The Florist, The Gay Wedding And The Slippery, Slippery Slope

OK, she's a jerk. But is it ethical to say she can't be a jerk? Isn't America about having the right to be a jerk?

OK, she’s a jerk. But is it ethical to say she can’t be a jerk? Isn’t America about having the right to be a jerk?

Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts proprietor Barronelle Stutzman had been selling flowers to Robert Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed, his partner, for a decade, but drew a line in the sand when they wanted her business to supply the floral arrangements for their same-sex marriage. She refused, citing her relationship with God. This week, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a consumer protection lawsuit against  Stutzman, drawing a line of his own.

There are legal and ethical issues mixed up here like gazpacho, and some of them are not difficult. For example, whether Stutzman should have the legal right to do so or not, her decision to reject and stigmatize long-time customers is indefensible ethically. It is cruel, unfair, ungrateful and disrespectful. They were good enough to profit from for ten years, but not good enough to accommodate at the most important time of their lives? Such conduct earns a massive ethics “Yechh.” 

Stutzman explained her actions by saying,  “It’s a personal conviction.  It’s not a matter of being right or wrong.  It’s my belief.” What’s that belief, that you should show no loyalty or common decency to customers who have always been fair to you? That the Bible declares it a sin to supply floral arrangements to a gay wedding? This isn’t a matter of principle, because there is no principle, at least no sensible or clear one. She says that her faith prohibits her from helping her “friends” celebrate. No, it doesn’t. She doesn’t have to go to the wedding, give the couple a gift, or even send them a card wishing them well. All she has to do is supply services and goods for a fee to the same couple she has been happily taking money from all along. She doesn’t even have to do it with a smile.

She’s wrong, her reasoning is warped, and her conduct is a slam-dunk violation of Kant’s Rule of Universality (which is to say that the world would be a lousier place for gay couples if everyone acted like Stutzman) as well as the ethical principle nicely articulated by her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s called the Golden Rule: “Thou Shalt Not Kick A Friend In The Face Because You Wouldn’t Like Being Kicked In The Face Yourself.”

OK, I’m paraphrasing a little.

What about Ingersoll and Freed? Is it ethical—fair, responsible, proportionate, prudent—for them to sic the law on Stutzman for being a fool, rather than just going to another florist? Their actions has the foul hint of bullying and retribution about it. It would certainly be ethical to just tell Stutzman off and stop patronizing Arlene’s, but I think the ethical and legal principles involved here make their response ethically defensible as well.

Legally, it is a more difficult question for me. Legal rulings have precedentiary effect, and one supporting Ingersoll and Freed could mean, to take one example, that singers who don’t approve of gay marriages could be forced to sing at them. Florists are perfectly positioned in the gray territory between a public accommodation, such as a restaurant or pharmacy, where society has a legitimate interest in restricting personal liberty to ensure equal access to the basics of life, and expressive or artistic pursuits that the law usually can’t compel. That gray area creates the slipperiest of slopes, which is why the betting is that this case will end up in the laps of nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices.

It is, as the King of Siam would say, a puzzlement.  Part of liberty is the right to be an unethical jerk, as  Stutzman is being, but none of us can enjoy our Constitutionally guaranteed liberty when others treat us as second class citizens and second class human beings while society, in the form of legal authority, shrugs. I come down here on the side of the gay couple and Washington State, but I’m not thrilled about it.

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Sources: Seattle Times, Seattle Pi

69 thoughts on “The Florist, The Gay Wedding And The Slippery, Slippery Slope

  1. I think you are wrong to do so int his case:
    To me, the legal aspect is very simple: Floral arrangements, photography, even baking and decorating cakes are artistic expressions. To compel an artist to express a certain viewpoint is essentially saying that evangelical Christians, Mormons, Catholics, and other religions that feel homosexuality is wrong are going to have second-class protection against compelled expression – something that has been deemed unconstitutional since 1943 (West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette), in a case involving a Jehovah’s Witness. Where is the equality in that situation?

    Between this and proposed legislation in California to strip the Boy Scouts and Christian youth groups of their tax exempt status, as well as the whole fight over forcing Christians to provide for Plan B and contraception even when they are morally opposed to its use, I seriously wonder if the framework for a new version of Jim Crow – this time, targeting religions that hold socially conservative values – is being assembled. Because it certainly is starting to look that way.

