Rand Paul Is Right: Civil Rights Aren’t Simple Rights

Something recently happened in England that warrants revisiting Rachel Maddow’s (in?)famous 2010 interview with Rand Paul concerning the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In April of this year, Rachel Maddow also revisited that interview, following Rand’s visit to Howard University, during which he answers a question from a student with the sentence: “I do question some of the ramifactions and extensions, and I have never come out in opposition to the Civil Rights Act … I have never questioned the Civil Rights Act”.

Rachel shows a clip of Rand’s giving that answer and then repeats, out of context, “I have never questioned the Civil Rights Act”. The context is important because it includes his explicit qualification that he does question the ramifications of the act beyond race.

Nevertheless, Rachel accuses Rand of “flat-out lying”, and to prove her point, she runs another interview that Rand had given in 2010 with the Louisville Courier Journal News paper, which went as follows.

LCJ: “Would you have voted for the Civil Rights of 1964?”
RP: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains. I am all in favor of that.”
LCJ: “But?”
RP: [Laughs] “You had to ask me the “but”. I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners – I abhor racism; I think it’s a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant – but at the same time I do believe in private ownership.”

Cutting back to Rachel in the studio, “That is Rand Paul, questioning the Civil Rights Act”.

She accuses Rand of having a sketchy record on racial discrimination and civil rights law, and of being condescending in thinking he can get away with his lie. She even displays this headline in the New Yorker: “Rand Paul, at Howard University, Pretends He Favored the Civil Rights Act”, to reinforce visually the idea that Rand is a) dishonest and b) disfavors the Civil Rights Act.

That was itself dishonest, and as someone who likes Maddow (and even has a signed copy of her book on my shelf), I am disappointed that Rachel didn’t think so. In her interview with Rand from 2010, Rand was clear:

“There are ten different titles to the Civil Rights Act and nine out of ten deal with public institutions and I am absolutely in favor of [them]. One deals with private institutions, and had I been around, I would have tried to modify that. But the other thing about legislation – and this is why it is a little hard to say where you are sometimes – is that when you support nine out of ten things in a good piece of legislation, do you vote for it or against it?”

They are not the words of a man who disfavors the Civil Rights Act, or is trying to be dishonest about his views of it. They are the words of a man who favors nine tenths of it and, because of his concern for civil rights, is worried about the gutting of one principle critical to everyone’s enjoyment of liberty – private property – to help extend the reach of another (anti-discrimination).

… Which brings me to the recent event in England that raises serious questions for Americans, and I think puts Rand’s interview in an altogether more positive light.

In the U.K., an elderly Christian couple, Mr and Mrs Bull, who used to run a guesthouse, refused to offer rooms to unmarried couples – whether gay or straight. Some time ago, a gay couple, who fell afoul of their “no unwed couples” policy, sued them for discrimination. Britain’s Supreme Court agreed with the offended party and fined the hoteliers thousands of pounds, which, along with the legal fees, and the elimination of their right to rent their rooms to whomever they wish, caused them to sell their business.

As a non-religionist, I completely disagree with the guesthouse-owners view of sexuality and, dare I say, love. But I am very disturbed by the use of law to punish them for following their conscience with their own property in a way that neither did, nor intended to do, active harm to anyone.

This incident raises a complicated moral and societal question about which well-meaning and intelligent people can disagree. To find answers to such questions, I often ask simply, “What would Love do?”. And I have to say that if I were denied entry to this business (as I would be if I were with a partner as I am not married), I would probably pity this couple for their views, and I might even tell them so, but Love would require me to respect where they are on their spiritual journey, and know that they were not seeking to hurt me. I wouldn’t feel that I had a right to use the force of the state against them, nor would I want to.

As I read this sad tale, Rand’s interview with Rachel Maddow came immediately to mind. For what happened to Mr and Mrs Bull is the very consequence of the concession of the principle of private property that Rand was so concerned about.

Just as Mr and Mrs. Bull had a right to discriminate (but a moral obligation not to do so), any group of aggrieved customers – such as gay people or unmarried persons who are sexually active – have all the right in the world to publicize this couple’s views in a bid to persuade others not to frequent their establishment (easier today than it has ever been). In this way, no one has to act out of force or violate the one right that exists almost exclusively to facilitate the exercise of all other fundamental (natural) rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – which is the right to earn and deploy property to your benefit as long as doing so harms no one else.

In the case of Mr and Mrs Bull, the force of a British law that is equivalent to the one tenth of the Civil Rights Act about which Rand Paul is rightfully concerned, was used to deprive someone of something as punishment for an act that was not intended to harm, was in line with sincerely held religious belief, and materially deprived no one of anything.

Logically, Mr and Mrs Bull can only have committed a crime if the couple they turned away had an actual right to be served by them. Yet, the Bulls are not compelled to offer their service to anyone. So how can it be that party A’s (the Bulls) making a free choice to transact with party B (a married couple) creates a new right for party C (unmarried couple)? What kind of right would that be? It is not a simple question.

To get to its answer, Rachel had pressed Rand on this altogether more concrete question.

“Do you believe that private business people should be able to decide whether they want to serve black people, gays or any other minority group?”

The most important thing about this question is that it is utterly different from the following one.

“Do you believe that private business people should serve black people, gays or any other minority group?”

Those two questions are very different indeed; they rest on very different moral and even metaphysical principles and both consistently can, and perhaps, should, be answered with a “yes”.

It is far from obvious, for example, that we should use law to punish a person who follows his conscience and does not harm another individual (such as Mr. Bull), but not a person who goes against his conscience and betrays another, such as by telling a lie to cover adultery. Typically, we make the leap from “an action is wrong” to “an action should be punishable by law” only in the very rare cases that an individual is in fact harmed or put at great risk of harm (murder, robbery, intention to do either, reckless driving, etc.).

In contrast, anti-discrimination laws in the private sphere almost uniquely work by the threat of harm (or in Mr and Mrs Bull’s case, doing actual harm) against individuals who have neither done, nor intended to do, active harm against anyone else. This is extremely serious because it is exactly by prohibiting the state from harming those who have not done harm to others that discrimination against any group in the public sphere is prevented. In other words, anti-discriminatory laws in the private sphere are always in danger of undermining the very principle they purport to defend. Typically, that doesn’t matter practically in the short-run, but it can do huge harm in the long-term.

What, after all, was the evil of slavery, from which modern discrimination in large part follows so darkly? It was not the evil of slavers’ refusing to let their slaves buy services, analogous to the refusal of Mr and Mrs Bull to offer a room for their unmarried but sexually active clients. Rather, it was the legally sanctioned, complete abuse of the property rights of the slaves by the slavers – the refusal to let them earn property in exchange for their labor, the refusal to let them keep property with which they could have bought themselves out of their slavery, the refusal to allow them to decide what to do with anything they did in any loose sense own, and even, (by the definition of property favored by many who understand its importance to providing all individuals the means of defending their liberty against any impingement,) the denial of the slaves’ exclusive property in their own beings and bodies.

