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Posted on Saturday, April 13th, 2013

Dave!This is a blog post I've been holding for nearly a week. It concerns my home state of Washington suing a florist who refused to service the same-sex wedding of a long-time customer (now that we have marriage equality here). The story itself is a sad one... and most certainly controversial... but that's not the reason I've been sitting on it. The reason is that I just can't form a solid conclusion on the subject, and it's been driving me crazy.

But before we go there, an interlude...

My personal beliefs don't allow me to give money to strangers when I can't verify how the money will be used. So, for example, when a homeless person approaches and asks me for my spare change so they can eat, I always say "I'm sorry, I don't have anything I can give you." This way, even if I do have some change, I'm not lying because (philosophically) I really can't give it to them. They might use the money to purchase something harmful to themselves or others, and then I would be a party to it. Instead, if they're hungry, I'll offer to buy them some food to eat. This is a win-win solution because they get the food they need and I get to help out without violating my beliefs.

But, like everything in life, it's not really so cut-and-dry. Can you ever truly verify what happens to the money you give? Let's say I help a stranded motorist buy gas so he can get home. But once he gets home, he siphons the gas from the car and uses it to burn his house down with his wife inside because she was cheating on him. And what if the owner of the gas station uses their profits to bet on dog-fights which torture and kill innocent animals? By trying to help, I just enabled two people to commit terrible acts, even though I never intended it to happen that way.

The reality is that the only way i can truly control what happens with the money I earn is to never spend it. Since that's not really an option, I just do the best I can to be as responsible as I can... then hope for the best. Money may indeed be the root of all evil, but I'm trying to stem the tide where I can.

End interlude.

With all this in mind, I feel like condemning the florist shop owner is kinda hypocritical. Her beliefs don't include same-sex marriage, so isn't she just doing the best she can to stem the tide? And, since this is America, shouldn't she have the freedom to follow her religious convictions so she won't be responsible for contributing to something she feels is wrong? In her own way, she may even be trying to keep her long-time customer from doing something she considers harmful. And for this she's going to get sued?

That doesn't seem fair. For better or worse, American citizens have the freedom to be raging bigots if they want to be. So why shouldn't this freedom extend to shop owners? If they want to hide behind religion so they can avoid doing the right thing, shouldn't that be their right? It's certainly the right of the customer to let the entire community know that the florist is a homophobic piece of shit. And since more and more people are standing on the right side of history to support love and equality, won't the florist eventually go out of business because she'll keep losing customers? Why do we need to bring in the lawyers and start a lawsuit when the problem will solve itself?

Perhaps we should have faith in the free market to work these things out. If businesses want to live in the dark ages, let them die out as society leaves them behind. New businesses will take their place, and life goes on.

Right?

Well...

I may not always agree with Democrats (or Republicans, for that matter), but there is one thing President Obama said as he was campaigning that really resonated with me when it comes to a person building a business... they didn't build it alone. This was explained beautifully by Elizabeth Warren...

"I hear all this, you know, 'Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.' No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."

It's this overriding truth which has me not giving a fuck if the florist's freedom to be a bigot is infringed upon. That gay couple she refuses to service? Their tax dollars contributed to the system that allows her business to exist in the first place. But, more importantly to me, my tax dollars contribute to the system that allows her business to exist. The idea that some homophobic asshole can benefit from my tax dollars, then turn around and discriminate against customers holding a perfectly legal event? It pisses me off. Washington has legalized marriage equality. If you don't like it, then pack up your flowers and move to a state where you can benefit from tax dollars that support your bigotry. Otherwise, you deserve to get sued.

Right?

Well...

The bigger truth here is that my tax dollars are going to crap I loathe all the time. I'm a vegetarian. I believe the meat industry is environmentally hostile and killing this planet. And yet beef, pork, and poultry mega-corporations are getting billions in tax subsidies. This is how Burger King can sell a steroid-ridden "Whopper Jr." for $1.29, when that's a tiny fraction of how much it actually costs to make. For oh so many reasons, it should cost much, much, much more, but the US government uses my tax dollars to keep it cheap, and that pisses me off. Much like the way poultry subsidies allow Chick-fil-A to make record profits... which they then use to support hate groups. It's a hard pill to swallow, but I'm sure there are things I do like supporting with my tax dollars that other people don't believe in, so I guess it all balances out.

And if my tax dollars are already supporting a bunch of things I don't believe in, then what difference does it make that a florist I don't believe in is getting tax money?

