Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lesbian law suit abolishes the private sector

I may exaggerate, but not by much. In New Mexico, a photographer is being sued by a lesbian couple, angered that she refused to photograph their commitment ceremony. She refused to film their ceremony because of her religious beliefs. But so what? A business ought to be able to refuse to do business with anyone, for any reason or no reason. It is not as if the photographer took their money and failed to do what she promised to do. She is now facing a complaint in front of the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.
This case is breathtaking for its pettiness. There is no constitutional right to hire each and every photographer who hangs out a shingle. Wedding photography is not a basic need or fundamental right. What exactly harm did this couple experience? They felt bad. They were possibly inconvenienced. They had to hire another photographer. Trauma.
The state has no business regulating the private sector to this extent. If the lesbian couple could not get their contracts enforced, they would have a case. But that case would be against the state itself. Businesses should have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, especially a business like photography, which is not a life or death issue for anyone.
The lesbians' tacit demand behind this case is the demand for unlimited approbation from the entire populace. They are not entitled to that.
In The Meaning of Marriage Seana Sugrue argues that same sex marriage is not a spontaneously emerging institution, as man woman marriage is. Same sex marriage can ONLY be a creation of the state, whereas man woman marriage is a pre-political institution that has emerged in virtually every time and place in human history. Therefore, the state will have to support and "coddle" same sex marriage in order to assure its survival. The state will arrogate to itself the right to regulate and control everything associated with parenting and marriage. Including wedding photographers.


Daniel said...

"Businesses should have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, especially a business like photography, which is not a life or death issue for anyone."

I agree that the women's argument in this case is weak because there is no constitutional freedom from feeling offended. That said, I have to disagree with you re the above quote. Would this argument work if it was a restaurant in the deep South circa 1960 and the restaurant owner did not allow blacks to sit at the counter to be served? So no, businesses should not have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, should they?

Jennifer Roback Morse said...

I was hoping someone would make this comment, so thank you Daniel!
1. Your argument exaggerates the extent of government complicity in enforcing Jim Crow regulations. I did a series of articles on the subject back in the 1980's. Streetcars were segregated by law, not merely by custom, in many cities throughout the South. Many aspects of the labor market were regulated in a such a way as to force poor black laborers into sharecropping contracts.
2. Businesses that refuse to serve customers, for idiosycratic reasons will lose customers, just as will businesses that serve poorly. Those businesses will be out-competed by more friendly, perhaps less quirky, companies. Obnoxious waiters, rude grocery baggers and slow fast food clerks lose customers. The market for wedding photographers is surely competitive enough to find a place for photographers who specialize in same sex commitment ceremonies, others who specialize in Christian ceremonies, and still others who specialize in photographing Jewish ceremonies. No harm, no foul.
3. In some respects, even blacks would be better off, if more property rights solutions had been employed. The black community as a whole would be far better served if private landowners, for instance, had more freedom to evict or refuse to rent to people they considered undesirable. That gut instinct that somebody is a creep is what allows private landowners to police their own property and keep it free of drug dealers and other low lifes. The threat of law suits keeps many such creeps in the housing complexes, where they can terrorize everyone in the neighborhood.
4. Do we really need another grievance group, telling us what to think, feel and say?

Daniel said...

Ah, I see. So you draw a distinction between de jure and de facto racism/prejudice and argue that the market will self-correct without governmental interference. Is that a fair summary?

Re the market for wedding photographers, I am in total agreement with you. In fact, don't you think the "niche markets" argument also works for online dating services (eHarmony and the same-sex marriage conflict), freedom of conscience among pharmacists (in providing contraceptives), etc.?

You're right; we definitely don't need another grievance group infringing upon our freedom to contract--or not to contract, as in this instance. But is there a chance that we will be seen as another grievance group? And when that happens, is it possible that Christians will just be told to go elsewhere (as is happening in California:

Marty said...

Here's a little bit of information on the Plaintiff:

Anonymous said...

By my reading of the New Mexico Human Rights Act, a Christian photographer who refused to attend and photograph a Satanic 'Black Mass' or a Wiccan 'sex magick' ritual would likewise be subject to investigation, no?