This is extremely important. Property rights matter because property is the only secure means by which people can exercise their liberty over time and defend it when it is under attack.

Understanding why the two questions above can both be answered affirmatively is critical not only to understanding Freedom, but also to our ability as a nation to preserve it. We might even go a step further and say that it is the difference between those two questions that defines Freedom.

That Rand Paul cares about all of that is a credit to him. The story of Mr and Mrs Bull does not in itself prove that either Rand or Rachel is right on that one tenth of the Civil Rights Act that deals with private institutions, but it does (as sure as slavery is evil) prove that intelligent people can disagree about it. And it proves beyond doubt that impugning the intent of a politician who has sufficient integrity and, frankly, courage, to grapple so publicly with the fundamental principles of liberty is not only unfair to him, but also a disservice to us all.

Author: ROBIN KOERNER

Robin is the creator and publisher of WatchingAmerica.com, a website that translates foreign news about the U.S. from around the world. He is also a political and economic commentator for the Huffington Post, Ben Swann, the Daily Paul, and other sites. He is best known for coining the term “Blue Republican” to refer to liberals and independents who joined the GOP to support Ron Paul’s bid for the presidency. His article launched a movement, which now focuses on winning supporters for liberty, rather than arguments, focusing on finding common ground with those of various political persuasions, and especially people on the left.

79 Comments

  1. As with other human rights such as free speech, people fail to make a distinction between the right and some action under that right. I condemn the person’s comment ” kill all the white devils” but I respect his right of free speech. I might not respect a persons use of their property rights but I respect the right.

    William Barr, Author “Possible: A Guide for Innovation”

  2. Interesting, Robin, and I may have some comments later.

    I just wonder as to why you twice mentioned the “sexually active” part of the “gay people or unmarried persons” seeking accommodations at the Bull’s guesthouse.

    Would the owners have been generous enough to let unmarried or gay couples stay at their guesthouse if they promised not to be “sexually active?”

    I just don’t understand the germaneness of this aspect of a committed relationship in this case. Was it part of the legal proceedings? Just curious. Thanks.

  3. Excellent essay, Robin (OK now I feel like Batman). Thanks for posting it.

  4. Rand Paul has a valid point. No shirt…no shoes…no service is still a right of ownership. This is similar.
    Like Dorian, I am not sure why that activity aspect was emphasized, but I still think the Bulls have a right to allow or disallow anyone they want. The only harm they cause is to themselves, both by reputation and by business.
    Perhaps they should advertise their establishment differently to ward off all those discrimination claims. “we run a Bed and Breakfast designed for heterosexual married couples only.”

  5. At the risk of being contrary, and as one with profound respect for Robin’s writing, I must disagree.

    Society routinely intrudes on property and business “rights” for the greater social good. Zoning laws (an intrusion on property rights)prevent smokestack industries from locating in residential neighborhoods. Restrictions on traffic prevent heavy trucks (private property) from traversing certain streets and roadways. To avoid distraction and visual pollution restrictions are placed on the erection of billboards and roadside signs. Environmental laws regularly restrict business activity by, for example, preventing the discharge of waste into the air and nearby water sources. Private business is required to pay assessments and property taxes to support infrastructure and public schools (whether they have school children or not, and whether they agree or not with what is taught therein). Hoteliers, like the Bulls, are prevented from letting rooms that fail to meet public safety codes (even though the Bulls may mean no specific harm by doing so and may not agree that the rooms are unsafe for not meeting code).

    The litany of public intrusion on private property rights is almost endless…just a few examples above. To see to it that persons subject to historically vile discrimination in lodging and restaurant access are assured such access and do not suffer by having to sleep in vehicles, on the streets or find friendly private residences, but can enjoy the same opportunities as others to lodge and feed themselves in public accommodations (though privately owned), is not too much to ask of business owners who avail themselves of all the privileges and infrastructure advantages they enjoy for the sake of their enterprise.

    Civil rights do matter. We do not live in a vacuum of pure capitalism. No matter that(Ayn)Randian thinkers opine that we ought. Our capitalists do a great service for our economy and for themselves, but they do not exist as extra-societal zombies who can pick and choose which of societies laws to obey and disobey because of their personal biases.

    Well, I shall stop there and see if there is response or not.

    Blessings to all, most especially those with whom I disagree.

  6. This really isn’t a simple issue. It is easy to sympathize with Mr. and Mrs. Bull in the case presented. However, I am quite confident that the provision of the Civil Rights law you are discussing would not have been passed if Jim Crow was just being applied by a few businesses here and there. Instead, it was a nearly universal policy. White businesses would not sell food to black travelers, so they went hungry. White hotels would not let black people stay in them, so they slept outside or in jail due to curfew laws. White people used their freedom to intentionally harm black people. So what do you propose as a better solution than the one we have now?

  7. Added:

    Waiting for your reply, Robin.

    But in the meantime I checked your source and other sources on the case and found no reference to the “sexually active” bit –just something about “sharing a double bed”.

    Just wonder why the emphasis on this aspect of a couple’s love and relationship.

    Thanks

  8. I’m with Elijah and Zzzzz above.

  9. When someone says they have a “private” business, let’s just be clear that in most cases they’ve applied and been granted various licenses or permits, etc. to operate a business and open their doors TO THE PUBLIC. They have not been granted a license to discriminate against certain members of the public. Any business owner should have the right to refuse service to anyone posing a risk (health code violations, screaming, bothering customers, etc.)

    And if I wanted to open a religious organization or private, members’ only club, then I need only accept people who pass the religious “sniff test” or who are members.

    I think government very much has a right to prohibit “private”/public business from discriminating against customers and employees. One of the roles of government is to maintain a stable society. This cannot be done if businesses “open to the public” discriminate against certain members of the public. Have we forgotten that just a few short decades ago many businesses discriminated against blacks? When I think of that time period “a stable society” is not a phrase that comes to mind. Even today with anti-discrimination laws, racism and other forms of bigotry still exists and causes instability.

    So let’s be clear that “private business” really means “public business” with permits, licenses, etc. to operate a business open to the public. When we use the adjective “private” we should use it to refer to our private home, private property that the public does not have the right to trespass on, etc. The rights of private property owners are different than the rights of owners of business open to the public. When people like Rand Paul use “private” to talk about a business which serve the public, then they are dishonest in their argument, since “private” generally means private property or something else not intended for public consumption. Most businesses such as restaurants, stores, etc. are open to the public and when they obtained their permits they agreed to serve the public, not just those people in the public they happen to like. So let’s drop “private” when talking about any business – large or small – that has its doors open to the public.

  10. Stockboy has it exactly right. If you are not willing to serve all the public, you need to close your business. Further, Sen. Paul believes that private clubs may discriminate in any way they choose. The Civil Rights Act states that private clubs may stay private but have to be formed on the basis of something other than race, gender, etc. etc. You can form a camera club, but you can’t form a black camera club and refuse membership to someone of another race (in this country; I don’t know about Britain).

