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Travis Rowley: Can’t We All Just Not Get Along?

Saturday, March 01, 2014


It is at the risk of feeding the absurd premise that homosexuals have somehow been victimized by American society – particularly on par with African-Americans of the civil rights era – that I delve into the controversy surrounding SB 1062, a bill passed by the Arizona Legislature that protects the right of business owners to refuse service based on one’s religious convictions.

Spawning SB 1062 was the anticipation of a potential controversy and lawsuit resulting from an incident similar to what occurred in Oregon, where a bakery refused to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual wedding reception. Or in New Mexico, where a photographer also decided to decline a similar business transaction.

The issue does have value as an academic exercise. It’s a question all liberty-loving people should wrestle with at some point: Should an American businessman have the right to refuse his services?

Amidst the contemporary “gay rights” movement, this question may seem crucial. But I try to imagine the American framers pondering such an idea.

I don’t know, Mr. Jefferson. I’m all for this freedom thing. But what if I want to, say, buy a cake. And the baker, for some reason, won’t make it for me. I mean, then what?!

We’re supposed to live in a free society. And the citizens of a free society – unless they’re liberals – are typically quick to learn and adapt to life’s harshest lesson: Life’s not always fair.

The Left could learn a lot from a certain Seinfeld episode. The setting has Jerry and Elaine out to dinner at Poppie’s, a restaurant where they begin to discuss the issue of abortion. When Elaine vows never to do business with anyone who is pro-life, Jerry decides to call the restaurant owner (Poppie) over to the table in order to ask him “where [he stands] on the abortion issue.” After Poppie vehemently defends his pro-life position and declares that “no intelligent person can think differently,” Elaine storms out while informing Poppie that she’s “not coming back!”

Poppie’s response: “You’re not welcome!”

Now that’s the American way.

A Crusade

I was a teenager at the time of this episode’s initial airing. I had no idea at the time that it was the belief of millions of American liberals that it should be the state’s responsibility to mediate the dispute between Elaine and Poppie, and that the Storm Troopers would have to be sent in – pressuring Elaine to continue dining at Poppie’s, and forcing Poppie to serve her.

Of course, that really isn’t the liberal position – because liberal principles vary from issue to issue, depending on what may enhance their political power. But when it comes to “gay marriage” and “gay rights,” the Left is currently on a bullish crusade.

In truth, that’s why the Left won’t allow these scattered incidents to be chalked up as minor scuffles between neighbors.

Of course, a crusade requires a moral platform.

But who – and what – is moral? Who decides?

Within the present discussion, religious liberty and Biblical teachings are at odds with the Church of Liberalism – which stresses “equality” and “tolerance,” while also insisting that the Christian outlook on the homosexual lifestyle is antiquated and immoral itself.

Liberals won’t tolerate other people’s intolerance!

This is the Left’s ongoing paradox, as they spend their lives attempting to eradicate what they perceive as “hatred,” “racism,” “sexism,” and “homophobia.”

This week David Cooley, the owner of The Abbey Food & Bar in West Hollywood, announced that he would add the names of any legislator who supports bills like SB 1062 to a “Deny Entry List.” Cooley also plans to “display headshots of each state representative who supports” this type of legislation.

“I want to send a message to all those people out there who conflate Christian values with discrimination: we don’t want your kind here.” Cooley continued, “I’ve learned that I can’t stop crazy, ignorant or stupid, but I can stop it from coming through my doors.”

Not so fast, Cooley. Not if your progressive friends have their way.

The irony and hypocrisy never seems to strike progressives. Just how fantastic would it be if the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan finds itself with the legal authority to force Cooley to provide space for their annual private fundraiser this year?

No Principles

Anti-conservative bigotry is hardly rare. Moreover, it is much more prominent, forthright, and widespread than any type of hatred for homosexuals. After all, the entire American pop-culture is almost entirely dedicated to glorifying homosexuality, while ridiculing Christianity and American traditions. And we can speak of numerous tales of conservatives being denied employment in places like Hollywood, the media, and college campuses.

