Bench Memos

Re: “Egregious” Distortions of Arizona Bill

In addition to the letter from religious-liberty scholars, Ilya Shapiro of Cato has weighed in to explain that “SB 1062 does nothing more than align state law with the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

Shapiro, who says he’s “for marriage equality” (so am I, by the way, but he and I evidently have very different understandings of what marriage is), acknowledges that the legislation would give wedding photographers and bakers (some) protection against being required to provide their services for same-sex ceremonies, but poses the elementary question, “Why should these people be forced to engage in activity that violates their religious beliefs?”

He continues:

For that matter, gay photographers and bakers shouldn’t be forced to work religious celebrations, Jews shouldn’t be forced to work Nazi rallies, and environmentalists shouldn’t be forced to work job fairs in logging communities. This isn’t the Jim Crow South; there are plenty of wedding photographers – over 100 in Albuquerque – and bakeries who would be willing to do business regardless of sexual orientation, and no state is enforcing segregation laws. I bet plenty of Arizona businesses would and do see more customers if they advertised that they welcomed the LGBT community.

At the end of the day, that’s what this is about: tolerance and respect for other people’s beliefs. While governments have the duty to treat everyone equally under the law, private individuals should be able to make their own decisions on whom to do business with and how – on religious or any other grounds. Those who disagree can take their custom elsewhere and encourage others to do the same. 

For what it’s worth, I think that the libertarian case for a broad scaling back of antidiscrimination laws—yes, possibly including a wholesale repeal of protections for religious persons against being discriminated against on religious grounds—is compelling.  

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