Right?

Well...

What if this bigoted florist was refusing to sell flowers for a wedding because the bride and groom were black? Or short? Or left-handed? Gay friends have told me that their sexuality is not some "lifestyle choice" they make, but instead a part of who they are. They were born that way, and nothing can change it. Just as straight people don't "choose" to be straight, they don't "choose" to be gay. I choose to believe them... partly because they are my friends and I trust them... but mostly because it would be fucking insane to think that homosexuality is some kind of massive deception by gays around the world and throughout all of history. And, since it would be discriminatory and illegal to deny floral service to a bride and groom with red hair wanting to get legally married... it should be discriminatory and illegal to deny floral service to a groom and a groom with gay hair wanting to get legally married.

We have chosen to make laws against discrimination. Here in Washington, we have chosen to extend that to include discrimination against same-sex marriage. If you break the law, there should be consequences. Like getting your ass sued.

Right?

Well...

And it goes on and on.

Marriage equality is something I support 100%. Love is love, and gay couples have every right to celebrate their love in marriage the same way that straight couples do. Anything less is not fair... it's not right... and it's not human. I believe this so strongly that I want to cheer on our Attorney General as he fights discrimination in Washington State. That's his job, after all.

But a part of me will always wonder if this is the best approach. She's withholding flowers... not urgent medical care... not life-sustaining goods... not some other critical need... it's flowers. Might it be better to just boycott her homophobic ass and let nature take its course? Let her business inevitably die out on its own instead of turn this florist into some kind of misplaced martyr for "religious freedom" that slows down our march to equality acceptance? That seems like it might be a better route to take.

Right?

Well...

This is not about fucking flowers... this is about dignity, respect, and human rights! It's about...

Oh hell. At some point I really just have to stop this.

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Categories: News - Politics 2013Click To It: Permalink
   

Comments

  1. Patty Pearson Johnson says:

    Well said…this is a hard subject and i kinda agree with you. Just boycott her ass!!! It perterbs me that people jus cant be decent and treat everyone equally!

  2. claire says:

    Part of me thinks, “Screw you, I’ll take my business elsewhere!” because why would you want to support a business that doesn’t support you? But maybe the florist is the best one in that area and why shouldn’t you have the best? Give me my fuckin’ flowers! The long-term customer aspect adds another level of assholery to the florist.

    Here’s my problem with letting it go though: if an employer has a right to deny services based on his/her beliefs, then they could, for example, deny their employees health coverage for birth control based on “religious grounds.” Which businesses have done/tried to do. Don’t recall the outcomes offhand. In any case, it would give the business owner power over their employees personal choices/beliefs which isn’t right.

    As if job hunting weren’t hard enough without having to try to ferret out bigoted employers.

  3. Stacey says:

    I wish everyone put this much thought into what they believe.

  4. RW says:

    Flowers don’t kill people. People kill people.

  5. Donna says:

    I don’t know. Is it discrimination when a store won’t let you in without a shirt and shoes? Is it discrimination if you get tossed out of a restaurant for having screaming heathens for children?

    I believe that people have an absolute right to be assholes. I believe they have the right to their beliefs and whatever brand of personal morality (or lack thereof.) These people weren’t denied anything they couldn’t get elsewhere. I do not believe the shop should be sued.

    I’m semi-annoyed that the couple made a big issue of it to the point it went public. I’m a big proponent for marriage equality and the rights of gay people to be treated equally…I believe this based on the fact that they are human beings, not so much because of their sexuality.

    And Dave, sometimes I get so sick of hearing about how everyone should tolerate everything. What I believe may not be what you believe and I think it’s ok for me to say I don’t believe it. That doesn’t give me the right to try to take away what you believe but I don’t have to be quiet or tolerant…I can be a raging dick if I want.

    Sometimes I get tired of what seems like people (straight, gay, whatever) trying to force their belief of gay rights on other people. In a way bigots are bullied into shutting up and that offends me just a little. To me, it’s ok to be a jackass as long as you’re not trying to physically harm people. People who are all talk and no intention should have the right to spew whatever hate and venom they want…do you get what I’m saying? I believe in equal rights but if the dude next door doesn’t and uses slurs when he’s talking to me, I can’t say it offends me…it makes me feel sad for him in that he will spend his life on hate.

    Anyway, I don’t agree with the lawsuit. To me it’s such small potatoes. We won the right to marry, that’s wonderful…now do we really need to make sure those who don’t support us bend to our will?

