In recent years, gay marriage has become legal throughout the United States. It seemed to happen overnight, but actually involved a gradual transformation of the culture. Advocates of same-sex marriage won the public over by citing the freedom of association. Consenting adults ought to be able to enter into any relationship they want, the argument went.
Of course, that argument has a corollary. Adults also have the right to deny consent, to refuse when asked to interact. We can’t have it both ways. If you have the right to associate, then you have the right to refuse association. There is no separating the two. They are opposing sides of the same coin.
Despite that clear incontestable truth, government has tried to have it both ways under the auspices of anti-discrimination law. Two gay individuals now have the right to get married. But a vendor asked to service their nuptials cannot legally refuse. That presents a glaring hypocrisy in the law which must be resolved.
A couple from Minnesota has risen to the task. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
A St. Cloud husband-and-wife film company [Carl and Angel Larsen’s Telescope Media Group] is challenging the constitutionality of Minnesota’s human rights act, arguing that they will be punished for refusing wedding services to same-sex couples.
Their lawsuit says the Larsens are trying to break into the wedding industry, but want to shoot weddings only for heterosexual couples. The Larsens want to advertise at wedding expos and on websites but Minnesota’s current law, they say, would force them into producing videos “promoting a conception of marriage that directly contradicts their religious beliefs.” They argue that their right to expression is being “chilled and silenced” by the state.
The Larsens’ claim is obviously correct. No one should be forced to provide support services for an event which violates their religious views. Indeed, no one should be forced to provide anything under any circumstances. Slavery has long been abolished.
The left disagrees. They believe that people should be forced to provide services, wholly rejecting the very freedom of association upon which the case for gay marriage was built.
Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey said he anticipates the department will prevail in court and “that sexual orientation will remain protected” under the act.
“This lawsuit is part of a pattern of nationwide litigation that is now aimed at eroding the rights of LGBTQ Minnesotans,” Lindsey said in a statement Tuesday.
Lindsey’s premise is the same as that espoused by the southern states in defense of chattel slavery. Then too, forcing others to work was argued to be a “right.” In truth, no one has a natural right to the labor of others. There is no right to have your wedding filmed, just as there is no right to have your cotton picked.
“This could open a real wide door to people citing religion in turning away customers they don’t like,” said Teresa Nelson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota. “It opens the door to a vast array of discrimination … if the court sides with the plaintiffs.”
Indeed it does, and properly should. The ability to discriminate is the ability to choose, and that’s a basic human right. When you choose to live in one city, and not another, you discriminate. When you choose to work for one firm, and not another, you discriminate. When you choose to marry, the act explicitly discriminates against every alternative to your spouse, literally “forsaking all others.” Discrimination, onto itself, is not something to be avoided. Indeed, it cannot be avoided in a free society. Anti-discrimination is, by definition, anti-freedom.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a $40 million Arizona nonprofit involved in Christian religious freedom and “sanctity of life” litigation around the world, is supporting the Larsens’ suit. The alliance was part of the successful Hobby Lobby case that argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that businesses could refuse contraceptive coverage to employees for religious reasons.
“This is a right everybody has, not just a right in the realm of marriage,” said Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel for the organization. “We wouldn’t want a Democratic speechwriter being made to write speeches for Trump under force of law or an atheist singer forced to sing Christian hymns at a church. These are choices creative professionals can make. The worry is if the government can take it away from people like the Larsens, what’s to stop it from taking away from everyone else?”
That’s exactly right. Freedom is defined by the ability to consent or refuse. If you cannot refuse, then you are not free.