    Whether people’s rights will be protected will wholly depend on their view on what they believe is a moral issue. Freedom of conscience? Protection from compelled expression? We need to know what your religion says about homosexuality before we decide if you can have that right.

    Read “Seven Events that Made America America,” by Larry Schweikart – specifically the passages in his chapter on the Dred Scott decision about what John C. Calhoun said (it is on pages 40 and 41 on my Kindle – yours may vary). If we as a country are that willing to force bakers, photographers, and florists to use their artistic talents to celebrate something they view as wrong, where will it stop? Who else will face compelled expression? And will it stop at compelled expression? Will it soon extend to compelled association (which the 2000 BSA v. Dale case said was unconstitutional as well).

    We can have equality or we can have freedom. Pick one or the other.

      • texagg04 –

        The problem is very simple: The protections of the First Amendment against compelled expression either apply to Christians who are photographers, bakers, and florists, or they do not.

        If they apply, then we do not have a double standard where Jehovah’s Witness can opt out of pledging allegiance to the flag and Christians are compelled to use their talents to celebrate a same-sex marriage. If they do not apply, then there is a clear double standard when it comes to compelled expression – in which Christians, Mormons, and Catholics do not have the same level of protection against compelled expression that others do.

        How is that “equality under the law” in any rational context?

        • Doesn’t artistic expression cover actions of artists independent of being contracted for goods and services?

          For instance I painted this such-and-such cuz it is an expression of why I believe, vs my painting skills are on the market for people to purchase for a time?

          There a difference there and it undermines your objection.

          • I’m with tex. It’s the freely open issue. A freelance artist doesn’t have to accept any paying gig, but if they set up a stand offering caricatures to anyone, then they can’t deny a caricature because they think the person’s lack of facial hair is ungodly.

    • Freedom is an illusion if there is not equality. “You’re free to go 20 miles away and get your ‘morning after pill,’ because we don’t like your kind” is neither. I think the compelled expression issue can be addressed really simply here. 1) Floral arrangements are a ways short of an oil painting 2) the law can’t compel quality, just minimal levels of service. The florist can simply say, honestly, I’ll take your money and give you arrangements, but I’m not going to give you my best work, just the minimum I can fairly do and still charge you. Translation: “I’ll meet the legal requirement, but I’ll still be an asshole, as is my right.”

      Problem solved.

      • So, by your reasoning, the mandate to enforce equality means that people’s rights will be protected will wholly depend on their view on what they believe is a moral issue.

        Freedom of conscience? Protection from compelled expression? We need to know what your religion says about homosexuality before we decide if you can have that right.

        When the state gets to decide who gets to exercise certain rights and who doesn’t, how is that not establishing the framework for a new Jim Crow?

        • You’ll have to re-write that first sentence in English before I can respond to it.

          What I said, in English, was that a floral arrangement is a pretty thin reed to claim “expression.” Do you want waiters to be able to refuse to set the table in restaurants for blacks and gays, if they typically do it with flair and a flourish?

          Society, in part with the cooperation with the state, decides what is societally inappropriate and damaging conduct. Ganging up on minority groups and excluding them by a convenient claim of “conscience” qualifies, and is an excellent use of the process.

          • I believe IM means “being” where “will be” is used, to wit: “People’s rights being protected will wholly depend on their view on what they believe is a moral issue.” But then, there I go again, with that detestable exercise of belief. How dare I? Belief is so “irrational,” especially a “wrong” belief.

            • I’ll wait for his correction…still is vague to me. You can still believe anything you want to. Blacks are inferior, Gays are evil, women should stay at home, Italians smell bad, Jews are dirty, Greeks are morons. You just can’t marginalize them by refusing them the same services you give to anyone else if they are willing and able to pay for them. You can’t, in other words, hurt people just because you hate them for no good reason, and signal to the world that they should do the same. Some day, people may even realize that calling actions like that “moral” is ridiculous and barbaric on its face. The laws are also a moral code.

              • “You just can’t marginalize them by refusing them the same services you give to anyone else if they are willing and able to pay for them. You can’t, in other words, hurt people just because you hate them for no good reason, and signal to the world that they should do the same.”

