Now that Gov. Jan Brewer has vetoed the Arizona Religious Freedom Bill, the fight between the “rights” of some folks to marry and of some others to religious freedom is just getting started.
The Arizona legislature passed Senate Bill 1062 to protect businesses that object to gay marriage on religious grounds from being required to provide goods and services for them, such as wedding cakes, bridal photos, etc.
Brewer’s veto, which is the second time she’s vetoed such a bill, was neither principled nor dispositive. Brewer was under pressure to veto the measure because of threats from the National Football League to move the 2015 Super Bowl out of the state, from Apple to pull out of a proposed new facility, and a variety of other business groups that were sympathetic to the gay position. What the veto shows is the split within the Republican Party on this, among other values issues.
Of more interest to me is the question of how and why government is in the business of deciding whose rights get protected.
Americans have been creating “rights” all over the place since the ’60s. A right to contraception, to abortion, to a job, to health care, and against “discrimination” Almost anything that some group thinks is a good idea is expressed as a “right”. Most are called fundamental or constitutional rights. This is a dangerous practice. First because they not really found in the plain language of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights but are inferred or found in the penumbra (shadow) of express rights. Second, because more and some of these rights place an affirmative duty on another person to do something contrary to the original view that rights were limitations on government only. This second point is particularly true for the right against “discrimination”.
When the government became the protector of some rights for some group, it gained a great deal of power. Maybe too much power. Unfortunately this view became discredited because it was a rallying point of the opponents of the civil rights movement. Nonetheless, the view still has merit as in this case. Arizona has a fairly typical state civil rights law that prohibits discrimination in public accommodations. Originally these laws applied only to discrimination based on race. Then sex was added, and sex became sexual orientation, and the number of orientations have multiplied. So a Christian photographer got fined nearly $7,000 by the state of New Mexico for refusing to shoot pictures of a same-sex wedding. .
As a Christian and a fan of limited government, I’m in a pickle. I don’t like seeing this photographer getting fined for her religious convictions. I also don’t like people passing judgment on others even when they are “in sin” — as I often am myself. Not that kind of sin, but sin.
A long time ago hotels quit asking for proof that a heterosexual couple were married before renting them a room. Today I’d be really upset if a diner that refused to serve black folks because of the “Curse of Ham” supposedly being on them. Or a preacher that urges his flock to vote against Mitt Romney because he is Mormon — like many ministers had done with John F. Kennedy because he was Catholic.
Within Catholic doctrine, being materially involved in another’s sin is sin, but what’s “material” is a matter of conscience. Being a participant in the wedding as best man surely would fit that category. Is taking pictures of a gay wedding being “material” to the homosexual conduct? I’m not sure. The photographer thought it was material. So why should the government force her to act against conscience? Because gays have become, or are becoming, a protected class against whom “discrimination” is illegal.
This is all pretty major stuff. The answers will tell us the kind of society we will have. It’s an issue for which the NFL and Apple have no particular skill, nor should they have the power to impose their values on the rest of us. But it appears that in the end somebody will impose their values on the rest. Like abortion, I see no political compromise.
At this point in a blog, I usually make my final point — my brilliant, insightful conclusion that solves the problem. Here, I just don’t have one. This fight tests the limits of our political system. There’s an old legal saying that “hard facts make bad law.” No matter how this comes out, I fear we will have bad law.