My friend Jericho once told me he preferred racists who called him “nigger” to those who hid (perhaps even from themselves) behind a façade of tolerance and phrases like “Some of my best friends are Black.” His rationale was simple: If someone calls you “nigger,” you may not like him, but at least you know just where he stands.
With Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto of SB 1062 last week, the question of religious cover for Arizona businesses to discriminate against homosexuals may be moot. But the sentiments that birthed the bill remain in play. The truth is, a lot of people simply do not like homosexuals—and not just in Arizona.
That is their prerogative, of course. But the Civil Rights Act of 1964 decreed that certain types of business (labeled “places of public accommodation”) could not deny service on the basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin.”
Sexual orientation was not specifically enumerated, but that should matter to us no more than the fact that the Constitution says only that all men—as opposed to women—are created equal. It was a different time, and contemporary contextualization of the spirit of the law mandates that homosexuals be protected from discrimination no less than women be seen as legally equal to men.
So what’s a poor business owner to do if she doesn’t want to cater to homosexuals? Two little words: “NO FAGGOTS.”
The First Amendment is a beautiful thing. It protects not only speech to which no-one objects, but also the unpopular opinion, even when expressed in terms generally regarded as vulgar or vile. You want to call someone “nigger,” “kike,” “spic,” “faggot”? That is your inalienable right.
So, really, what better way to keep homosexuals from darkening your doorstep than sticking a “NO FAGGOTS” sign in the window? How many homosexuals do you think are going to want to contribute to your financial bottom line once you’ve made it so painfully clear that their kind is unwelcome?
No, you can’t really enforce the sentiment behind such signage. If a same-sex couple walks into your restaurant, you’ll still have to hold your nose and serve them. I just think you’ll be a lot less likely to attract such undesirables in the first place. Plus, whatever anybody thinks of you, no-one will accuse you of being disingenuous. You don’t like the LGBT community, you don’t want its members coming around—why not say it in no uncertain terms?
Disingenuousness is, of course, all over the pro-SB 1062 side of the debate. Proponents proclaim the bill as being about nothing more than religious freedom. One of the flaws in their argument is taking for granted that inherent to religious freedom is the right to run a business. But that beautiful First Amendment, which protects religious freedom as much as it does speech, doesn’t say anything about having a place of business. Come to think of it, having is business isn’t a central tenet of any religion, is it?
But running a business is a matter of law, particularly when we’re talking about “places of public accommodation.” They are subject to a whole host of codes, rules, regulations. And discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation simply runs afoul of the whole system.
SB 1062 was intended to change that in Arizona. For now, at least, it failed. But try the “NO FAGGOTS” thing. Yes, some people will shun you, but you’ll gain some admirers. The Westboro Baptist Church, for example. And in any case, if you’re genuinely trying to adhere to your religious beliefs, isn’t the end result more important than public perception?
What’s that you say: you resent the insinuation that you would ever use a slur like “faggots”? Forgive me—I got confused. It’s just that you dislike gay people so much that you think God disapproves of your associating with them, and that government should allow discrimination against them in places of public accommodation, you know? I figured you might want to call a spade a spade. My mistake.
But let us not forget the words of Christ: “Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16). If you don’t want to do business with homosexuals, don’t hide that feeling under a bushel of legalese. Let it shine!
(The image above is a screen capture from the film Pleasantville playing upon the business signage common to the Jim Crow-era South.)