Thursday, February 20, 2014

"Jim Crow laws for gays and lesbians?"

Kirsten Powers recently published an op-ed entitled "Jim Crow laws for gays and lesbians?"–in reference to a proposed bill protecting the religious freedom of Kansas businesses and individuals to refuse services to homosexual "couples." I'll just comment on the Jim Crow comparison:
i) Her comparison presumes that homosexual behavior is moral equivalent to race. Needless to say, that begs the question. That's hardly something she's entitled to posit. That assumes the very thing she needs to prove. 
ii) The analogy is disanalogous in another key respect. Jim Crow laws restricted rather than protected the freedom of businesses. They didn't give businesses the freedom to refuse service to some customers. Rather, they denied businesses the freedom to serve everyone. 
Apparently, lawmakers felt too many white establishments were serving black customers, which is why lawmakers felt it necessary to rob white businesses of the right to serve black customers. So Jim Crow laws are nearly the polar opposite of what Powers insinuates. 
iii) Let's take a different comparison. Isaac Stern was one of the premier violinists of his generation. He wasn't the virtuoso that Heifetz was, but he was a greater interpreter. 
He gave concerts all around the world. But there was one county he boycotted: Germany. That's because Stern was Jewish, and he belonged to the generation that endured the Holocaust. He could never forgive Germany for what it did to his people.
Now, younger Jewish musicians like Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Daniel Baremboim didn't feel the same way. That's in part because they were a generation later. It didn't hit quite as close to home for them. 
Objectively speaking, Stern's reaction was unreasonable. But that's easy to say if you weren't a Jew of Stern's generation. 
Now, even if you disagree with Stern, does Powers think international law should require Stern to perform in Germany? Should he be fined or jailed for discriminating against Germans by refusing to concertize in Germany? Or is it his prerogative to boycott Germany, whether or not you agree with his motives?
iv) As a rule, I think private businesses should have the legal right to do business with whoever they wish, and refuse to do business with whoever they wish. 
An exception to the rule might be emergency medical care. 

Mind you, I can think of examples where E.R. physicians would be morally justified in letting a patient die, viz. a convicted mass murderer who was shanked in prison.  But it would be difficult to make those distinctions as a matter of hospital policy. 

v) To take one more example, although I disagree with Rome's position on artificial contraception, I don't think Catholic institutions (e.g. hospitals) or Catholic individuals (e.g. pharmacists) should be forced to provide contraceptives. 

vi) I'd add that when a business refuses to provide a product or service that's in demand, that creates a business opportunity for an enterprising entrepreneur to supply the neglected market niche. 

1 comment:

  1. Apparently, the better option is to have Jim Crow Laws for religious people.