Yet, liberals would have to admit that the anti-hippies are impressively chill when it comes to being discriminated against.

Whatever, man. I’ll purchase my bow-ties at the store down the street.

Conversely, progressives would rather have an elite body of government actors attempt to calculate the national morality, and then force the “unenlightened” to perform acts that violate their conscience – a centralized effort that can only be as clumsy as the Left’s attempt to formulate a government-centric economy.

The values and traditions of 330 million people are always varied and evolving.

In fact, what most people don’t realize about SB 1062 is that it is a two-page bill that merely clarifies a standing law that was passed 15 years ago – a law “modeled on the federal act that passed with big bipartisan majorities in the 1990s and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.”

Go figure, liberals are siding with the latest political fad over basic principles of freedom – principles that they fully supported not too long ago.

Of course, progressive Democrats are happy to characterize conservatives who support these pro-liberty measures as “anti-gay” – as if a liberal who supports the free speech of talk radio hosts can be described as “pro-Rush Limbaugh.”

SB 1062

SB 1062 clarifies that the word “person” in the current law applies to businesses, a simple effort to protect business owners from participating in activities that offend their religious sensibilities.

Explaining how SB 1062 had “been egregiously misrepresented by many of its critics,” eleven experts on religious liberty statutes wrote to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) and informed her that the bill before her merely ensures that “before government can burden a person’s religious exercise, the government has to show a compelling justification.”

For instance, if Poppie’s had the only food available in a 100-mile radius, and actually had the power to starve Elaine to death.

As the bill reads, someone who wants the government to “burden a person’s exercise of religion” must demonstrate “a compelling governmental interest,” and also demonstrate that the burden is “the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

In other words, just shut up and go buy your wedding cake from the bakery down the street. Stop bothering everyone with these petty disputes.

That’s not the American way.

Travis Rowley ( TravisRowley.com ) is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


Related Slideshow: Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index Scorecard - Providence, RI

HRC's Municipal Equality Index (MEI) demonstrates the ways that many cities can—and do— support the LGBT people who live and work there, even where states and the federal government have failed to do so. GoLocal pulled the data from the 2012 and 2013 reports to show where progress has been made in Providence and Rhode Island.

This year's report rates a total of 291 cities from every state in the nation, representing a total population total of 77,851,822.  To see how PVD compares to other cities, download the full 2013 MEI report here and the 2012 version here.

Prev Next

Providence Non-Discrimination Laws

This category evaluates whether discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited by the city, county, or state in areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Providence grabbed all available points in this category because it is under the jurisdiction of Rhode Island state laws prohibiting discrimination on both bases of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Non-Discrimination Laws 2012 2013
points for sexual orientation 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
points for gender identity 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
points for sexual orientation 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
points for gender identity 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
Public Accommodations    
points for sexual orientation 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
points for gender identity 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
Total Score 18 out of 18 18 out of 18
Prev Next

Providence Relationship Recognition

Because this is an evaluation of municipalities, not states, and marriage is a state-level policy, this section is weighted so that an equal number of points are awarded for marriage (or other state relationship recognition) and municipal domestic partner registries.

In 2013 Rhode Island passed landmark marriage equality legislation, cementing itself ahead of the curb in relationship recognition. However, since civil unions have been legal and available at the state level since 2011, the HRC granted the full 12 points in 2012 as well.

Relationship Recognition 2012 2013
Marriage Equality, Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships 12 out of 12 12 out of 12
Prev Next

Providence Municipality as Employer

By offering equivalent benefits and protections to LGBT employees, and by awarding contracts to fair-minded businesses, municipalities commit themselves to treating LGBT employees equally.

