Saturday, April 07, 2018

Loophole for principle and profit

The thing about so many anti-LGBT business owners is that they seem to have no sense. They insist on being aggressive and confrontational in promoting their particular religious beliefs when simpler, lawful ways of achieving their desired result are available. Too many businesses owned by rightwing religionists seem determined to violate laws to make some point, even if that risks financial burden. They seem incapable of seeing a better way. Finally, some rightwing religionists have chosen a different, far more sensible path.

“The Friendly Atheist” on Patheos reported recently on a new tactic deployed by a wedding venue in New York State. They’d refused to allow a lesbian couple to hold their wedding on their farm, and the state fined the owners $10,000 ordered them to pay the couple $3,000.

Normally, the radical right would be wailing and rending their garments while demanding special rights to discriminate against LGBT people. But this particular venue chose a different way, similar to what I’ve suggested for years, a lawful way to promote their religious views while ensuring that potential LGBT customers are neither discriminated against nor tricked into participating in their own oppression.

The venue posted a disclaimer on their website under a headline saying the business “Gives Back to Strengthen Marriages”:
…our deeply held religious belief is that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and the Farm is operated with the purpose of strengthening and promoting marriage. In furtherance of this purpose and to honor and promote our moral and religious beliefs, we donate a portion of our business proceeds to organizations that promote strong marriages such as the Family Research Council.

The patronage of all potential clients for all services offered is welcome regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability or marital status. All couples legally permitted to marry in the state of New York are welcome to hold their wedding at Liberty Ridge Farm. We serve everyone equally.
This is a smart move from the religionists. As gay people well know, the Family [sic] Research [sic] Council [LOL] is not actually involved in “promot[ing] strong marriages”, but is solely involved in political activism on various rightwing social issues, especially denying the human and civil rights of LGBT people. The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors them on its “Hatewatch” blog, in the same way it monitors various other hate groups. Gay people wouldn’t want their money going to support that group, and it could be why the religionists chose that group to mention specifically.
This also serves to alert mainstream heterosexuals about the anti-LGBT beliefs of the owners of the venue, and they, too, can choose to avoid the place. The owners are gambling that it won’t happen and/or that they’ll get enough new business from like-minded religionists that they won’t lose any profits. They may very well be right about that.

This strategy makes perfect sense: The owners make plain that they’re going to obey the law, but they’re also making LGBT and LGBT-supportive people aware of their attitudes so people can instead choose somewhere that’s welcoming. As a side benefit, they also provide an attractive opportunity for similarly rightwing religionist heterosexual couples. In this scenario, everyone has freedom: The owners express their religious/political beliefs, the state gets assurance that the business will obey the law, and potential customers are well aware of the attitudes of that business, and what would happen if they use the venue anyway (which they may support or oppose). That sort of freedom of choice is how the free market is supposed to work—freedom and liberty within the bounds of the law.

I’ve frequently said that businesses owned by rightwing religionists should be doing this sort of thing. I’ve suggested that a bakery or florist or whatever could put up signs celebrating their Jesus, or quoting judgemental Old Testament passages, etc. The wedding venue telling potential customers that a portion of their money will go to organisations that work against the human and civil rights of LGBT people adds another layer of sense to this strategy.

I’ve never been in a moral quandary over whether to perform professional services for people actively working against my human and civil rights, but I came up with a plan on what I’d do. I decided that I’d calculate how much of my salary came from working on that project and I’d donate it to a group working against whoever I was objecting to. This is basically what that wedding venue says it would do, only they’re doing so openly and pretty transparently, which is more than I can claim to have thought of doing (in my case, it was because, as an employee, I never felt in a position to either object or to tell an employer of my plan, had it ever been necessary).

I honestly don’t know if this strategy will work. It’s possible that the state could consider the disclaimer to be a form of intimidation, and maybe it is. But the whole point is that no LGBT person I’ve ever known would ever dream of going to a business run by anti-LGBT owners, however, they also deserve to not be humiliated by being discriminated against when they ask about a business’ services. The wedding venue’s approach means that LGBT people can avoid any confrontation or embarrassment and instead choose a welcoming business. And, as a bonus for the business, they’re signalling other rightwing religionists that theirs is a business that fully shares their religious beliefs.

Still, there are some rightwing religionists who would flat out refuse to take this approach because they’re hellbent, so to speak, on being dicks about forcing their religious beliefs onto everyone. They feel that they must defy the law because they think their flavour of religion demands it, and they expect to be permitted to do so without consequence. Such rightwing religionists, backed by extremist professional anti-LGBT activist hate groups, dig their heals in to make “martyrs” of themselves—or is that just to make money for the hate groups? Maybe they just enjoy being nasty.

Whatever the situation, there’s a hardcore group of anti-LGBT rightwing religionists who would never take this approach, and the anti-LGBT hate groups are counting on that to achieve their political agenda of making anti-LGBT discrimination completely legal.

But the other, perhaps more sincere, rightwing religionists have other ways to make their point and profess their religious beliefs without breaking the law or being assholes about it. That wedding venue in New York is promoting one way. That, or something like it, is a far more sensible path.

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