                Well, of course I agree that it’s wrong to hurt people because you hate them for no good reason, etc. as you say. But I do not agree that a refusal to serve certain customers who are willing and able to pay is absolutely or necessarily wrong.

                We remember the restaurant server – the Ethics Hero, who refused to serve the customer who complained of another (“handicapped”/genetically different), noisy customer. It seems clear that in that case, the server “marginalized” the customer he refused to serve.

                But, if instead he had proceeded to serve that customer, the server would have been acting against and in denial of his own conscientious objection to the customer’s attitude – thereby marginalizing not only himself, but also marginalizing another customer with whom he was familiar and about whom the rejected customer was (as I understand, if I recall) complaining in a tone of loud callousness, if not cruelty.

                • Bad example. The customer, in the view of the waiter, was marginalizing another, innocent, indeed vulnerable patron. Now you are talking misconduct. Refusing to serve a patron who misbehaves is always a proprietor’s right.

                  • No: You just choose not to relate or equate the server’s objection to the customer’s real-time conduct in the store with the florist’s objection to her customer’s clearly intended future conduct, using her products, outside her store.

                    • Current conduct is not future conduct, so, of course not. 7-11 can kick refuse service to someone not wearing a shirt, but they can’t refuse service to someone because the patron to consume the slurpy shirtless.

                    • That’s because they are two materially different things. The florist would certainly be within her rights to tell the couple they couldn’t get married in the store, and I’d fire to a waiter refusing to serve a patron based on conduct outside the restaurant. No comparison whatsoever.

                • But I do not agree that a refusal to serve certain customers who are willing and able to pay is absolutely or necessarily wrong.

                  Strawman. Minimum decent behavior can be required in stores, and I don’t see anyone saying otherwise.

                  For reference, the server case you bring up was written about here: https://ethicsalarms.com/2013/01/19/ethics-hero-michael-garcia/. The back and forth with Jeremy Wiggins, et al gets into the details of that sticky situation pretty well. This situation doesn’t apply in the least, as Jack was talking about things people are (or believe), and the server was dealing with speech/actions in the establishment.

          • Here is the re-write:
            So, by your reasoning, the mandate to enforce equality means that whether people’s rights will be protected will depend on their view on what they believe is a moral issue.

            If you have seen “The Next Great Baker” or “Cake Boss,” there is no doubt that the people at that bakery, while there is backbreaking labor, are also involved in making a work of art. There’s a fair bit of creative expression involved.

            Can you seriously argue that a florist – especially a small business owner – is NOT engaged in a creative endeavor with every arrangement they make?

            Especially if it is on the borderline, where do we err, on the side of “equality” or on the side of the First Amendment’s protections against compelled expression? I think the First Amendment must win out. Even at the cost of “equality.”

            • 1. I reject “enforce equality” out of hand. There is no enforced “equality” in every sense that word could mean. The enforcement is to prevent a majority from stifling minority individuals right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

              2. Nobody is stifling artistic expression, or forcing it either. Don’t tell me there aren’t generic wedding cakes, just as there are generic flower arrangements. You also know that the slippery slope runs the other way—if cake-bakers can discriminate and refuse to serve Jews, then surely any restaurant that isn’t McDonald’s or the equivilent can. Cooking is an art, too. So is landscaping. Hairdressing. Massages. Car repair. Yes, the Constitution protects assholes, but just as it isn’t a suicide pact, it should not be a weapon to allow aasholes—and yes, a small business owner who refuses to take a citizen’s money and do what he does out of hate and bias is an asshole—to tear the country apart at the seams.

              3. Because that’s what your formula will do.

              • if cake-bakers can discriminate and refuse to serve Jews, then surely any restaurant that isn’t McDonald’s or the equivilent can.

                And why not? They should be absolutely free to refuse sales to whomever they wish, just like I would then have the freedom to refuse to patronize their business.

                The free market, when allowed to actually operate freely, has a built-in mechanism for dealing with such companies – it is called failure.

                You assume as a natural result of your belief that people would not react to such things, and that they would be, in essence, unethical in their purchasing habits.

                Even I, a man who thinks very little of humanity at large, do not believe that most people would forgive such things.