    I just don’t know if it’s the right thing to do.

  6. Dave2 says:

    Shirt and shoes is a health matter, or so they say. But what if a person can’t afford shirt and shoes? Then is it discrimination against the poor? See, I can’t even figure that out.

    When I boil it all down, I agree with you that the lawsuit is probably not the best way to handle this… regardless of its merits relating to upholding the law and fighting discrimination. That being said, I am totally glad that the couple made a big issue out of is and went public. That is exactly how this should be handled. Let everybody know that if you buy flowers at the woman’s shop then you are supporting homophobic bigotry dressed up as “religious freedom.” Then the problem will eventually work itself out because, apparently, the majority of Washington State citizens are tired of this kind of bullshit and won’t be shopping there.

    In any event, I am glad you and I live in a country where we can be raging dicks if we want to. :-)

  7. Donna says:

    But it’s not dressed up as religious freedom if you really believe it. I know several Christians who believe that tolerating and supporting sin is the same as sinning…and they believe that homosexuality is a sin. They trot out that ONE SINGLE piece of old testament that even passingly mentions what could be construed as a reference to homosexuality.

    They believe their book and they believe whatever interpretation their pastor has taught them to believe. It may not be right but they believe it in the name of their religion and they should absolutely have the right to make decisions based on what they believe. To force them to do otherwise is pretty much religious discrimination. An observant Jewish person can’t be forced to eat pork. Why should an observant Christian be forced to serve a customer with a lifestyle they believe is a sin. What if that Christian shop owner refused to serve divorced people? Would that be national news? Eh…maybe because everything is national news when someone gets offended.

    I just don’t think anyone should be forced into tolerating “what’s right.” The law says you can get married. The law doesn’t say everyone needs to sell you flowers or they’re a criminal or a bigot and it’s not fair!!! That seems smacks of a teenager stomping her foot and slamming the door to her room for not getting her way.

    No law dictates to whom a shop owner will cater. Why should they be sued for refusing to serve someone. It’s a slippery slope. You know as well as I do, the best intentions often have unintended consequences. It just seems like this will open the door for people to sue small, private businesses because no longer will a shop owner be allowed to choose not to do business with someone.

    I’m seeing a bigger picture. I don’t believe this is a reasonable lawsuit and I truly hope they lose it. Nobody has a constitutional right to be sold flowers. I think this is pushing it. I think if you want to be tolerated or respected then you need to exercise some tolerance and respect. You cannot force someone to sell you flowers and there is nothing illegal in refusing to sell someone flowers. Washington made all marriage equal, it didn’t make everyone have to kiss your ass because you’re a gay couple. It feels like bullying. It feels like intolerance. It feels like shaming. It feels like an entitlement to have your ass kissed. We have fought so hard for the right to marry equally under the law and finally gained it but nothing in that law says that people have to accept or tolerate your lifestyle or you as a person. So what exactly are they suing for?

    • Dave2 says:

      Belief is something entirely separate. I don’t doubt that most of these people believe whatever religious dogma their buying into. But if you believe that same-sex marriage is a sin… then that’s YOUR belief and so YOU shouldn’t get married to somebody of the same sex. Forcing your beliefs on other people is not “exercising your freedom of religion”… that’s infringing on the freedom of others. This is what I mean by masking bigotry as “religious freedom.”

      As I said, I really don’t think that a lawsuit is the right solution, so you’re preaching to the choir here.

      But I do understand a lawsuit, because anti-discrimination laws serve a purpose. This was made crystal clear to me when I visited the Negro League Baseball Museum. There I read how black players had to drive all through the night and pack all their food for some of their away-games because there were stretches of land where they weren’t allowed to stay at hotels or eat at restaurants. So, yeah, hotel rooms and hot meals are not guaranteed by law. But discriminating against somebody because of how they are born IS illegal. And it should be.

      So what is Washington State suing for? Discrimination is against the law.

      Ultimately, I don’t think this gay couple is asking for an ass-kissing… or even an endorsement for their “lifestyle.” They just want to be treated like any other couple under the law. And since same-sex marriage is legal here, that means they should get to buy the damn flowers. Because saying “My religion thinks your marriage is icky” isn’t a valid excuse for discrimination. This is not forcing a Jewish person to eat pork… hell, it’s not like they are forcing this woman to attend their wedding (or demanding that she get gay-married)… they just want to buy the flowers she’s selling.

