Letter: Religious freedom, LGBTQ civil rights and the Supreme Court
Edward TJ Brown of Parkers Prairie, Minn., writes, "Sometimes you have to pick your battles and there are many, more pressing challenges impacting the rights of LGBTQ people than having to shop around for a wedding web page designer. "
The Colorado web page developer that refuses to create pages for gay couples and the gay couple that she turned away have something in common; they are both idiots. Turning away a couple because of their race or sex is idiotic and, to be polite about it, this is not the best time to be taking a gay rights case to the United States Supreme Court. Hopefully, the justices will defend the freedom of everyone.
Religious freedom is a fundamental human right and as someone who belongs to a minority religion, Jewish, and who grew up in Saudi Arabia, I reject the idea that the government should be in the business of telling a person of faith what to believe about marriage or anything else for that matter.
Couples planning their wedding should not want to do business with idiots, and I doubt that there is a shortage of people willing to offer their expressive wedding services to all couples. Mind you, we are talking about a couple that did not get their first choice of web page developer for their wedding. We are not talking about the government itself or medium-to-large-sized businesses, especially if they are offering services a bit more essential to life than a wedding web page.
The Constitution demands equal government treatment for all citizens. Laws designed to ensure basic fair play in the private sector work best when they focus on things necessary to live and have an equal shot at the American dream, such as education, employment, health care, housing, and yes, public accommodations. However, reasonable exceptions to fair play laws are not new.
Equal opportunity in employment generally requires a company to have a minimum number of employees, just as housing discrimination laws typically do not apply to someone renting out their one spare room.
Private, voluntary clubs and organizations that exist to promote a particular religious or political message can generally exclude people based on their message or creed. Saying that small-time business owners can refuse to offer their expressive services to any couple based on their stated beliefs or creed, is not too unusual from how fair play laws have developed in America.
As a strategic matter, giving the Supreme Court an opportunity to undermine LGBTQ rights is not a smart move. As a result of this lawsuit, the freedom to marry for interracial and gay couples could very well be voided by the high court just as a majority of justices did with reproductive rights and as they seem to be doing with voting rights. Sometimes you have to pick your battles and there are many, more pressing challenges impacting the rights of LGBTQ people than having to shop around for a wedding web page designer. If you do not know what some of these pressing challenges are, allow me to list just two of them.
It was not surprising to me that Rep. Fischbach voted against the Respect for Marriage Act. Western Minnesota has an LGBTQ community, but regional groups, like the Prairie Equality Initiative, do not have the resources to even begin to address homophobia and transphobia.
Thankfully, western Minnesota is not, Qatar where homosexuality remains a crime and where only one Qatari has felt safe enough to come out as gay, and then only when he moved to America.
Maybe, instead of hiring expensive lawyers to force an idiot to make you a wedding web page, and possibly undermine legal equality in the process, people could help change things in places such as western Minnesota and Qatar.
Edward TJ Brown lives in Parkers Prairie, Minn.
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.