                • Thus missing the point. To be justifiable ethically, your (revolting) system would have to work fairly if the cake shop was the only one in the city. It doesn’t. A citizen should not have to endure that kind of treatment until the rest of the community catches up.

                  It’s a dishonest and abstract argument.

                  • To be justifiable ethically, your (revolting) system would have to work fairly if the cake shop was the only one in the city

                    There is a mechanism for that – it is called “new entries into the market”. Someone would see that people loath buying from the only business, set up to compete, and eventually the original store would either change its policy or go under.

                    “Fairness” has nothing to do with either ethics or the world at large, and it most certainly has no place being a reason behind any legislation.

                    • Someone would see that people loath buying from the only business, set up to compete, and eventually the original store would either change its policy or go under.

                      Citation needed.

                      The perfectness of the free market is a myth. It’s a general idea that requires a knowledgeable and rational population. We don’t have either. Even in the best cases, the free market doesn’t care in the least about ethics or peons pursuit of freedom.

                      A call to get rid of anti-discrimination laws in favor of the free market is like a call to get rid of law in favor of the social contract. It can generally in most places, over time, maybe, but it would be a horror of a world.

                • Sorry but society at large has a not only a right but an obligation to insure that all citizens of the republic are treated fairly and equally. If people don’t want to do that then they are free to start up their business in some other county.

    • Anyone who thinks that “baking ” is an artistic expression has never worked in a bakery. “Baking” is back breaking mind numbing work that is done by lunatics in the early morning hours. The people who sell cupcakes and fancy wedding cakes aren’t bakers, they are dilettantes playing at baking.

        • I was being a smart ass. I had a housemate who worked at a bakery and I swear to god that between the hours he worked and bake breaking nature of it I’m surprised it didn’t kill him.

  2. Were I the florists, I would agree to settle the suit in exchange for providing the floral arrangements for the wedding, and I would do so for free.

    I would then use the leavings and poorest quality cuttings I had to do the job.

    Forcing people to do things they don’t want to do is unwise.

        • I don’t read media matters, and a I disagree with the “liberal” sites I read fairly frequently.

          Also, where I get my influences is irrelevant to the topic. I was making the point that you are proud to advertise unethical conduct. Intentionally doing a bad job because you don’t like the customer is unethical conduct. It might be likely conduct in this situation, but it’s very clearly unethical.

    • Only if you claim that someone’s beliefs are equivalent to what someone is, and that’s pretty insane. Beliefs change over time.

        • If you don’t make the equivalence, then there is no Jim Crow. You need the equivalence for it to work. You might as well be saying that laws requiring safe handling of chicken be another Jim Crow.

  3. Legal rulings have precedentiary effect, and one supporting Ingersoll and Freed could mean, to take one example, that singers who don’t approve of gay marriages could be forced to sing at them.

    Do the singers have set prices and work for everyone and anyone willing to pay that price? Generally, no. I don’t think that’s a good comparison.

    I think a better way to look at this is to see the issues with allowing denial of a product based on what someone is going to do with the product. Should a clothing store because they don’t like where the buyers are going to wear them?

    Your deciding there’s a gray area seems to suggest that people selling non-necessities should be allowed to discriminate however they wish. That seems like a much more dangerous issue.

      • We’ve been around on this a number of times. Pretending the balancing of liberty hasn’t been done and strawmanning the position shows that you’re no better than a troll.

          • It’s important for you for it to be a gray area because once it’s settled, you’ll have to admit that your thoughts are bigotry. You’ll no longer just be able to say your okay with your revulsion; you’ll have to deal with it. Maybe you’ll work on compensating for your internal issue and treating people properly… or maybe you’ll find a way to justify the idea of bigotry to yourself so you can be comfortable again.

              • That’s not even coherent. (1) I don’t think you know how Rorschach tests work. I think you meant projection. (2) I’m not arguing for a gray area. (3) Dislike of people for the ideas they espouse is not bigotry. It can be wrong, but it’s not bigoted.

                • Let’s be clear on the word bigot. It’s been thrown around quite a bit, and seems to have developed a somewhat pigeon-holed connotation in this thread. Although it can involve intolerance and hatred towards a group, it can also involve intolerance towards people for their ideas.

                  Bigot: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

                  It certainly does mean someone who regards members of a group with hatred or intolerance. But it can also mean, from the first segment of the of definition, a person who’s notions are based entirely on ideas.