    A former co-worker’s mom owned a campground that was patronized only by gays. She didn’t have to advertise because the word was out and there were no restrictions against other lifestyle patrons.

  11. Perhaps germane to the article, perhaps not — or at least as germane as the “sexual active” bit — it seems that, while Britain has caught up to the 21st century when it comes to human rights and freedom, India may be going back to the 1860s: “In a shocking legal misadventure, India’s Supreme Court upheld a Victorian British law criminalizing homosexuality, a bizarre, shameful ruling against freedom—and judicial sense.”

    Read more here

  12. I appreciate the thought put into this post and I think I am in agreement, especially since you included the last paragraph to say that it doesn’t prove the Rand is right in his criticism.

    I’m sympathetic to the libertarian argument and I agree that there is a strong right to private property. But of course no right is absolute. I agree with Elijah that society can impose certain obligations on property owners. I believe this stems from the fact that property owners take up space, physically and economically, that could be used by others. Therefore, in exchange for the right to property there is a moral obligation to use it in benefit of, or at least not to the detriment of, society. Even Robert Nozick, considered by some as the father of modern libertarianism, argues that the right to property is first created when we take unowned property and improve it. It’s not a stretch, therefore, to argue that obligation continues.

    Now, moral obligations should not always be enforced by law, as you point out. For one thing, that would require us to all agree on what those obligations are. There must be a large detriment to society that outweighs the rights of the property owner. I’d say we don’t have that in the case of the Bulls. But I think we do in the case of the Civil Rights Act, or at least we did at the time that it was passed.

  13. StockBoyLA,

    I think your argument is circular. The argument is that we can impose legal obligation on business owners (like requiring that they not exclude anyone that doesn’t pose a risk) because they really aren’t private, they are public, by virtue of the fact that we’ve imposed legal obligations on them (requiring them to get a permit).

    I view the relationship between a business and a customer as a private relationship. The public (government) is involved only so far as is necessary according to my argument in my comment above, which is similar to what is required of its involvement in any other private matter.

  14. ad

    I guess I view the only private relationship between a business and a customer as one in which you pays your money and you takes your chances. Like transactions with your bookie, or your mistress, or your friendly local gun dealer.

    I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to buy a car, or a ride on an airplane, or contract any business that is advertising its services without having the government involved in guaranteeing my safety or freedom from fraud.

  15. AD: then what about the government regulation of businesses? Everything from minimum was laws to OSHA, to handicapped access for the members of the public with disabilities, etc.?

    I don’t think my argument is circular because “private” and “public” means certain things and sometimes those meanings overlap. I agree with you that the relationship between a business and a customer is private. However it is a public business…. it’s on the street with its doors open for just anyone to walk into. However anyone (non-business) can sell something to a friend, relative, neighbor, etc. and not need a store front. This is a completely private transaction.

    Also businesses are public and must meet various other governmental requirements. OSHA, handicapped access for members of the public who are disabled, minimum wage, etc. This all makes a business public.

    The very basic notion of a business is to have a storefront on the street and be open to serve the public and make money. The government tries to ensure fairness and common standards for all. People don’t open businesses to attract the public…. then try to keep people away…. unless they are bigots or crazy. Being crazy or a bigot does not give anyone the right to discriminate in a public business. The very notion that businesses can discriminate against people they do not like goes against good business sense, common courtesy and is not a feature of a civilized society.

    If someone wants to live in a civilized society and enjoy all the benefits, then they must obey all the rules. Otherwise once we start having people cherry picking which rules and laws they want to live by, then we might as well go back to the times of the wild west where there is neither rule of law nor a functioning and stable society.

  16. TO,

    I didn’t say I’m opposed to safety regulations, fraud protections, or permitting. I said that because there are some legitimate roles for government to play in private transactions doesn’t mean the business is not principally a private matter, and doesn’t mean that the government should be able to dictate whatever it wants for that business.

    StockBoy,

    My opinion is that we can’t draw such a fine line between two acquaintances exchanging goods or services for money and a business with a store-front. The B&B illustrates this, since most B&Bs I’ve come across in the UK are on the same property as the owners home.

    It strikes me that there is an unlikely similarity in the way that right-wing Christian fundamentalists want to enforce what they view as moral behavior through law, and the way that left-wing civil rights advocates do the same. We can all agree with Christian fundamentalists that “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not steal” should be enshrined in law. We can agree with left-wing civil rights advocates that businesses shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate based on race. But in a free society there’s a whole lot in between that just ought to be left up to people’s conscience. Tolerance goes both ways.

  17. Arguments of the sort presented by both RP and by Robin just reinforces the commonly help notion that libertarians tend to be not only very privileged, but also tend to have difficulty imagining the world from any perspective other than their own.

  18. AD:

    But in a free society there’s a whole lot in between that just ought to be left up to people’s conscience. Tolerance goes both ways.

    I think the law should be followed. But if you think people should do whatever they want according to their conscience, then I interpret that to mean you’re for changing the law to allow discrimination. Any business owner can refuse to provide goods or services to anyone.

    And quite frankly their seems to be very little conscience in America these days. Let’s take an easy example… WalMart and their low pay. How can anyone with a conscience pay their employees so little that they are unable to support their families if they work full time? And they refer their employees to use public services in order to eat…. public services paid for by tax dollars… and WalMart supports politicians in favor of lowering business taxes!

    I think when politicians and businessmen actually have good consciences and do not give in to greed, then we can do away with laws meant to protect workers and the public.

  19. StockBoyLA,

    I think I’ve made it pretty clear, a couple times now, that I support imposing certain requirements on businesses, including forbidding discrimination based on race. And I certainly didn’t ever suggest that anyone should break the law.

    My argument, again, is that such cases are an exception to the rule that in general business transactions are a private matter and deference should be given to the business and customer to do as they please so long as there is not a clear and significant detriment to society. If you disagree with that and believe that businesses should be required to act in accordance with your view of right and wrong, then I respectfully disagree.

  20. Re the “sexually active” bit: it draws the germane point out of the word “couple”. The Bulls’ convictions are such that they do not wish to provide accommodation to all “unmarried couples” : “couples” here obviously refers to those engaged in a sexual relationship, and who are therefore “fornicators” – as fornication is something the Bulls (it seems) wish not to condone or allow.

    This is just to clarify (which I obviously failed to do) that the Bulls presumably would have no problem with a “couple of people” – i.e. two people who were not fornicating.

    Moreover, the point about being sexually active is important because they were prosecuted for discriminating against the plaintiffs because they were gay. The Bulls said that was false – and their proof that it was false was that they discriminate against all couples who have sex outside marriage. The point is surely the sex as it is the only thing that makes sense of their legal defense AND their choice to discriminate in the first place based on their religion. Thanks!

  21. Thank you, Robin. I do appreciate your response.

    I am fascinated by this case and would like to pursue the legal proceedings further.

    I have only been able to find general articles on it that do not mention the “sexually active” or the “fornication” aspects. Could you provide sources?

