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Back in early 2007 I found myself sitting in the fondant-bedecked office of a professional wedding-cake baker in search of the perfect (yet still affordable) three-tier cake for my upcoming wedding. Early in the interview process, after providing the wedding date but before tasting samples, I gestured at Cavin and said, “This is going to be our gay wedding. Is that going to be a problem?”
A month or so later when I saw the same baker on Food Network competing to create the most elaborate “princess cake,” it was obvious my question was superfluous. But my wedding was an important event for my life and I wanted to make sure no surprises popped up later.
(Photo by Ward Morrison)
This is one of the ways I’m lucky to live in an urban, largely progressive and exceptionally competitive location where the vast majority of businesses want my money, regardless whom my wallet shares a home with. The most effective way of dealing with assholes is to simply decline to deal with them at all.
That’s not the case for everyone, as seen with the current brouhaha over the Arizona GOP’s attempt to pass a law giving religious believers the right to discriminate against gays and lesbians. As I write this, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has yet to announce whether she’ll veto the legislation, which even some of the Republicans who voted for it have asked her to do now that they’ve seen the sheer size of the shit show they’ve unleashed on their state and its businesses.
It can be easy from the comfort of an enclave to say that there should be some level of exception for the religious, which actually only means “Christians” because the moment a Muslim brings religion into a business the far right starts screaming “Sharia!” because they are supremely lacking in irony. But while some have tried to claim that the Arizona legislation (and the earlier, failed Kansas attempt to do the same) is only about protecting “Christians” from having to participate in rites they consider sinful, this is actually the latest in a series of attempts to carve out a separate enclaves for certain religions.
Don’t forget that these are the same people who have tried to exempt pharmacists from dispensing medications they consider immoral, such as “morning after” medication to prevent pregnancy. As with the current Arizona proposal, supporters claim it’s about one thing but write it so broadly that it can easily become about many. Rather than just marriage, Arizona’s Legislature proposed a law that would give any business, from a hairdresser to a theater to a restaurant, the right to refuse service to gays for some vaguely defined religious dissent.
In essence, they want to secede from secular society and the rule of law.
While the Arizona legislation is doomed by either a veto or a court ruling, it’s worth remembering that not everyone has the luxury of choice in the business of their lives. I grew up in homogenous, rural America where the response to discrimination isn’t as simple as finding the next florist or baker or reception hall. None of us want to work with businesses and professionals who regard us with disdain and hostility, but some of us have few options.
The blowback on Arizona should be a heartening sign for a changing America. But it also should serve as a reminder that the people who support it are determined to reserve the right to treat other Americans as less than. We have a lot of work left to make sure we are all considered equal in the world.
Sean Bugg is editor emeritus of Metro Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seanbugg.