By the HRC's account, Providence falls in line with some best practices as an employer- ample forthright laws are on the books forbidding discrimination in city employment and ensuring domestic partner and legal dependent health benefits. However, the city falls short of ensuring equivalent family leave and affirmatively forbidding discrimination in awarding city contracts and benefits to contractors.

Municipality as Employer 2012 2013
Non-Discrimination in City Employment    
points for sexual orientation 5 out of 5 5 out of 5
points for gender identity 5 out of 5 5 out of 5
Domestic Partner Health Benefits
4 out of 4 4 out of 4
Legal Dependent Benefits
2 out of 2 2 out of 2
Equivalent Family Leave
0 out of 2 0 out of 2
City Contractor
Non-Discrimination Ordinance
points for sexual orientation 0 out of 2 0 out of 2
points for gender identity 0 out of 2 0 out of 2
City Contractor
Equal Benefits Ordinance
0 out of 4 0 out of 4
Total Score 16 out of 26 16 out of 26
Prev Next

Providence Municipal Services

This section assesses the efforts of the city to ensure LGBT constituents are included in city services and programs.

A lack of a direct liason to the LGBT community in the mayor's office hurt Providence in the municipal services category. Providence does, however, have a Human Relations Office tasked with "enforc[ing] laws of equal opportunity in the City of Providence" as well as formally enumerated anti-bullying policies in schools at the municipal level.

Furthermore, the city's services aimed directly at underserved and particularly vulnerable populations were lauded by the HRC and scored Providence an extra 2 points in this category.

Municipal Services 2012 2013
Human Rights Commission
7 out of 7 7 out of 7
LGBT Liaison in
the Mayor’s Office
0 out of 5 0 out of 5
Enumerated Anti-Bullying
School Policies
points for sexual orientation 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
points for gender identity 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
Total Score 13 out of 18 13 out of 18
BONUS: City provides services
to particularly vulnerable
populations of the LGBT
2 Bonus Points 2 Bonus Points
Prev Next

Providence Law Enforcement

Fair enforcement of the law includes responsible reporting of hate crimes and engaging with the LGBT community in a thoughtful and respectful way.

Providence reports hate crime statistics, but their lack of a specific LGBT police liaison or task force caused an 8 point deduction from their final score.

Municipal Services 2012 2013
LGBT Police Liaison
or Task Force
0 out of 8 0 out of 8
Reported 2011 Hate Crimes
Statistics to the FBI
10 out of 10 10 out of 10
Total Score 10 out of 18 10 out of 18
Prev Next

Providence Relationship with the LGBT Community

This category measures the city leadership’s commitment to fully include the LGBT community and to advocate for full equality.

Providence was noted for it's leadership's public position on LGBT equality and particularly for a shift from 2012 to 2013 with the renewed focus on and support for marriage equality legislation through its passing. This shift was the sole driver of a higher 2013 overall score, with all 5 additional points being picked up in recognition of the city leadership's commitment to LGBT equality.  Other direct efforts to engage with the LGBT community also landed Providence 2 bonus points in both 2012 and 2013.

Municipal Services 2012 2013
Leadership’s Public Position
on LGBT Equality
3 out of 5 5 out of 5
Leadership’s Pro-Equality
Legislative or Policy Efforts
0 out of 3 3 out of 3
Total Score 3 out of 8 8 out of 8
BONUS: City engages with
the LGBT community
2 Bonus Points 2 Bonus Points
Prev Next

Total Scores

2012: 76 out of 100

2013: 81 out of 100

Categories 2012 2013
I. Non-Discrimination Laws
18 out of 18 18 out of 18
II. Relationship Recognition 12 out of 12 12 out of 12
III. Municipality as Employer 16 out of 26 16 out of 26
IV. Municipal Services 13 out of 18 13 out of 18
V. Law Enforcement 10 out of 18 10 out of 18
VI. Relationship with the LGBT Community 3 out of 8 8 out of 8
Bonus 4 points 4 points
Total Score 76 out of 100 81 out of 100



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