                  So, insomuch as anyone here may actively hate the ideas of those they call ‘bigots’, let them not also become the bigots they claim to despise.

                  So, if there are individuals who oppose homosexual marriage and they’ve come to it via a rational means after weighing as many considerations and first principles as possible and still actively consider other options in their minds, they aren’t necessarily bigots. They would become so if those ideas translated to action, or if those ideas immediately ceased to be considered and analyzed and assumed to be the set in stone facts.

                  Unless any of us can read the other’s mind or until one of us clearly uses language that says “I will not at all consider your opinion”, we may wish to cut back on firing of the “Bigot gun” so casually.

                  I do imagine this world has a great deal more bigots than non, by the very nature that it is way easier to not think than it is to think. But, it’s safe to assume that we can’t accurately read someone else’s thought processes on an internet forum until they verbally indicate they refuse to consider other options.

                  • So, if there are individuals who oppose homosexual marriage and they’ve come to it via a rational means after weighing as many considerations and first principles as possible and still actively consider other options in their minds, they aren’t necessarily bigots. They would become so if those ideas translated to action, or if those ideas immediately ceased to be considered and analyzed and assumed to be the set in stone facts.

                    Can you point to one person in this thread that has come to the position on rational means? I see irrational statements at the root of these beliefs.

                    Your comment is generally good, but inserting it where you did implies that I am inappropriately calling people bigots. I don’t see that. Eeyoure was pretty clear in his other comments (that came before my calling him a bigot), that his beliefs are not rational. It’s gut feeling, science denial, and an insane thought that equality would make him a second class citizen.

                    • Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with an individual’s first principles doesn’t matter. But let’s assert that one of their premisses IS false. If they have reached a conclusion from a false premiss via rational means, they are still rational. The onus on the debaters is now to revert the discussion to the premiss in question and discuss it.

                    • tex,

                      If a premise is not rational, then the argument (and the person) are not rational, no matter how solid the rest of the logic is.

                      Your argument is similar to one Karla is making on the Same-Sex Marriage Wars COTD.

                      You’re trying to define away the irrationality, but t doesn’t matter where it creeps in. That someone is deluded in a early step does not give them immunity from bigotry. He or she is still “obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices;” The prejudice is just one step further back from where you’re looking.

        • This is really why your blog is a must read. Despite some insane comments, there’s also real substantive discussion of open minded people. It’s not just an airing of ideas, it’s an airing of ideas where most people are willing to be convinced by a superior argument. I’m happy that sometimes my arguments change minds, but it’s just as good when someone points out the flaws in my argument or the strong case for a position I’m wishy-washy on and I get convinced (like with gun ownership).

          • I appreciate the observation, tgt. That’s always been the goal, and I am gratified that we are making progress toward it. And you know that I appreciate your contribution, which has been considerable.

    • I don’t think it has to do with selling non-necessities, but selling anything. Rather, a *fair* free market system is set up to allow the consumers to be the one’s who discriminate. I want ice cream vs I don’t want ice cream or I want TCBY….not Joe’s Ice Cream shop wants Jews to have ice cream vs Joe’s Ice Cream shop does not want Jews to have ice cream.

      Additionally, as we alluded to above in the opening salvoes: it very much has to do with how a product is marketed.

      If a buddhist creates generic sculptures of anything and sells them in a shop, it is not fair to deny sales to a muslim (let the muslim choose to purchase or not), because then why would the buddhist even be making generic sculptures of anything. If the buddhist were to make specifically the buddha statues and sell them in a shop, again, why would the buddhist have any right to deny sales to a non-buddhist after having opened sales to the general market?

      Let the product itself fill a demand in the market and let willing consumers select that product. Floral arrangements, although artistic, are still on the market for purchase by anyone. If a flower shop owned by a Ba’hai-ist, can sufficiently create a floral arrangement that so specifically communicates a Ba’hai message, then whatever, still can’t deny a non-ba’hai-ist from purchasing it.

      The florist in question, for a consistency check, ought to audit her sales and determine if she’s covered non-christian funerals.

      Of course free-lancers have a bit more freedom, but even then, their product as they describe it is on the open market.

