How some activists fail to understand equality

Supporting equality means supporting someone’s right to say no, even if you’re offended.

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona. © Dave DuBay

LGBTQ activists booed athlete Jaelene Hinkle during a May 30 soccer game in Portland, Oregon. A member of North Carolina Courage, she passed up a chance last year to play in a national women’s soccer game because she didn’t want to wear a LGBTQ pride jersey.

The Oregonian reports that

The U.S. Women’s National Team has multiple high-profile players that are openly gay and the team has a significant number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fans. U.S. Soccer has made a concerted effort to reach out to those fans, in part by wearing the LGBTQ Pride Month jerseys last year.

The U.S. Women’s National Team has the right to ask that every player wear a LGBTQ jersey. But the option of regular or LGBTQ jerseys would have respected every individual’s right to make their own choice.

Equality is about living your life as you choose—whether you are LGBTQ, Christian, both, or neither. Equality is also about the equal responsibility to respect other people’s rights—even if you don’t agree with their opinions or lifestyle.

Hinkle, however, didn’t try to stop anyone from wearing a LGBTQ jersey. She only said she wouldn’t wear the jersey, even if that meant not playing for the team.

She demonstrated healthy boundaries. But LGBTQ activists saying Hinkle was wrong to exercise her equal right to not participate in something she doesn’t agree with fails to recognize that her choices belong to no one except her. No LGBTQ person’s rights were violated by Hinkle’s refusal just as no Christian’s rights are violated when a non-Christian refuses to participate in Christian prayer.

Nor were Hinkle’s rights violated when activists booed her. Their freedom of speech is their right. Equality guarantees we will all be offended at some point.

But neo-McCarthyism is a problem on both the left and the right—even to the point of demanding someone be fired just because they disagree on certain political issues.

Writing for the Washington Post, David French opines that we are struggling to define the boundaries of acceptable political speech. And he offers a common sense solution.

The first amendment limits government but allows people, organizations, and corporations to speak—and censor—as they choose. Organizations can and do endorse political viewpoints, and while they are not obligated to tolerate dissenting opinions from their members and employees, tolerance is consistent with American liberty. Further, consumers can walk away from companies that don’t tolerate dissent.

This applies to opinions about issues, however. Personal attacks are categorically different. Publicly insulting someone because they are gay, or Christian, or African-American, or anything else crosses the line. So ABC was right to fire Roseanne Barr, but firing NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem would be wrong.

The U.S. Women’s National Team had the right to insist on LGBTQ jerseys. Hinkle had the right to decline. Activists had the right to boo her. But the activists failed to acknowledge Hinke’s equal rights.

 

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A solution to the “gay wedding cake” dilemma

A baker can refuse explicit expression of a certain viewpoint but not alleged implicit expression of a viewpoint.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
© Dave DuBay

The so-called “gay wedding cake” lawsuit raises some interesting questions.

  • If a baker can refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple then can a baker refuse to bake a cake for an interracial couple if the baker’s religion says miscegenation is wrong?

It would be hard to support a baker’s religious rights in one case but not the other. But a widespread religious exemption—especially if it applies to corporations as well—would rip a huge hole in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

On the other hand,

  • If a baker cannot refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple then must a baker also bake a cake for an anti-gay evangelical?

Again, consistency would seem to imply that discrimination against evangelicals is also wrong.

In the end I think this calls for a legislative solution. Courts can interpret the law or strike down unconstitutional legislation, but creating new laws is tricky. Federal civil rights legislation does not include sexual orientation or gender identity, so it would be plausible for a Supreme Court justice to say they personally support civil rights for LGBTQ individuals while also saying that the baker isn’t violating federal law. Of course, the state of Colorado does have a civil rights law covering sexual orientation, so adding a large exemption to state law in favor of the baker would be judicial activism—which conservatives claim to oppose.

I’ve previously written in favor of adding sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights legislation. But the issue of compelled speech can’t be ignored. For the government to force you to say something you disagree with does violate your free speech rights, and in some cases your religious freedom.

Here’s the distinction I draw: In most circumstances baking a cake as a business endeavor does not involve the baker’s personal expression. A wedding cake used in a same-sex wedding is usually indistinguishable from a wedding cake for a heterosexual wedding (except for the bride-and-bride or bride-and-groom on top of the cake, which the baker doesn’t usually manufacture anyway).

However, baking a cake that includes a meaningful symbol or words that convey a particular viewpoint could violate the baker’s religious or freedom of expression rights. If the same-sex couple requests the equality symbol on the cake then I think the baker should be permitted to refuse inclusion of the symbol. But the baker cannot refuse to provide a generic wedding cake. Likewise, a baker could not refuse to bake a generic cake for an anti-gay preacher, but a baker could refuse to put Romans 1:26-27 on it.