New Mexico Photographer Discriminates Against Lesbians: Liberals Zero, Conservatives One, Libertarians Full Marks
By Walter E. Block
A homosexual couple plans for their marriage or “commitment” ceremony. They go to a photographer asking her to memorialize this important event in their lives. She refuses to take pictures for them based on her Christian beliefs. The couple sues. The New Mexico Supreme court rules in August 2013 that the photographer has discriminated against the gay couple and is liable for damages.
What is the reaction to this state of affairs on the part of the “usual suspects?”
For our friends on the left, this court finding is the paradigm case of civil rights. It should be illegal for anyone to discriminate against anyone else on any of the usual grounds: race, sex, sexual preference, age, nationality, mental or physical handicap, etc. If these “progressives” had their way, quite a few more criteria would be added. It is unfair, also, they aver, to discriminate against ugly people, short people, fat people, tall people, people with criminal backgrounds, people with poor credit ratings, atheists (but certainly not Christians) the list goes on and on.
Curiously, well, ok, not really so curiously, these pinkos would confine such legislation to the marketplace. That is, they would not apply it to personal relations. For, if they did, then the decision as to whom to marry, befriend, would come under governmental scrutiny. The last thing these socialists would appreciate is to have the government peer over their shoulders at their dinner party invitee list. There is also more than a little bit of hypocrisy involved, as they favor the idea of inner city public schools, but would never in a million years send their own children to such institutions of “learning.”
But why should non discrimination laws apply, only, to the market and not to our personal lives? If we have a right not to be discriminated against, why should this only apply to the boardroom, the office, the factory floor, and not to our bedroom, living room, back yard barbeque? It is wrong to murder, but it is equally wrong to do so in a commercial or personal space. Rape should of course be against the law, but this applies to both our homes and our stores. Curious. One wonders why they would not force a black owned firm to serve a member of the KKK. Well, logical consistency is not their strong suit.
Our friends on the right are not much better on this divisive issue. The equally despicable conservatives accept the leftish notion that it is quite alright to legally compel store owners to serve members of all racial groups. After all, if you are open to the public, you are open to the public and may not exclude anyone. That is, this applies to businesses that sell groceries and restaurant meals, rent cars and apartments, provide movies and sporting events. They draw the line, however, at the case under discussion, where a Christian photographer does not want to provide service for a gay couple. Presumably, they would allow the owner of a bed and breakfast emporium to pick and choose customers, but only because of the personal nature of the relationship. But all bets would be off for the big hotel or restaurant. This is a distinction without a moral difference. If it is wrong to discriminate in such a manner, then it is wrong to discriminate.
It is only libertarians who take a principled stand on this issue. People who espouse this philosophy believe in freedom of association. All dealings, whether personal or professional, should be made on a voluntary basis. No one should be forced to associate with anyone else against his will. The only problem with slavery was that it violated this basic law of free association. Otherwise, it was really not all that bad. You got to pick cotton in the sunshine; what could be healthier? You were fed gruel, at no cost. You were given free accommodation. The only problem was, you were compelled to undertake this relationship at the point of a gun, and could not reject this association. Sort of like our present laws against discrimination.
A strict opposition to discrimination would also logically imply compulsory bi-sexuality. For male homosexuals are evil; they preclude a romantic relationship with half the human race. The same goes for wicked lesbians. They too will not engage in romance with half the human race. But the same applies to male heterosexuals. Need I mention that for them, a personal relationship with half the human race is anathema? Nor can we leave out straight females. When is the last time you saw any of them embrace a loving relationship with half the human race? Never, that is when. It is only bi-sexuals who are free of this despicable prejudice. Not for them a holus bolus prohibition against a romantic relationship with, yes, half the human race. But wait. Bi-sexuals are also abominable. They seek in their partners beauty, a sense of humor, intelligence, common interests, just as do all others of us. Let’s face it, we all belong in jail if this decision of the New Mexican Supreme Court can be extrapolated. And if it cannot, it ought to be dropped. And not only for photographers discriminating against a gay couple. For everyone on any ground. Who says that a store is “open to the public?” Elemental justice requires that these establishments be allowed to be opened to the custom of only those with whom they wish to deal. Otherwise, freedom of association is denigrated, and we are on the road to slavery.
But will not the groups of people victimized by discrimination suffer from it thereby. Well, yes and no. Adults under 4 feet tall, or over 7 feet in height, cannot purchase off the rack clothing. What they wear must be tailor made. No mass production here. It costs more. Who should pay the extra charges? No one but them, so there is loss from being discriminated against in this context. However, a little bit of basic economics will demonstrate that this does not apply to females or blacks in the labor market. Assume that white males and black females have the same productivity, at $10 per hour, for illustration purposes. If the former is paid that amount, but the latter only, say, $7 hourly, then extra profits of $3 per hour can be made by hiring this “victimized” group. Any employer who prefers members of the former group, at these wage differentials, will tend to be driven out of business. This is the “magic of the market,” or one of its elements in any case. No, discrimination cannot account for any of these wage gaps. Only productivity differentials can. And where do they stem from? That is entirely a different story.
Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending the Undefendable, The Case for Discrimination, Labor Economics From A Free Market Perspective, Building Blocks for Liberty, Differing Worldviews in Higher Education, and The Privatization of Roads and Highways. His latest book is Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty.
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