      • Tex, I see your points, but I still don’t think the general case leads to the conclusion-without-exceptions that the merchant is always in the wrong to refuse service or sales-as-usual.

        If the manager of a hardware store overhears chatter at the checkout counter by some customers, who have regularly purchased lumber for years, that suggests some of the lumber in an impending purchase is going to be used to burn a cross on someone’s lawn…?

        If someone who owns and operates a flight simulator notices unusual attention (or lack thereof) by certain customers to particular facets of flight training (such as, focus on learning take-offs and maneuvers, but no interest shown in operating safely in air traffic patterns or landings)…?

        If the operator of (or some customers of) a gun practice range observe particular dress, speech, or manners of practice by certain customers, which suggests preparation for specific activities…?

        If someone walks into a florist shop whose proprietor the customer knows is a person of a sexual minority and furthermore, knows that the merchant’s clientele is largely sexual minorities, and the customer is wearing one of those Westboro Baptist “God Hates Fags” shirts…?

        What about visa applicants? Is the U.S. State Department violating persons’ human rights, if those in the State Department responsible for issuing visas deny visas based on detecting (or, reasonably suspecting) certain intentions on the part of certain visa applicants to engage in certain activities, once the applicants gain access to U.S. territory, citizens, assets or interests?

        • I can agree with those objections. But those objections all related to store owners refusing service to people based on their criminal or actively anti-civic behavior, not based on some innate characteristic. And that’s ultimately the scientific argument behind homosexuality, that it is an inborn trait not a chosen anti civic behavior.

          • Tex, I am so glad you brought up the innate characteristic, the inborn trait.

            I am sure at this point that “science” will never honestly answer the question: Is “homophobia” (or, what is called homophobic behavior) an innate characteristic of heterosexuality?” How unfair in fact might it be, to expect heterosexuals to behave tolerantly toward sexuality that differs from their own – that is, not only intolerant of their own practicing of alternative sexuality, but also intolerant of expressions and manifestations of alternative sexuality by others?

            We are at a point in history where the programming (indoctrination) of the public is to accept (whether true or not) that all “homophobic” behavior is “chosen anti-civic behavior.” I am not swallowing that force-fed narrative. Nor am I swallowing the subtly and insidiously bullying suggestion that it is the heterosexuals’ revulsion at sexual minorities’ behavior that reflects some kind of mis-programmed, mal-socialized, irrational, unethical, or otherwise defective thinking.

            I could go on and on about what may seem like a tongue-in-cheek conviction that our society needs to solidify improved protections for “homophobes’ rights.” But my conviction is serious. My concern is genuine. My revulsion toward many manifestations of sexuality is authentic and I am comfortable with it; it is who I am. Like sexual minorities who have suffered in the past, I also wish to be free, without discrimination against me because of who I am. I will fight back against forces arrayed against me that seek to treat me as a second-class citizen for who I am.

            • “I am sure at this point that “science” will never honestly answer the question: Is “homophobia” (or, what is called homophobic behavior) an innate characteristic of heterosexuality?”

              Is negro-phobia (or, what is called negro-phobic behavior) an innate characteristic of Caucasian genetics?

              I generally agree with your third paragraph. The media has never been an impartial source of information on any of this and will typically use the most base methods of vilifying any opposition while using all the dishonest means of supporting its own agenda.

              I generally agree with your fourth paragraph.

              But, I still think it is all misguided. What specific action is being taken by a homosexual that infringes on the rights of others?

              • “Is negro-phobia (or, what is called negro-phobic behavior) an innate characteristic of Caucasian genetics?”

                I don’t know. Based on a sample size of one, namely my personal experience, the answer is no. Again, I do not trust what today is called “science” to make clear whether in fact there is, or is not, any correlation between genetics and interracial animus.

                “What specific action is being taken by a homosexual that infringes on the rights of others?”

                I’m not sure I understand your question. I do not mean to avoid answering it. I’ll try to answer it as I understand it. First, I am borrowing some words Jack has used in this thread (but not intending to mock Jack or twist his words), regarding the action the florist, B. Stutzman, took (that is, her decision regarding her “marriage”-minded customers):

                [State Attorney General Ferguson’s filing of a consumer protection lawsuit against Stutzman], which is a decision to reject and stigmatize a long-time merchant, is cruel, unfair, ungrateful and disrespectful. Her business was good enough for the state to benefit from it for how many years, but not good enough to continue to exist because of one decision by its proprietor not to have her products associated with the celebration of a social construct to which she conscientiously objects? Such conduct by the AG, and by the parties instigating such conduct, earns a massive ethics “Yechh.”

