Approved – NV
An Arizona Supreme Court ruling on Monday provided further evidence that gay rights are under siege in this country. Other recent events show that the Trump Administration is leading the assault. The Arizona court held that Brush & Nib Studio, a Phoenix-based company that makes customized wedding invitations, has the legal right to reject a gay couple as customers. Even though Phoenix has a local law that prohibits discrimination against the L.G.B.T.Q. community, the court ruled that the religious convictions of the business owners exempted them from the obligation to treat all customers equally. According to the court, designing wedding invitations is a creative act; to compel the owners to design an invitation against their will violates their rights both to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
The opinion treats the business owners—two women—as a beleaguered minority. Their “beliefs about same-sex marriage may seem old-fashioned, or even offensive to some,” the court wrote. “But the guarantees of free speech and freedom of religion are not only for those who are deemed sufficiently enlightened, advanced, or progressive. They are for everyone.” This, to put it charitably, is nonsense. The owners of Brush & Nib are free to believe anything they want. What they should not be allowed to do is to use those beliefs to run a business that is open to the general public but closed to gay people.
It’s important to recognize that religious people have made similar arguments for decades—that their beliefs entitle them to exemptions from the rules that bind everyone else. This has been especially true when the religious people in question operated a business. In 1982, the Supreme Court rejected an attempt by an Amish business owner in Pennsylvania to avoid paying his share of his employees’ Social Security taxes, because his community believed in helping their own and not accepting assistance from the state. “Every person cannot be shielded from all the burdens incident to exercising every aspect of the right to practice religious beliefs,” Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote in his opinion. “When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.”