      Again, I think a lawsuit over this is probably going too far. Ultimately, it seems like it will do more harm to gay marriage than good. But… if it feels like shaming when a gay couple calls out a homophobic bigot for refusing them service, then I’m fine with that. I’m more than fine with that. If this makes me a bully, I guess I’m fine with that too. But, personally, I don’t think it’s bullying. It’s karma.

  8. Donna says:

    I don’t think you’re a bully or a bigot and I really do understand your points. I absolutely believe that religion is a crutch for some (a lot of) people and they hide behind Christ in practicing their bigotry and hate, picking a choosing which part of scripture they want to abide by. Unfortunately the “love others as you love me” part doesn’t seem to be a popular choice.

    And I absolutely do not believe in keeping silent and allowing abuse of human rights. Every single person should enjoy the same benefits his brethren enjoys. Anything less is unacceptable. My support for gay marriage has always been less about sexuality (I don’t care who a person chooses to have sex with) and more about human rights.

    But what you said is what I wanted to say but couldn’t find the same words, “Ultimately, it seems like it will do more harm to gay marriage than good.”

    I foresee unintended consequences arising if this particular lawsuit is won. And mark me…unintended consequences will arise. They always do.

  9. bo says:

    Since I work for a state institution, I occasionally have to sign a document stating that I have not supported any kind of terrorist activity. (Yay Patriot Act!) No problem.

    But last year the FBI raided an IHOP nearby (I know this sounds like a joke but it’s true). Turns out that the guy who owns that IHOP and several Burger Kings in the area was using them to launder money for one or more terrorist organizations.

    I’ve eaten at that IHOP. Not often, but maybe three times in the five years prior to his arrest. So I had to work through my beliefs, which, like yours, prevent me from letting someone harm themselves or others. Furthermore, I’d signed a legal document stating I hadn’t helped terrorist organizations.

    And here’s what I’ve come to, maybe it’ll help, maybe not: to treat people as if they MIGHT hurt themselves or others is every bit as unfair as any other kind of discrimination. It’s not right to presume a homeless person might use money I give him to drink himself to death. I had no more cause to believe buying some pancakes would help a terrorist organization than to believe giving a guy gas money would get him home so he could kill his wife. And I think to live in that world is not a way to live skillfully.

    That’s what I’ve come to. Though of course it doesn’t help with the legal document I signed (I’m assuming they want to make sure I haven’t KNOWINGLY helped a terrorist), I find it helpful in day-to-day life and thought I’d pass it on.

  10. Megan says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who ends up going down the rabbit hole in cases like this. My gut feeling is she’s an asshole, but if we sued everyone who’s an asshole we’d have no time for anything else.

  11. Donna says:

    I had another thought about the flower shop homophobe…

    If she refused to see them a pre-made bouquet, that would be discrimination…obviously. But for a wedding, isn’t she a contractor? Don’t contractors have the right to pick and choose their clientele?

    Also, did she straight out say she wasn’t serving them because they were gay or was it assumed?

    She would have an easier time being a homophobe if she just said she wasn’t available to take on a big job. Ya think?

    And lastly, for every person who boycotts her operation, there’ll be a like-minded one who will support her choice. She won’t be put out of business for this.

    • Dave2 says:

      I think I read she knew they were gay. And she was happy to take their money when that’s all they were. But she drew the line at MARRIED GAY. Well, whatever, if you want to force your religious belief on others by keeping marriage a “straights only club” then I’d still classify that as homophobic.

      I don’t know anything about contract law, so maybe. Again, I don’t think she should be sued here… free to be you and me and all that… but I still think the couple was right to let people know. If I lived in the neighborhood, I’d want to spend my floral dollars at a shop that treats everybody equally.

      • Donna says:

        What tweaks me about using religious beliefs as an excuse to discriminate here is that I pretty much guarantee she serves people for their second, third, fourth marriages which is also a biblical sin. I doubt she bothers to find out if someone is unbaptized, a drunkard…etc.

        I have thought quite a bit about it and I agree that they were right to let people know…I still think this will have unintended consequences should they win though.

  12. I’ve been thinking about this case since I first heard about it, and like you I’m pretty much stymied on how I feel. I even thought about it from the “opposite” POV: what if it were a gay florist refusing to service a straight client because they weren’t gay? Would the AG go after the gay florist for the same reason? And where does one draw the line in “I specialize in…” this or that kind of clientele?

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