    The question begs of this very religious/moral couple (the Bulls), as to whether they, for example, object to anal sex — or other so-called “unnatural sex” by “normal” married couples (sorry for being so graphic) and, if so, whether they would first inquire of their prospective married guests whether they would engage in this form of “sexually activeness” or “fornication” prior to renting their lodgings.

    I know that it sounds like I am “stretching” it somewhat, but I am just trying to establish whether folks in general object to gays and lesbians, to gay and lesbian being “sexually active,” to all kinds of “unnatural” sex, etc.

    Thanks

  22. DDW I can’t speak for Robin but it seems to me your question is interesting but not relevant to the legal case.

    The way I interpret this case in my inexpert mind is that the Bulls have decided not to provide their private services to those who do not have the legal designation of marriage. Public law specifies certain situations where the Bulls cannot refuse to provide service – discrimination on the basis of religion, race, etc. I haven’t read much about the court’s reasoning but it seems to me the Bull’s decision is within the specified parameters of British law, they are not discriminating on any of the guidelines British law has set up for them, and as such their private business decision is legal.

  23. ” it seems to me the Bull’s decision is within the specified parameters of British law…”

    Oh, but the Bulls discrimination was not within “the specified parameters of British law,” so ruled the British Supreme Court:

    “The Supreme Court deputy president, Lady Hale, said the Bulls are free to ‘manifest their religion. but by refusing to allow homosexual men to share a double bed in their establishment, they were breaking the law.”

    Moreover, “Judge Andrew Rutherford declared in the Bristol Crown Court ruling that in law there is no discernable difference between civil partnership and marriage, a ruling which later helped to pass the Conservative government’s ‘gay marriage’ act.”

    Moreover, my questions and comments are in my humble opinion relevant because they go as to motives. I am not a legal beaver, but I think that motives do play some role in any legal case. Were the Bulls’ motives religious, moral, bigoted, racial?

    The latter of course not in this case, but if the couple, gay or not, married or not, had been black would the Bulls have been within their right to refuse service?

    The piece I am quoting adds:

    In what has been called the first national test case of the Equality Act’s Sexual Orientation Regulations (SOR) for Christians who hold traditional sexual moral beliefs, the Bulls have lost in every court, starting with the Bristol Crown Court in January 2011.

  24. It looks like the judges whose job it is to interpret British law disagree, and as such their private business decision is not legal. Isn’t it just a bit disingenuous to say that they’re not discriminating against gay people, just unmarried people, when gay couples can’t legally marry in England?

    I think the salient question here is whether or not the law should allow businesses to discriminate against a class of people given that this will result in a lack of access to services for that class of people, which it will. Yes, there is a tension between the rights of an individual business to discriminate against customers (or, relatedly, against employees), and the rights of individuals to have access to the same services that everyone else does. This is the question that was answered by the Civil Rights Act in the US, and it is the portion of that law that Rand Paul is most certainly questioning, despite the OP’s pronouncements. It is an important question, and it is a vital part of the Civil Rights Act. Saying that we just need to recognize the place on the “spiritual journey” of those who discriminate against us is the sort of answer that is really only ever given by those who have essentially zero personal experience with discrimination on the receiving end, and haven’t taken a single moment to think about those who have too much experience with such discrimination.

  25. Oh, but the Bulls discrimination was not within “the specified parameters of British law,” so ruled the British Supreme Court:

    I thought it was pretty clear I am disagreeing with the court, just as we all disagree with courts sometimes.

    If the UK feels marriage and civil partnership are the same thing then why do they give them separate designations? It looks like they are changing their law to make them the same but that law has not yet taken effect.

    I also disagree with the importance of their motives. It’s not illegal to be racist or homophobic as long as you don’t break the law.

    But I’m a business owner and generally am sympathetic to the rights of businesses, especially small businesses like the Bulls were running. Running a business is tough enough without being forced to do things that are against your personal beliefs. In this case the gay couple has won but the Bulls are closing their business. I don’t see that as a positive outcome.

  26. Ah Dorian, you beat me to it :)

  27. Yeah but… Yeah but… Yeah but… Dorian.

    The “Yeah buts”, no matter the cause, no matter the reason, will never accept anything that goes against their narrow-minded POV and bigotry.

  28. “Running a business is tough enough without being forced to do things that are against your personal beliefs.”

    They rent rooms to the public. Rooms have beds in them. Renting rooms with beds in them might be the wrong calling for people whose personal beliefs are so set against the very normal, natural, legal, old-as-time things that happen between two adults who rent rooms with beds in them. This couple is not owed a place in the room-renting market; if they wanted to follow the law and not moralize against their own would-be customers, there would be no problem here.

  29. I thought it was pretty clear I am disagreeing with the court, just as we all disagree with courts sometimes.

    Sorry, I misunderstood you.

    I thought you said,

    “I haven’t read much about the court’s reasoning but it seems to me the Bull’s decision is within the specified parameters of British law”

    Merry Christmas

  30. I did indeed say that DDW, maybe I’m saying it in a confusing way. If the Bulls had discriminated because the couple was black or Muslim, the decision on that would be very clear because the law is clearly spelled out. In this case the law was previously silent on this issue and the court had to make a judgment, one I don’t agree with. To me the Bulls had a reasonable expectation that they were acting within the law at the time they denied the gay couple a room. My guess is they had run their business for years with the same policy and the law had never questioned it.

    And yes it’s dumb from a business standpoint to turn away business, but it’s still legal to make dumb business decisions, lord knows we see them often enough. In that sense the Bull’s business was less likely to succeed because of their own business guidelines.

    But hey I’m probably just saying that to hide my narrow-minded POV and bigotry.

  31. If the Bulls had discriminated because the couple was black or Muslim, the decision on that would be very clear because the law is clearly spelled out.

    But ‘the gays’ is a different kind of discrimination? A different story?

    But hey I’m probably just saying that to hide my narrow-minded POV and bigotry.

    If the shoe fits…

    Happy Holidays!

  32. OK Steve, you win man, I’m out of here.

  33. Well, I was really enjoying following this thread and the multiplicity of views and nuances being expressed…until it got personal. We truly need to stop this and stick to the topic. ‘Nuf said on that.

    On topic, I disagree with DaGoat on substance, but think his views have been well expressed and should not be mistaken for bigotry. As a business owner myself, I understand the frustration that attends legal compliance, but I also found myself in agreement when Roro suggested that people whose religious biases are such as the Bulls’ should not be in the public accommodations biz.

    On a professional note, the British legal system is different than ours. It is likely a mistake to try to view this court decision through the eyes of one accustomed to the American legislative and judicial systems.

  34. Very good discussion. I just want to make a comment on this from adelinesdad:

    “We can all agree with Christian fundamentalists that “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not steal” should be enshrined in law. We can agree with left-wing civil rights advocates that businesses shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate based on race. But in a free society there’s a whole lot in between that just ought to be left up to people’s conscience. Tolerance goes both ways.”

