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.

ROBIN KOERNER
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whbarr3
Guest

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”

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
Member

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.

DaGoat
Guest

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

sheknows
Guest

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.”

ELIJAH SWEETE
Member

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.

Zzzzz
Guest

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?

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
Member

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

Rambie
Guest

I’m with Elijah and Zzzzz above.

StockBoyLA
Guest

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.

The Ohioan
Member

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.

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
Member

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

adelinesdad
Member

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.

adelinesdad
Member

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.

The Ohioan
Member

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.

StockBoyLA
Guest

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.

adelinesdad
Member

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.

roseyrey
Member

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.

StockBoyLA
Guest

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.

adelinesdad
Member

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.

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
Member

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

DaGoat
Guest

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.

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
Member

” 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.

roseyrey
Member

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.

DaGoat
Guest

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.

roseyrey
Member

Ah Dorian, you beat me to it :)

SteveK
Member

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.

roseyrey
Member

“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.

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
Member

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

DaGoat
Guest

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.

SteveK
Member

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!

DaGoat
Guest

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

ELIJAH SWEETE
Member

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.

yoopermoose
Guest

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.

sheknows
Guest

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.

roseyrey
Member

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.

adelinesdad
Member

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.

roseyrey
Member

“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.

roseyrey
Member

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

SteveK
Member

… 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.

adelinesdad
Member

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.

roseyrey
Member

No argument from me on that, ad.

sheknows
Guest

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.

sheknows
Guest

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?

adelinesdad
Member

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.

adelinesdad
Member

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.

adelinesdad
Member

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.

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