                Next, to continue answering your question, Tex, this is in response to something you said Apr 14-3:21 pm: My impression of Stutzman is that she did not refuse service because of any customer’s innate characteristic. Rather, she conscientiously objected to a specific future action that certain of her customers indicated that they would take – action which (I don’t know this, so am only speculating, but with some confidence) she considers “actively anti-civic behavior.” That’s partly why I suggested the exception involving the Westboro shirt.

                To wrap up answering your question: Jack’s attempted paraphrasing of Jesus in context of the Golden Rule and then applied to this florist-who-refused-service-to-a-customer situation, annoys me, because it is incomplete and thus misleading about constructive interpersonal relations. I would rather heal from a thousand wounds inflicted by a faithful friend, than suffer one kiss from someone who was misleading, being dishonest with, being negligent toward, or betraying me. Stutzman chose the occasion to say to particular customers, “No: I am not going to be part of glorifying your sin.” In so doing, she was being a tolerant (up to her limit), and/but faithful, servant and even friend, reflecting fair conduct toward all her customers, consistent with her conscience.

                I do wonder: Would Stutzman also refuse service to other customers (whether long-time or first-time), who she knew were intent on ordering flowers to celebrate, say, a divorce or an abortion or an “animal sacrifice?” I don’t know. But I think that’s a fair challenge.

                Obviously, I do not consider Stutzman’s refusal the act of an “a-hole.” If I didn’t know him better, I might be saying here that Jack seems invested in enabling unconditional licenses for new classes of a-holes to ply their bullying of ethical (albeit uncooperative-on-principle) merchants.

                • I don’t know. Based on a sample size of one, namely my personal experience, the answer is no.

                  You absolutely don’t have evidence either way on this from a personal experience. Saying such suggests you don’t even understand science.

                  Again, I do not trust what today is called “science” to make clear whether in fact there is, or is not, any correlation between genetics and interracial animus.

                  You might as well not trust science enough to turn on a computer. It might magically explode on you.

                  Action infringing on your rights

                  You claim to not be dodging the question, but you didn’t name a single one. That’s dodging the question.

                  You also used logic that Jack has since backed away from. Sorry, not going to fly.

                  One piece I do want to respond to directly:
                  y impression of Stutzman is that she did not refuse service because of any customer’s innate characteristic. Rather, she conscientiously objected to a specific future action that certain of her customers indicated that they would take – action which (I don’t know this, so am only speculating, but with some confidence) she considers “actively anti-civic behavior.”

                  This is the “It’s not that I won’t sell the black people steak. I just conscientiously object to the specific future action that certain of my customers indicated they would take with the steak because I consider it “actively anti-civic behavior” for black people to eat white men’s food.”

                  What someone is going to use a good for, so long as it’s legal, really doesn’t matter.

            • I am sure at this point that “science” will never honestly answer the question: Is “homophobia” (or, what is called homophobic behavior) an innate characteristic of heterosexuality?”

              I’d say that history has taught us that revulsion of the other is not inherent. At this point, the burden of proof would be on you to show why sexuality is any different from race or hair color or gender or body hair amount (or non genetically, culture or language or food choices or religion or …).

              My revulsion toward many manifestations of sexuality is authentic and I am comfortable with it; it is who I am. Like sexual minorities who have suffered in the past, I also wish to be free, without discrimination against me because of who I am. I will fight back against forces arrayed against me that seek to treat me as a second-class citizen for who I am.

              Who is attempting to treat you as a second class citizen in any of this? What are they trying to do to you?

              I just don’t get this argument. How is not discriminating against someone else (when they also can’t discriminate against you) second-class citizenry? It looks like equality to me. I see this all the time with Christian’s complaining about secularization. Removal of special privileges does not mean that you’re being persecuted.

              • “Who is attempting to treat you as a second class citizen in any of this? What are they trying to do to you?”

                The burden of answering your questions is on you, since you so constantly and clearly (and one might even say, determinedly) fail to empathize.