    First, as a liberal, I don’t think not killing and not stealing are things only “Christian fundamentalist” believe should be enshrined in law. I know it is easy to bash liberals and most times I ignore it, but sometimes it really grates. Second, as to the story of the Bulls, gay marriage was approved in England in July 2013. I am not sure of the time-frame for the civil suit, but if it was before July 2013, then the Bulls were discriminating against gays as there was no way for them to meet the Bulls’ requirement of being legally wed. Also, if businesses are allowed to discriminate against one thing, in this case unwed couples, then what is to stop businesses from discriminating against other things, like people in wheelchairs. I can see the slippery slope approaching.

  35. Well, I feel I must raise this issue. If the Bulls were to advertise in the manner in which I stated, that their establishment was for heterosexual married couples only, would it still be considered a problem? Hardly.

    They can offer services to any subset pf people they desire without fear of legal retribution. For instance…suppose they allow only nudists, or clean shaven people or blondes…whatever. They are under no obligation to conform in anyway beyond that just so long as they are not practicing racial, ethnic or religious discrimination as defined by law.

  36. sheknows, yes, yes it would still be considered a problem. No, they can’t just offer services to hetersexual people, or just nudists, or just clean shaven people, or just blondes. They are obligated to conform to non-discrimination laws, in countries with anti-discrimination laws like the US and England. You wouldn’t say that only serving blonde people would be practicing racial discrimination? Only serving clean-shaven people wouldn’t be religious discrimination against those whose religion dictates not shaving? And while there are kind of fuzzy laws around discriminating against gay people here in the US, in England they’re considered a protected class, so opening a business only for hetersexual people is not legal either.

    Maybe I’m not understanding what you’re saying.

  37. There’s a lot to respond to since I last commented, but I only have time to address one that requires immediate clarification.

    yoopermoose, I am not intending to say that liberals want murder to be legal, of course. Not to single you out, but speaking of grating, it seems there is quite a bit of misinterpretation of my comments on this thread. Partly I may be being unclear (though I’ve never been criticized for being too terse), but also partly I think it’s a symptom of the fact that so much of our political discourse involves people saying absurd things, so we’ve come to expect that someone we disagree with must be saying absurd things.

    My point was that there are things that part of what Christian fundamentalists believe that we all mostly agree with and should be law. And there are things that left-wing civil rights advocates believe that we also almost all agree with and should be law. But they both go too far in wanting to impose their view of right and wrong as law.

  38. “We can agree with left-wing civil rights advocates that businesses shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate based on race.”

    AD, honest question here, but who is “we” in this sentence? I ask because it’s quite clear that Rand Paul does not agree that businesses shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate based on race. He is in explicit disagreement with that part of the law. That is the 1 of 10 things in the Civil Rights Act that he says he would have fought against, even if he would eventually vote for it anyway. Robin explicitly says Rand Paul is right on that count, and agrees with him on that. They both stipulate that it’s bad or morally wrong, but should be legal. That we can’t all agree on that point is the crux of the entire argument presented here. Now, I totally agree that we all should be able to agree that between racists who discriminate and people of color getting access to the same services as white people, our laws should absolutely side with people of color over the racists, but that is the opposite of the argument being put forth by Rand Paul and Robin.

  39. On my last comment, Robin, if I am misrepresenting your views, by all means please make the correction and accept my apologies.

  40. … until it got personal. We truly need to stop this and stick to the topic. ‘Nuf said on that.

    I agree completely.

    I posted a comment to express my opinion and that is: Anyone who discriminates for any reason other than the basic ‘no shoes, no shirts, no service’ health and safety concerns is either narrow-minded or bigoted or both. My remark was not personal nor was it directed at any specific case or person though I do believe it to be so in the Bull’s case.

    A reply to my comment tried to make it personal but that doesn’t change either the intent or my position on this matter.

    ‘Personal’ was not my intent and to anyone who took it that was I am sorry.

  41. roro: “Isn’t it just a bit disingenuous to say that they’re not discriminating against gay people, just unmarried people, when gay couples can’t legally marry in England?”

    I think it’s contradictory for the government to say that the business owner’s policy to not accommodate unmarried couples illegally discriminates against gay couples on account of the fact that they can’t get married on account of the fact that the government won’t let them.

  42. No argument from me on that, ad.

  43. This has nothing to do with discrimination in my opinion. See, Lets look at this another way. Suppose you opened a bed and breakfast FOR WOMEN ONLY. Should then men be allowed to file a lawsuit claiming gender discrimination? and yet, we have had women’s and men’s clubs in existence forever. Perfectly legal.
    So my point is this. As long as an owner ( who is under NO obligation to offer services to everybody) lets people know that they are specific in their requirements, it is not a problem. It only BECOMES a problem when unsuspecting people try to gain admittance and are told what the requirements are. All women, no women. all gay, no gay…heterosexual married whatever. There is no more discrimination in an all women’s B&B than a heterosexual married one.

  44. Who says they can’t just offer services to heterosexuals, or nudists, or blondes? What laws say that? A privately owned business cannot determine who it chooses to have? Since when? Well, we better storm the Mens’ clubs in New York and LA. Also, what about financial discrimination. Don’t make $500k a year..you can’t join this club. Oh…but it is a PRIVATE club. Just like a men’s or women’s club. Is it always just about race and sex or should we as a society start looking at all forms of discrimination?

  45. roro, I’m glad we agree on that. Leaving that aside, if gay marriage were made legal in the UK, I don’t know if the Bulls would have sought to exclude gay married couples. But, hypothetically, if they did, I agree with you that this is the central question:

    “I think the salient question here is whether or not the law should allow businesses to discriminate against a class of people given that this will result in a lack of access to services for that class of people, which it will.”

    If enough businesses exclude the same class of people, it would result in a lack of access to services which would be a problem warranting legal protections. This is why the provision of the Civil Rights act that prevents businesses from discriminating based on race was necessary. However, I don’t believe all discrimination warrants it. Not having access to a particular Mom&Pop B&B in the UK I don’t think significantly diminishes access to the service, unless a significant portion of the others do it too. The best option, in my opinion, is to allow people to exercise their conscience as much as possible and only intervene when necessary to protect a class of people from significant disadvantage.

  46. roro, the “we” in my sentence was basically everyone in this discussion on this thread. Robin says at the end that Rand Paul is not necessarily right, only that the issue is complicated, and I agree with that. The examples I chose could have been better, though. I didn’t mean to imply that there is as much consensus around the fact that it should be illegal to discriminate based on race as there is consensus that murder should be illegal.

  47. roro and Elijah,

    The argument that people who have certain moral views and consider themselves to have a moral obligation to act on them should avoid certain lines of work bothers me. In some of my comments on this thread I tried to make the argument that tolerance goes both ways. From that perspective, I don’t see that argument as much different than saying that gay couples should just be forbidden from using B&Bs altogether. As long as there are plenty of other comparable B&Bs to go to that are willing to provide the desired service, I don’t see a reason to put anyone at a disadvantage (the gay couple or the business owner). That ideal outcome is the whole point of tolerance, it seems to me.

