Is it right for anti-discrimination laws based on “public accommodation” to be used against businesses that want to opt out of participation in gay weddings?
Every business transaction is a contract between two parties, one who provides a good or a service, and one who purchases it. Neither has a prior obligation to participate if he does not believe it to be in his best interest–whether that interest is defined economically or otherwise in his mind.
In an ideal world, a business owner would therefore have a right to give or refuse service to anyone for any reason, and the *market* would correct his folly (if such it were) through loss of the revenue he could otherwise have had. The abuse of that right to create systematic discrimination on the basis of race was unfortunately so deeply ingrained in some sectors of the real world’s culture that the market correction did not work. It is a great tragedy that we finally had to correct that problem through legislation. What we did not realize at the time (I think Barry Goldwater did, but he was the only member of the Senate of whom it could be said) was that we were in fact sacrificing some very important property rights for the sake of civil rights; and property rights are human rights too. We were thus solving one problem only by creating another one with an equal potential for injustice–a potential that was naturally hard to see at the time since the real and current injustices of Segregation were right in everyone’s faces.
The problem with not letting the market fix the problem is that it gave the government power over people’s businesses that would eventually (and inevitably) be used arbitrarily to enforce what would then be considered politically correct. It was inevitable because the government consists of fallen men and women who will eventually actualize Lord Acton’s warning that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That is what we are seeing now. The current arbitrariness and injustice is partly the fault of the Left, who are taking advantage of the law to impose their will, and partly the fault of the ancestors of the Right, who did not end Segregation voluntarily when they could have done so and thus avoided this problematic government intrusion.
The anti-discrimination laws we’ve grown used to were perhaps necessary in 1964–a tragic necessity. Now they need to be revised so that they are harder to abuse. To bad they weren’t written more carefully then–but hindsight is the only 20-20 vision we are vouchsafed in such things. Sigh.