                • Uh, what? Empathy has nothing to do with burden of proof.

                  When I argue that Christianity is given a special place in our country, the burden is on me, and I gladly give evidence.

                  That said, I’ve already given evidence that equality is not discrimination, so I have gone first.

                  Also accusing me of failing to empathize with other people seems weird in that I’m a white, upper middle class, cisgender male who argues for minorities, the poor, and LGBTers. That I don’t write invalid emotional arguments does not mean that I’m a sociopath.

                    • I don’t see what point of yours I could have backed up there. Was your point that you’re trying to cheat the argument? All I see is that you’re on the hook to show some second-class citizenry, and that you attempt to dodge such responsibility with personal attacks on me.

            • I’m gonna have to go with tgt here; what do you mean by “second-class” citizen? On my end, I don’t think a gay storeowner refusing to sell cakes to someone who campaigned for Proposition 8 would fly with most of us here either.

              • Nor would the Republican store owner who refuses to serve Democrats. You can dislike or disapprove of whomever you choose, Eeyoure, but when your biases and preferences gratuitously interfere with the legal enjoyment of life of others, then that’s unacceptable. I refer again to my ethical and fair bigot roommate in law school, who was prejudices against blacks, gays, women and Jews. But he never, ever treated any of them with anything less than respect, because, as he told me often, they had the same rights that he did, and nobody had any right diminishing them. Thoughts are not unethical. Conduct is.

          • I’m similar to tex.

            Hardware Store: Deny sales. If you know something is going to be used criminally, you can be liable. Also, call police.

            Flight Simulator: Report suspicious behavior and refuse to only do takeoffs as it’s unsafe.

            Gun range: Too vague. The key is knowledge of likely criminal intent.

            Florist shop: Absolutely give service. Nothing illegal there.

            State Department: Not a business and not citizens. There are very different rules. Visa applications include suitability, and the likelihood that letting them in will be a net positive or neutral for the U.S. Again you were vague, so I can’t respond directly.

            • Ack, then you gotta tie it to strict legality.

              “Hardware Store: Deny sales. If you know something is going to be used criminally, you can be liable. Also, call police.” -TGT

              Yes, although liability is an issue, that shouldn’t be the motivation for reporting criminal behavior…

              • Liability is a fullstop on the sale. It ignored the ethics issue.

                I also went to far with my allowing of anything illegal. The florist shop with the god hates fags t-shirt might be worthy of refusal of service. I have to think through (or be told by you) the consequences of both possibilities.

  4. I have read all of the discussion here and find it compelling in its double speak. Do you have the right to demand service from some one who does not what to serve you.
    It would have been very easy for the florist to have said, “I am sorry but I am not going to be able to do the wedding on that weekend, I have other plans.” However she stood on her conviction and told the truth. For that she is being vilified, She did not have to tell the couple why she would not serve them but she did.
    Would the couple have been happy if she had lied to them, would they still have sought to damage her business. She had a choice to serve them before the event and they have a choice not to use her service after she told them the truth.
    When do my rights end and yours begin. I don’t know the answer but I don’t think this is the way.

    • What’s your point? That she gets credit for being honest about her desire to marginalize them and treat them as second-class citizens? OK, lying would have been worse, and so what? Her conduct was still wrong, un-American, illegal and harmful.Admitting bias and prejudice doesn’t diminish the harm of either—lying about them does make them harder to detect.

      Society has a right and an obligation to decide certain kinds of harm citizens can inflict on each other will not be tolerated. Your rights as an individual are tempered by your agreement to contribute to life in a cooperative society. If you want to abuse people and withhold services from them out of faith-based animus, go live in the woods, and don’t pretend to be offering a public service.

    • Jack got most of it, but I’d like to call out two other issues:

      She had a choice to serve them before the event and they have a choice not to use her service after she told them the truth.

      She’s a public business. Yes, she had a choice to not serve them, but she didn’t have a legal right for that behavior.

      She denied them service. They didn’t have any ability to get service from her.

      When do my rights end and yours begin. I don’t know the answer but I don’t think this is the way.

      This is pretty unrelated to what comes before hand. You talk about unethical ways the florist could hide her discrimination before this last paragraph. I don’t get the connection.

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