  48. Thanks to all of you for engaging.

    I would like to say you have ALL proven my point: “civil rights are not simple rights” … and leave it at that :)

    Dorian: it’s interesting that you didn’t read the link as I read it. What I took away even from the single story that I linked was that the issue was the non-marital sexual relationship. I don’t see that there’s another way to understand it. But I’m all ears: how else could you interpret consistently the fact a) that they purport traditional Christian views, b) their desire not to rent rooms to unmarried couples and c) the defense that they were not discriminating based on homosexuality per se but the conducting of a relationship outside traditional marriage. Surely “a relationship” here means “Sexual relationship” in its standard sense? Otherwise, none of it makes sense!

    Roro: (Rereading your comment). My article says that Rand is right to question the issue – that there are principles at stake here, and obviously my sympathies lie with Rand’s view: As per my final paragraph, I am not definitively coming down on one side or the other, but we need to appreciate that good, intelligent people can disagree on this – and for good reason. Else we go too quickly to impugn intent or moral capacity, which is I think what you have done to me indirectly (see my comment two below this one).

    One other thought. Having positively protected classes in law is (by definition) discriminatory on its face. A lot of red-heads get bullied. Do we need to protect them in law? Law must protect ALL minorities equally, which means protecting none more than others, which means protecting all smallest-possible-minorities (individuals) equally. This speaks to the “discriminating against blondes” comment above. It wouldn’t matter so much EXCEPT for the fact that positive discrimination (which is what this is!) defeats a deeper principle on which equal protection under Law is based. That’s why it’s complicated… as your comments here have demonstrated. Thanks!

  49. The argument that “they chose to open a public business… Therefore… ” or “They have state-given licenses to run their business… Therefore…” doesn’t work for me here because it is circular and just shifts the question.

    The point here is whether people like the Bulls should be allow to transact freely with some people without being “open to the public” (like private clubs) and whether the state (through licensing or other means ) should have the power to stop them (this last bit is where it gets dangerous, as per the article).

  50. “Saying that we just need to recognize the place on the “spiritual journey” of those who discriminate against us is the sort of answer that is really only ever given by those who have essentially zero personal experience with discrimination on the receiving end, and haven’t taken a single moment to think about those who have too much experience with such discrimination.”

    Roro: that struck me as cheap and ad hominem. You have no idea about my background life (or the experiences of those in my family)… I didn’t tell anyone else what to do in my article. I wrote about what I would do: how I try to behave on the receiving end of clear close-mindedness and injustice. And that is not a hypothetical. It is something I try to live in my life (with varying degrees of success and failure).

    Also, for the record: please don’t label me libertarian: it is not a label I use for myself, even though I recognize that this is a “libertarian position”. What you label you negate (Kierkegaard)… but if you must label me, “classical liberal” would be more accurate. I am against absolutes and orthodoxies in politics. As per my last paragraph, I am very much for trying to see things from others’ positions: how else can we test our views against the real good or bad they do?

  51. Thank you for your patience, courtesy and civility, Robin.

    I will just end my comments with an observation that is purely subjective, probably would not have any standing in a court of law or in any legal discussion, will be totally destroyed by most readers who look at these issues in a dispassionate, academic, intellectual, much “broader-context” way. But it comes from the heart and from the gut, if that counts in any way.

    The inclusion in the discussion — for effect or not, as a fictitious example or not — and comparing the plight of gays and lesbians in our country, in the UK and in the world to “red-heads being bullied,” or “discriminating against blondes” or any other such silly “classes,” however well-intended, diminishes the gravity of the issue and of the discussion.

    We are not talking about redheads being bullied, or blondes being discriminated.

    We are talking about real and serious cases of men’s and women’s rights being violated and not solely as individuals but as an entire class.

    And, yes, having personally seen the tragic effects of discrimination, of denying equal rights and equal service to gays and lesbians and being very much aware of the injustices and crimes that have been committed against these people for being gay, we do need to protect them more in law than blondes or redheads or any other such silly example.

    And I do wish you a Merry Christmas, Robin

  52. Thank you Robin. I think you chose an excellent topic for us to think deeply about. Unfortunately, many here chose to generate more heat than light because it dealt with a sensitive topic. The form of discrimination became the issue, when in fact the issue is the right to discriminate.

  53. Thanks Dorian. Merry Christmas too!

    Of course, the blondes is a silly example in that the (very positive and good) motivation for anti-discrimination laws does not exist in that case… but the reason for bringing it up is to focus on the principle. My fear is that we are violating a universal principle to pick these groups against which discrimination occurs. There *are* other groups and people who are discriminated against and who are not protected in law. So what are the principled criteria for inclusion under the umbrella of “protected group” (remember we are talking only the private sphere here), bearing in mind that those principles run up against freedom of conscience, property rights, and other things on which good society is based. Only when we identify those principles (on which we choose groups for protection) can we have a principled evaluation of the compromising of the principles we are violating/compromising when we single out such groups.

    Also, an important point: a person’s rights may be violated by someone who identifies them as a member of particular class – but it is still necessarily their rights *as individual people* that are being violated. (Only individuals can be moral agents.) But the problem here (again) is that it is not clear that I am violating your rights if I say I do not wish you to sleep in a bedroom that I own. No one is condoning discrimination or ignorance – but that is not the question. The difficulty is in the principled justification for the protection in Law. Just because the consequences of non-protection in the private sphere may be bad (case to be made): that does not mean that the (long-term) consequence of protection in the private sphere aren’t worse.

  54. I continue to disagree in principle and in spirit, but thanks again for considering my views without ridicule or high-mindedness, Robin.

  55. I always appreciate our interactions, Dorian.

    Since you say that you disagree “in principle” (which is the point!), I would be genuinely interested in a principled basis for selecting the groups for legal protection in the private sphere… and at least some pointers as to why those principles can be deemed to be “more fundamental” than the others at issue. It is, for sure, a complex issue… and I’d be interested in a principled way into your side of the argument, so to speak.

  56. I will certainly “give it a go,” Robin. It may be a while and it certainly will not be as scholar or authoritative as yours or as some of the comments here.

  57. Thanks Dorian.

    You are way too modest (or flattering, or both). No expectation on my part. If you have the time, that’s great. No hurry anyways… Hope all is very well with you, as always!

  58. Robin, one more thing, but please do not reply (This is getting to be too much like a MAS):

    I have noticed that you have created a fantastic fan base at the Huffington Post.

    Congratulations. I am not surprised. Although I don’t agree with everything you write, you write everything excellently.

  59. As far as Rand’s emphasis on preserving an individual’s freedom to defend his or her property rights and to run businesses in the way that an individual wants, this is truly only a portion of the individual rights that many governments exists (partly)to protect. But there is really much more at play. consider this statement Robin makes:

    “In contrast, anti-discrimination laws in the private sphere almost uniquely work by the threat of harm (or in Mr and Mrs Bull’s case, doing actual harm) against individuals who have neither done, nor intended to do, active harm against anyone else. This is extremely serious because it is exactly by prohibiting the state from harming those who have not done harm to others that discrimination against any group in the public sphere is prevented. In other words, anti-discriminatory laws in the private sphere are always in danger of undermining the very principle they purport to defend. Typically, that doesn’t matter practically in the short-run, but it can do huge harm in the long-term.”

