Is the Customer Always Right? Or Do Businesses Have the Right to Refuse Service?

Governor Mark Dayton issued two decrees this week to the state’s workforce: all non-essential travel is banned to North Carolina and Mississippi. The governor’s memo came in response to legislation that throws a life line to citizens whose religious liberties may come under fire.

Dayton may have to issue more travel bans as more states try to protect certain business owners faced with a conundrum: gay or lesbian customers ask for goods or services for their wedding ceremony. Or a customer who is physically male but feels he is really a woman, wants to use the women’s bathroom or locker room.

The legislation popping up around the country attempts to protect the right of the business owners to refuse service if doing so would violate their religious beliefs or moral convictions. (Or freak out their women customers who were not expecting to encounter a man in the bathroom or locker room.)

What is interesting, and sad, is how consistently the media characterizes these laws as “discrimination” against gays, lesbians et. al. without any consideration for the rights and sensibilities of their fellow citizens who sincerely wish to live out their own cherished values at home and work. Since when did religious beliefs get so low on the totem pole?

The media and a terrified “corporate America” refuse to allow this to be treated as a irreconcilable clash with a civilized and ready solution, if only we would recall our constitutional principles, and do all that we can to make sure the free market is flourishing from North Carolina to Mississippi, up north to Minnesota and out west to California.

Everybody would not get what they want but they might get what they need.

When the Court declared the right to marry as fundamental for gay and lesbian couples, it put that right to marry on a collision course with religious liberties.

For example, conventional chatter has confused the right to marry with the right to purchase goods and services from any vendor, even if it means forcing a photographer or florist to participate in a wedding they object to fundamentally. Isn’t that some kind of forced servitude?

And if citizens can force other citizens to work for them against their wishes, we cannot be far from a right to commandeer a church, temple, mosque and its clergy or staff to perform a wedding service that violates the very tenets of that faith community.

Surely we do not want to force people of good faith to violate their beliefs or to force houses of worship to perform and recognize gay unions because they hold a traditional view of marriage, which until about one year ago, most of western, eastern and all other civilizations, agreed with, and still do.

Or shut down businesses with litigation because men want to use the women’s room. I cannot believe we are even talking about this.

I guess there are some people who do in fact want to push the envelope and punish their perceived persecutors/opponents, and they can do that in America if they can fund a lawsuit. But I doubt if most of the gay community wants to be associated with such ungracious victors following the Supreme Court’s decision. Or the unreasonable demands of a few people from the LGBGT community to use whatever locker room they want.

If the far left prevails in forcing florists to choose between closing the business or arranging a wedding bouquet, it may get sullen compliance but a rebellion is more likely because you are messing with core convictions. You are asking people to deny God and faith.

And if the Court really goes there, equating wedding cakes with the lunch counters of Jim Crow, or worse, ordering churches to perform ceremonies or lose their tax-exempt status, then it really is all over because the First Amendment, the great bulwark of our religious and political freedoms, will have lost its meaning, for all of us.

While litigants duke this one out in court, filling our cable news and social media with the latest fracas, I have a suggestion, knowing full well that there is real pain and humiliation for gay couples: live and let live.

In most towns and cities across America, there are many places to get invitations, flowers, and photography. The market, in other words, should provide most if not all that is needed and even desired. There are many vendors who will be delighted to help.

In small towns, maybe people already know one another and can work something out or if not, get what is needed on the internet. Take the high ground, and have your big day without ensuing law suits and other distractions.

Over time, if we recognize the irreconcilable nature of this conflict, we can work this out just like we always do and live together in peace.

We have to stop letting people like Mark Dayton divide us by baiting new cage matches, because the country is facing bigger challenges, and we need all hands on deck.