Anti-discrimination proposal violates property rights

The following op-ed was published in the Deseret News.

According to a unanimous decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court, the suppression of one’s moral convictions and the denial of one’s property rights has become the “price of citizenship.” The court’s opinion stemmed from a lawsuit against a photography studio whose owners declined to offer their services to a homosexual couple. Citing their religious convictions as a basis for their choice, they were soon faced with a legal battle over their discriminatory decision.

This is part of a larger trend nationwide. A Vermont country inn was fined $30,000 because one of its employees turned away a gay couple seeking to hold their wedding reception at the facility based on the owner’s religious convictions. In Colorado, a judgeupheld a gay couple’s lawsuit against a bakery for not offering them a wedding cake. A florist in Washington was likewise sued for her refusal to offer her services in support of a same-sex ceremony. We can expect more legal battles along these lines in the future, including here in Utah.

LGBT individuals, many of whom I consider friends, generally favor such strong-arm tactics by using the government to compel business owners and landlords to cater to people with alternative lifestyles. Fifteen municipalities in Utah have passed ordinances that prohibit property owners from discriminating against people based on their “gender identity and sexual orientation.” In this year’s legislative session, proponents will push for a statewide law that imposes a similar ban on property owners throughout the state.

Opponents of these laws correctly point out that they put some religious people in a moral bind, forcing them to either adhere to their beliefs and be punished by the state, or betray those deeply held beliefs for a proverbial mess of pottage. Advocates of anti-discrimination law argue the other side, such as the ACLU, which claims that religious freedom “does not give us the right to use our religion to discriminate against … others who do not share [it].”

The focus on religion overlooks the more fundamental point: it is our right to our own property that gives us the ability to discriminate in how that property is used. We all discriminate on a daily basis when deciding which businesses to patronize, what to eat and how we work. Business owners discriminate in deciding where to locate, what products to offer and what companies they work with.

To fully understand this proposal, consider its fullest application: punishing people for not shopping at a business owned by a gay person, or not renting a home from a gay person, or choosing not to work for a gay employer. If the law entitles LGBT persons to an employer and landlord, should it not also entitle them to employees, patrons and tenants?

If we believe that an individual owns his business or his residential property, then by what right can we compel him to use it in association with people he prefers not to, whatever the reason? While we may morally object to his decision, and find it disappointing that he refuses to offer his resources to a person because he’s black, short, smelly, gay, lazy or Mormon, these concerns do not provide a basis for compulsion through the law.

Individuals either have property rights or they do not. It is not logical to claim that individuals have such rights so long as they use their property (and their businesses) in ways that are socially acceptable and approved by others. No person, whatever his innate or chosen characteristics, is entitled to the services and property of another. It’s that simple.

While we may object to unfair or harsh discrimination, let’s leave the law alone to protect, and not punish, essential property rights.

  • Blackstone Law

    Therein lies the question – do we truly have property rights? Based on these rulings, as well as eminent domain laws and other meddlesome laws, we do not. Neither do we own the fruit of our labors. We have slowly been moving towards a neo-fascist type of economy and society (which is easier to implement than a Marxist economy) whereby you are allowed to have property provided it is deemed worthy of the State’s best interest.
    The cases sited are a good example of this.”You may have your business with the blessing of the state provided you do with it as we say.”

  • jsr1969

    Obviously, there is a difference between what should be and what is.  We should have a nation which allows anyone to do whatever they’d like for a living, provided they do not harm anyone else in so doing.  Were we to live in such a Nation, prostitution would be legal, but exploitation of prostitutes on the part of pimps, madams, or their employer or agency would be illegal.  Drug manufacture, distribution, and sales would be legal, but driving or otherwise operating vehicles or machinery in a compromised state (whether due to drugs, lack of sleep, distraction) would be illegal.  Mutually beneficial contractual agreements between persons capable of rendering informed consent would be legal and enforceable under the law, Malfeasance, fraud, or exploitative contracts, such as unions where not all parties are capable of or do not give informed consent (if they are capable of doing so), would not be enforceable and such contracts if attempted would be considered illegal and abusive or exploitative, even if not formalized in written, registered form.

    Instead, we live in a Nation where even those who are supposedly religious followers of Christ fail to live according to his teachings to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  As a result, it was necessary for the Federal Government to step in and ensure the civil rights of Blacks were being protected and enforced in the Southern States.  And when such enforcement was not enough for the racist people of the south to stop discriminating against Blacks socially, in their business dealings and practices, the Federal Government again felt compelled to step in and take action, lest a 2nd civil war based on race erupt due to the peaceful protests of the Black Civil Rights Movement.  Had more prominent leaders like  Martin Luther King Jr. lost their lives, there’s no telling what might have occurred.

    We do not know, nor can we ever know whether the peaceful efforts on the part of the Black Community in demanding equal protection and treatment, not only from government but also from their neighbors, their employers, their bankers, and the other businesses in their community would ultimately have resulted in a change in the general thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behavior of those then harboring racist sentiments.  What we can see, however, is that enforced changes in behavior have resulted in changes is feelings and attitudes, especially in younger generations.  One must question whether the results were worth the cost.  Where is the greater injustice?  In compelling businesses to treat Blacks fairly and impartially, or in allowing the continuance of socio-economic policies and customs to continue which keep a significant portion of the American population in ignorance, poverty, and imprisoned simply because of their African ancestry?

    Clearly, the struggles which the LGBT community face have, generally speaking, not been as bad as that of the Black community, though the persecution of the LGBT community has in some respects been just as bad, with murders, beatings, rapes, robberies, destruction of property, all other manner of “hate crimes” or terroristic threats, loss of jobs and income, etc.  There is little doubt that members of the LGBT community have and continue to be discriminated against.  The question that is being asked is whether the greater wrong is to force private business owners to be impartial towards the LGBT community, or to allow such continued marginalization of a significant portion of the population to continue unchecked and unabated.

    On the one hand, I’m inclined to think that the LGBT community needs to behave as the Black community had, and engage in peaceful protests and boycotts of businesses unfriendly to them in the hopes of putting pressure on them to change.  I think it’s highly hypocritical of most of these businesses professing a belief in Christianity to behave in such an unkind, un-neighborly, and hypocritical manner, just as I think it to be ridiculous and absurd for members of the LGBT community to ask, much less demand, the government compel these obviously religious, albeit hypocritically so, individuals to violate their own self-righteous consciences in providing services to them while they are celebrating or solemnizing their relationship.