    To begin with, Mr. and Mrs. Bull may not have physically harmed anyone when prohibiting gay couples to room at their guesthouse, but doesn’t discrimination include much more than physical harm? Those of us who are straight are generally biased about the quality of the love that exists between certain gay couples and when we deny them equal access to services because of that ignorance, isn’t there a great deal of emotional exile and psychological damage involved?

    One needn’t develop a politically clinical argument about slavery being evil because it doesn’t allow slaves to earn an income and have property rights, etc. etc. It is also very valid to just consider the existence of such social systems as an affront to human dignity, and therefore, inherently evil in themselves. Similarly, any law which attempts to protect an individual’s right to promote a mentality which implies that, some other people in love are only secondary citizens and not deserving of equal moral and social considerations, this directly harms the dignity of such people.

    I have a friend who was a former neighbor during childhood, and who later came to grips with his sexual orientation—realizing that his was not a sick condition, and did not make him some kind of perverted monster—despite the fact that homosexuality was (at the time) still considered an illness by many Psychiatrists. Many of those who share his sexual orientation have been driven to suicide after being socially ostracised and bullied for something as normal to them as being left handed or right handed, or brown or blue eyed, etc.is to others.

    Today science and psychology has refuted most of the ignorance concerning LGBT people, but we still must preserve the laws which come to their aid. My friend has written a book about his attractions to other males, and I have come to understand that the love he experiences is very similar to that which I or any Straight person feels, in fact, in essence exactly the same! So, the religious view that Mr. and Mrs. Bull employ when discriminating, is really based on falsehoods that stem from thousands of years of tradition and fear. Besides some old testament condemnations of the things done in Sodom and Gomorrah, and other old testament verses, Jesus in contrast
    said very little in the way of condemning gay people for the way they naturally are. Sure, we know where the word sodomy came from, but this sexual act is also done by many straight couples, and, there are many ways to give and receive love physically as well as emotionally—should straight people who also do such frowned upon things be denied hotel rooms? I have come to realize that if a gay couple is committed enough to stay with each other other over several decades of life, their experience with love is really not much different than mine or anyone elses.

    A pertinent example that illustrates the need for the government to step in when some cases of religious and/or social liberty are involved, is that Christian Scientists really believe that physical health depends largely on lifestyle and the spiritual fitness of any individual, but still, they are not allowed to deny anyone—even their own children, access to vital medication or medical treatment because of their beliefs. The government calls that murder, and civil law clearly trumps religious freedom in this case, when charges are brought against the child’s parents.

    Back to Mr.and Mrs. Bull, they may be Christians who disapprove of gay lifestyles, but no one is morally telling them that they must change their own religious views. However, when they deny ordinary social liberty to others and actually break the law when doing so, then civil laws and penalties must be used to prevent such real and physically manifested prejudice.

    I think in a democracy all of us have the right to personal freedoms and, that the will of the majority is often the right way to go. But clearly depending on the good will and intelligence of the majority is not always going to work, or secure justice. If the civil rights movement had never challenged the “right” of Lester Maddox to hand out axe handles to keep out those uppity (N worders) It wouldn’t matter whether black customers were perfectly civil or were grossly drunk and insulting—maddox would have continued to refuse them. And, If his “rights” to do everything his way, in regards to doing business, would never have been challenged and, we may still might have an overtly Jim Crow society in many states. And, if public referendums were used to resolve civil rights issues, voters would have summarily turned down any challenge to the rights of business owners to do anything they damn well please. Even the KKK might have some legal basis for harassing and intimidating black citizens!

    Now if Mr. and Mrs Bull were kidnapped and forced to perform gay sexual acts, that would be a very different story. But as it stands, they have the ability to force others NOT to have simple access to certain private venues, while they personally are actually receiving no pressure to change their own spiritual beliefs.

    I know this can easily become a more and more complicated issue, but suffice it to say, that in our Democracy, individuals are not always enlightened nor are large groups of us always correct when it comes to socially moral ethics. We have the court systems and legislative debates largely to determine such morally uncertain issues. And obviously, one man’s political beliefs can be another man’s religious self-righteousness. Consequentially,I don’t think individual liberty is always tantamount to the holy grail of Democracy, since, by definition we are also just small parts of a much larger social whole. And often individual rights are used to arbitrarily decide issues in primarily self-benefiting ways. No man is an island, and neither are the laws that govern civilized men.

  60. Petew just made my future “essay” on this issue that much easier and shorter :)

  61. Thanks Dorian.

    Have a great holidays!

  62. I think it’s a symptom of the fact that so much of our political discourse involves people saying absurd things, so we’ve come to expect that someone we disagree with must be saying absurd things.

    This.

  63. Private businesses can deny service to anyone.

    “This is extremely important. Property rights matter because property is the only secure means by which people can exercise their liberty over time and defend it when it is under attack.”

    And just as important is the right for a citizen to bring action against discrimination.

    Yet one of the few ways a society end discrimination is to honor the right of individuals to bring legal action when they feel they have been discriminated against. To minimize that is to lose one of the few checks to end discrimination…

    Turn the other cheek might be admirable at a personal level, but maybe not at the level that will bring a greater good for others…

  64. Back to Mr.and Mrs. Bull, they may be Christians who disapprove of gay lifestyles, but no one is morally telling them that they must change their own religious views. However, when they deny ordinary social liberty to others and actually break the law when doing so, then civil laws and penalties must be used to prevent such real and physically manifested prejudice.

    @ petew – Excellent comment start to finish.

    Thanks for getting to the actual crux of this simple problem that others seem to be trying so hard to make complicated… Distraction does not make wrong-headed positions right.

  65. “If enough businesses exclude the same class of people, it would result in a lack of access to services which would be a problem warranting legal protections.”

    How many is “enough”? In a town of 60,000 like where my folks live, there are 3 motels, only one if which allows dogs, another has a pool, and another is very clean. It’s a very conservative town, and if it were legal to discriminate against certain people, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the three were to do so. In other words: there really is only one unique option for certain needs. We had 4 pharmacies, one private hospital, and 2 places to get your car done. One of any given type of business being closed to a particular type of customer due to the owner’s bigotry or moralizing will absolutely represent a much diminished access to that service. Maybe less so in large cities, but in smaller cities and particularly in rural areas, we know for certain that this will happen. No doubt, no “if”. That’s why the law is there.

  66. I’m sorry you feel it was cheap and ad hominem, Robin. I think it’s relevant that most people who think that businesses should be allowed to discriminate against their customers tend to be white men. Being a white man isn’t what makes you incorrect (in my opinion), but your views don’t exist in a vacuum, and neither do those who disagree; you probably wouldn’t have the same opinion if you were a black woman, for example. Statistically.

