racial discrimination being widely and openly practiced by businesses with one door for whites and another for “coloreds” is not that far behind us, and I remember not that many years ago being ignored and dismissed by a Korean shop in my neighborhood, being told that the hair dye for sale was only for Korean hair.
We are having a hard enough time as a society fighting against those who want to openly, and sometimes violently, discriminate against protected classes of people. To have a ruling that codified that distinction between who you must serve and who you can deny could be a slippery slope towards all out discrimination again.
However, I do have sympathy for creatives not wanting to be forced to take on loathsome projects, things that offend them personally. Should an artist be forced to take a commission to paint a scene degrading to homosexuals? Should a pro-life person be forced to write a pamphlet for an abortion clinic? I don’t think so, and you could say that they could just move on to another vendor who will help them…but what if now they have to travel for that service? Or there aren’t others around who can do it? Or their boss says they must do it?
It is a perplexing problem. I don’t like anything that feels like discrimination in our free society. Theorizing that giving an inch will embolden haters to take a mile is no longer just theory in our crazy world. But there again, I don’t want to cater a GOP event, for example.
I truly don’t envy the Supreme Court right now.