In 2012, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) filed a complaint against Blaine Adamson, the owner of a local Kentucky printing company, after he declined to print shirts for the Lexington Gay Pride festival.
Last Friday, an appeals court in Kentucky found Adamson to be within his rights when he refused to provide service to the LGBTQ organization.
So where do we go from here and what are the repercussions of such a ruling?
For many right-leaning individuals, this decision was a welcomed relief from the progression of social justice and civil rights under the Obama administration. However, for more liberal-minded folk, the ruling is a dark glimpse of what’s to come.
The fight between Christian conservatives and liberals on the issues of sexual orientation, gender identification and religious freedom, have focused primarily on rights. Christians claim being forced to serve homosexual patrons violates their religious freedoms because they in no way want to condone same sex relations or other types of gender and sexual identity which does not fit societal norms. Others believe these individuals are using religious freedom to discriminate and threaten the rights of minorities.
It is pretty obvious that both sides can’t get what they want… so how do we decide whose rights should be protected? The United States Constitution is a guardian of civil rights and religious freedoms. Whether you like it or not, the United States was primarily founded by Christians fleeing religious prosecution in Europe. Yet, it seems a bit hypocritical to use this conviction as a reason to discriminate against fellow citizens.
I must admit, however, forcing Christians to serve those they dislike can only lead to more resentment and misunderstanding. Those who defend businesses’ rights to refuse service, usually point out that LGBTQ individuals have the ability to find printing companies, bakeries or even churches which will provide them with services. Why punish those discriminatory businesses by giving them money? Why not go to a local business which supports minorities instead? Wouldn’t this solution allow both parties to be happy?
The answer is unfortunately no.
Why you ask?
Well for starters, the majority of these issues arise in small rural towns. Even those not from small towns are aware that rural areas are more hostile to minority groups. These towns also don’t have the variety of options found in more heavy populated communities. You may have to drive 30 minutes to the local store or an hour for specialty items. So what happens to people when their already limited options are restricted further by discrimination?
Alternatively, when minorities move from rural to urban areas (which are already predominantly liberal), the rural areas continue to be dominated by conservatives and their lack of understanding persists. I am not here to vilify Anglo-Americans, I simply believe the lack of exposure and education surrounding minorities has led to mistrust and fear. This cannot be overcome by continuing to restrict diversity in these areas.
There is another important question to ask here…
Would these individuals be satisfied with the ability to discriminate when it comes to who they provide their services to? I honestly don’t believe they would. In reality, this ruling only gives religious extremists ammunition and allows them to discriminate with increased confidence. It hasn’t been long since public and private institutions were segregated by skin color. This dark American history is the bases for the laws which aim to protect the rights of those vulnerable to prejudice.
Shouldn’t the right to exist be protected more vehemently than the right to be discriminatory? Religious freedom should be protected, but can the freedom to be prejudiced based on religion really be categorized as religious freedom??
It is un-American to allow people or businesses to turn citizens away because of their demographics. Nonetheless, discrimination will continue to threaten marginal groups (especially under Trump and his administration). It is important for Americans to defend their rights and the rights of their fellow citizens in order to preserve the ideals the United States was founded on.