Thursday, May 16, 2013

Yes, GLBT People Need Protection Under the Law

I was reading Jezebel (don't judge me) when I came across the story of yet another bigoted bakery who refused to make a cake for a couple who are getting married.
An Oregon bakery owner, Pam Regentin of Fleur Cakes, has refused to make a wedding cake for two brides-to-be, Erin Hanson and Katie Pugh, soley because they are gay.

"I mentioned Erin in passing," said Pugh of her future wife, "And said a 'she' in passing too, in the email. A few days later she called back… and verified it was a same-sex marriage." That's when Regentin refused to bake the wedding cake the couple had requested, with a lovely, "Not from my kitchen." When pressed by a local reporter, Regentin stated, "I believe I have the liberty to live by my principles."
So apparently, Regentin stands behind her right be a bigot despite the fact that what she is doing is outright illegal. According to Oregon's 2007 Equality Act, Regentin cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  I can only hope that the couple who were denied a wedding cake will sue this bakery into the stone ages.  In this space, I don't need to talk about the damage of homophobia because regular readers are well aware of how oppression hurts marginalized bodies but I would like to address the following comment which I read on Jezebel on their piece about this heinous incident.

I am with you on the judging. I JUDGE THEM. I am judging them up one side and down the other. Fuck them and their bigotry. Fuck them right in the ear.

That said, I don't think private, small businesses (meaning too few employees to be covered by EOE laws) should be legally compelled to serve any customers. Let them discriminate. Let them discriminate and tell the fucking WORLD about how much they suck. Legally compelling them to serve customers won't fix the problem. sane and reasonable people coming together to say "We don't like you and we are not buying any of what you are selling. Cake or religion." sends a bigger message.
Typical libertarian argument isn't it?  Social pressure and the free hand of the market will supposedly be enough to end bigotry.  The problem with this of course is that North America is a homophobic and cissexist society.  As long as straight, cisgender people continue to benefit from our privilege in droves, there will be no real incentive for change.  You cannot shame someone into conforming in this way because their privilege buoys their bigotry.

Legally compelling business owners to serve the public won't change how they feel about marginalized people over night but it will mean that marginalized people will face less discrimination when they are forced to interact with the outside world. There should never be an exception to equality under the law and if you give these business an inch, you better believe they are going to take a mile. 

Some people simply need to face a cost for their bigotry and by making it expensive for them to discriminate in this fashion, you will force a change that no amount of social pressure can accomplish.  The bottom line is that these people went into business to earn a living and if that living if placed in jeopardy, they will have no choice but to either conform to social norms or face extinction.  The very idea that we should even tolerate one space where people can be bigoted is absolutely ridiculous.

Rights for marginalized people must be established under the law because the tyranny of the majority will never allow for true equality. Not only must these laws be established, they must be vigorously defended because rights are always under challenge, look at Roe V Wade for instance.  Even with these laws on the books, people continue to oppress and discriminate, so imagine how much worse things would be without even these minimal protections under the law.  I am not old enough to have lived through Jim Crow but I know enough to understand that being subjected to second class treatment is damaging to the soul.  No person should ever have to go through that for the sake of someone else's addiction to power and privilege.