The Rise and Fall of the National Organization for Marriage

NOM Comm Director’s problematic rejection of nondiscrimination

April 10, 2013, by Jeremy Hooper, Guest Contributor

NOM's Communications Director:

Thomas Peters Twitter

Let's unpack this.

First, the question of whether these vendors have a "problem with gay people."  For starters, it's simply ridiculous to pretend you know the thoughts or motivations of every single vendor in America.  It is a certainty that, yes, there are some florists, bakers, and photographers out there who do, in fact, have a problem with gay people.  There are individual vendors who have a problem with [insert any kind of] people.  Hopefully all discriminatory desires are rare, for obvious reasons, but let's not be so silly as to suggest that "Christian vendor" is a monolithic group that is wholly untroubled by the LGBT person.  That's just absurd.

But the thing is, it doesn't matter one iota whether or not an individual vendor has a personal "problem" with a customer or his/her reason for requesting service.  Again, a vendor might have thoughts or feelings about any kind of customer who comes in the door.  A barista might not like a religious symbol on the latte orderer's person.  A counter worker who happens to be vegan might have serious moral qualms about a customer's lip-smacking fondness for ribs.  A strong environmentalist tasked with creating wedding invites might be appalled by a client's penchant for wasting paper.  And yes, a Christian baker or florist might personally reject the divorced, multi-married, interfaith, atheistic, nonkosher, seemingly imcompatible, or any kind of couple who seeks out the vendor's business.  Because again, people have personal feelings.  Everyone.  All of us, not just Christians who personally oppose same-sex marriage.

What none of us have: the "right" to discriminate on the basis of our personal feelings.  This is actually not an open debate.  We, as a series of interconntected communities, have taken a consensus position when it comes to nondiscrimination in the public sector.  A vendor cannot deny a client on the basis of who he or she is or some other factor that's based on the businessperson's personal whim.  A shop owner can set standards (e.g. no shirt, no shoes, no service), hours of operation, and so on.  However, we long ago determined that the ability to say "we don't serve your kind here" is a completely untenable standard for sustaining communities—both the business community and our citizenry.

Spokespeople like Thomas make this all about the concept of marriage, but it really has little to do with it.  A "wedding cake" or "wedding bouquet" is not a separate offering whose nominal branding grants the provider a special exemption.  Presumably, the vendor does not ask a potential client if he or she has had premarital sex, if this coupling is guaranteed  to last for life, if they are going to have a religious ceremony, if they will use the offerings for their own personal statements or rituals that may not be in compliance with the vendors' own views, etc.  The same thing goes for a same-sex marriage.  When a man, woman, or duo says "I'd like to place an order for one of these items that you have made available to the public," it is really not the businessperson's, well, business to ask what, exactly, the customer plans to do with the product.  The owner of the kosher deli doesn't follow the purchaser home to ensure that the egg salad is stored separate from the meat; the evangelical cake baker doesn't stick around to ensure that a Christian pastor gives enough of a godly "I do" to ensure proper consumption of the delicacy he or she floured up for the occasion.

Groups like NOM look to talk about slippery slopes?  Well, Thomas—back atcha, bud! Where does this, the supposed freedom to arbitrarily pick and choose which customers a business will and will not serve, end?  I think in that, an answer with infinite possibilities and a total rejection of fairminded community building, we will find the logical fallacy within this, a faith-based desire that NOM is determined to turn into a legal "right."