  67. from ad:

    The argument that people who have certain moral views and consider themselves to have a moral obligation to act on them should avoid certain lines of work bothers me. In some of my comments on this thread I tried to make the argument that tolerance goes both ways. From that perspective, I don’t see that argument as much different than saying that gay couples should just be forbidden from using B&Bs altogether.

    I understand that it bothers you, and I am sympathetic. Most people have particular moral values or just proclivities that keep them from certain lines of work. Vegetarians shouldn’t get jobs as deli workers if they’re not willing to handle and sell meat to the meat-eating public. I can’t stand blood or body parts, so medicine is probably not a good line of work for me. Many of us would have difficulty being, for example, public defenders — many would have moral qualms about defending someone we know is guilty, even if we believe whole-heartedly that everyone deserves a fair trail and a vigorous defense. Those who dislike people in general probably shouldn’t be in customer service. And, yes, if you are deeply disturbed by the idea of unmarried people doing dirty, un-Christianlike sexy-time fun on your property, renting out rooms with double-occupancy beds might not be the best career move. There are lots and lots of jobs and businesses the Bulls might have undertaken in which there was not a choice between their own conscience and letting their moral policing interfere with their ability to follow the law.

  68. “I don’t see that argument as much different than saying that gay couples should just be forbidden from using B&Bs altogether.”

    Oh, I forgot to add that I really don’t understand this sentence. I don’t see that argument as sharing anything with saying that gay couples should just be forbidden from using B&Bs altogether.

  69. Although this thread seems to have “petered out” and your comments are not directed at me, Roro, I just wanted to add — and conclude — for whatever it’s worth that I agree with your views and arguments on the issue.

  70. Thanks Dorian!

  71. Who’s petered out? Not me.:) (Actually, I think the time limit may be approaching where comments are cut off. I hope it is right after I make a great point that then can’t be rebutted! (kidding)

    roro: “How many is “enough”?” It’s a good question that needs to be answered by the legislative body by defining protected classes. If the UK has answered that question, I’m fine with it. My point, which I may have overstated earlier, was just that I don’t think all discrimination based on personal preference should be illegal. Just discrimination against protected classes, because by definition they are in danger of limited access to services due to discrimination, which is the whole point of protected classes.

    In any case, as I mentioned it’s a hypothetical because the business wasn’t directly discriminating against gay couples, but against unmarried couples. The whole point of the legal distinction of marriage is to discriminate (by providing them certain benefits not available to the unmarried). To punish a business for discriminating on the same basis as the government is contradictory.

    re: Deli meat. Yes, I can see your point that if the primary nature of your work contradicts your moral values, then it doesn’t make sense for you to work in that field. However, I think it’s more comparable to saying that a vegetarian (who won’t touch meat) should not work in a grocery store because they will probably be asked at some point to handle meat. Actually, a better analogy might be a vegetarian grocery store *owner* who is forced to supply meat, against their values, to accommodate customers who rely on meat as part of their diet and therefore need access to it.

    Lastly, saying that the B&B owners shouldn’t be in that business restricts their choices and access to their means of making a living. In that sense, it’s not that different from saying that the gay couple should not be seeking accommodations at a B&B. Maybe they have other good options, but maybe (like the gay couple in the rural town) they don’t.

  72. “Actually, a better analogy might be a vegetarian grocery store *owner* who is forced to supply meat, against their values, to accommodate customers who rely on meat as part of their diet and therefore need access to it”

    In this case, the Bulls are already carrying and selling “meat” in their “grocery store”, they just won’t sell it to these guys, because they’ve decided pre-emptively that this couple is too un-meat-worthy to buy their meat. They’re not being forced to carry meat; they have the meat, they sell the meat happily, and have decided that other people get to eat meat, but not these guys, because Jesus. If the law were requiring the Bulls to give blow jobs to these fellows, then yes, your analogy would be apt.

    “it’s not that different from saying that the gay couple should not be seeking accommodations at a B&B”

    But don’t you see the difference here? We can choose who we discriminate against. We can’t choose who we are. The Bulls have a choice to have a B&B or not, and they have a choice to discriminate or not. The law proscribes rules that businesses must follow, and one of those laws is that you can’t decide to rent rooms to the public if you’re going to discriminate against protected classes.

    “To punish a business for discriminating on the same basis as the government is contradictory.”

    That the government should be more consistent and give gay people the right to marry doesn’t mean the law should be relaxed to allow everyone to discriminate against gay people. There are a lot of protections I think married couples should have — everyone needs a next of kin, power of attorney, and should be able to see their family members in the hospital, etc — but there are also a lot of privileges of marriage that I disagree with (we should all have health care, then it wouldn’t matter whether a couple was married or not, etc). In fact, in many cases, marital status is considered an axis of oppression as far as special privileges are concerned. For example, an employer can’t discriminate in hiring practices on the basis of marital status, the government and healthcare providers can’t withold services, etc. I am unsure if that’s the case in England as well; it’s possible they’ve been breaking the law all along by barring unmarried couples.

    I also want to point out that it’s quite likely that the Bulls have served many unmarried couples without knowing it. Who goes up to the clerk at an inn and says “we’re not married but we’re going to make whoopie in this hotel tonight anyway!”? So, given that it’s not that easy to tell a married couple from an unmarried couple, how did the Bulls know that this couple wasn’t married in the first place? If the answer is “because they’re both men”, then that’s pretty clear discrimination based on sexual orientation.

  73. By the way, the law also requires a lot of other things of the Bulls. They have to have running water and a toilet their guests can access. It has to be a safe environment, free of hazardous material, etc etc. They have to pay taxes on their earnings, they have to pay employees a certain amount. There are other requirments as well. If their morals were to proclude them from providing any of these things, they would likewise be in breech of the law. You can decide what business you go into, but you can’t decide which regulations in that business you’re allowed to chuck.

  74. What KP said. And I can’t wait for my Make Santa Claus Any Color You Want Kit.

  75. roro, your argument makes sense as it applies to protected classes. Clearly we just disagree with to what extent it applies to a B&B that discriminates on marital status.

  76. Cool, ad. I think it’s an interesting thought experiment, the idea of the legality of discriminating against certain not-specifically-protected groups that might be loopholes to legally discriminating against protected classes. This is a good example — barring unmarried couples, which automatically excludes all gay couples. Another would be the Jim Crow laws which required the passing of a literacy test to vote — black people weren’t allowed to learn to read during the slavery years, so once those years were over, a requirement for literacy meant that nearly no black people would be allowed to vote, which was of course the purpose of the laws. Similar with sheknows’ example of only serving blond people; great rule if your goal is to make sure only white people are allowed. I think in all cases, though, most judges would rule all three to be discriminatory against protected classes.

  77. Marital status, unlike hair color and literacy, is a legal status created specifically to legally and directly discriminate.

  78. I don’t think that’s really true — it’s meant to legally designate that two previously-unrelated people are now to be considered a family unit for legal purposes.

  79. “For legal purposes” implies that the purpose of this designation is for the law to treat them differently than unmarried couples.

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