Choices: Regarding businesses that object to serving homosexual customers

There’s a long-running debate about businesses discriminating against gay customers and whether or not they should be allowed to. My position is this:

If a shop doesn’t want to serve me because I’m gay, or won’t do things like cater or provide the flowers for a gay wedding, OK. Fine. I can cope; there are other businesses out there that will (and the beauty of our free market system is that we can start such businesses ourselves where it’s likely to be an issue).

BUT there is a condition; those businesses who want to do this must display this information in a prominent place – like in the front window – where it cannot be missed by any prospective customer. It must be displayed on the front page of their website and in a prominent place on their social media presences; again, in such a way that it cannot possibly be overlooked or missed. Consumers should be fully informed about their spending choices – prospective gay customers should be able to not waste their time with a business that won’t serve them. Likewise, straight customers who’d rather not give their money to such businesses should be able to have their spending decisions fully informed. Some businesses may go broke as a result, but that’s too bad – they hate making money, after all.

This system, of ensuring the consumer is fully informed of their spending choices, is called “capitalism”. Let the Invisible Hand of the Market do as it will.

PS (added 31 January 2016); the above does not apply to civil celebrants – they, when performing marriages, are officers of the State. They are public servants. If they object to officiating lawful marriages because of personal or religious reasons, they should resign. When you are a public servant, you leave your personal views at home and execute your duties to the best of your ability – if you can’t do that, find another job.

PPS (9 February 2017); the twitter user @Shoq has let me know that they object to the stance I have in this post – that I want to “normalise discrimination”. I do not; I do have ethical objections to forcing people to act in ways that are contrary to their religious views when the exercise of those views doesn’t cause appreciable harm to others (even if I consider those views to be awful and stupid). As I note above; a Christian refusing to provide me with flowers for my wedding would be a mild inconvenience, not “harm” – and you cannot expect me to believe that the wedding industry is so bereft of businesses that care more about money that I wouldn’t be able to find alternatives. Plus if they do it after I’ve paid for it, that’s breach of contract.

The primary issue I have with compelling Christians, who are acting as private citizens and not public servants, to act against their religious views is that the same rationales can also be used against other groups. The Fathers of Federation put section 116 in because they wanted an American-style protection against the State interfering with religion and religious belief (the success of this is up for debate); compelling Christians, when they aren’t acting as public servants, to do things their religious beliefs are not compatible with seems to me to violate the free exercise clause of s.116 – and it sets a precedent that could be used to, for example, ban Halal food (as a certain Senator from Queensland and her party are very keen on doing).

Note that I view people who, e.g., provide medical care to the community to be a form of public servant here; in this country such things are subsidised by the State after all. Same goes for education; if you want your Christian school to discriminate against same-sex-attracted students, stop pocketing taxpayer funds. Indeed, that extends to all such endeavours; if my taxpayer dollars are paying for it, you don’t get to hide behind your personal private beliefs. Set them aside, or give us our money back. No, I am talking exclusively about private businesses.

And the objective is simple; if you’re going to discriminate against me because of my sexual orientation, I want to know about it. I want my friends and family to know too. I want everyone to know. And then we can give our money, and organise others to give their money, to your competitors.

My stance here is not set in stone; if @Shoq, or someone else, argues me around, there’ll be another update to this post reflecting this.

To be honest, this is a pure thought exercise for me. The issue is done and dusted for us.

Logically Indefensible; why freedom of religion requires acceptance of same-sex marriage

In 2008 a CNN iReport entitled Why Defence of Marriage is Indefensible was written. In 15 points of dispassionate, clinical logic, the piece dissected opposition to marriage equality, and found it to be completely indefensible. Sadly the original is no longer available, and I neglected to make an archival copy before it vanished.

This post is based on that iReport, and has been in the drafts folder for many months now; in it, I apply that argument to the Australian context, although I take 19 points. The post has been updated to reflect the current situation.

First, a note; civil unions as a valid alternative to marriage have been rejected as a failed experiment (Australian Marriage Equality 2009) – as the Americans would say, “separate is not equal,” (Sorenson 2012) not is it acceptable; this stance is supported by clinical evidence (Wilkinson and Kitzinger 2005).

And now, let us begin.

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The ALP, the Plebiscite, and Marriage Equality

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece about Kevin Rudd’s support of marriage equality. It was, frankly, over-dramatic and painfully self-righteous and looking back on it I cringe a little. I’m leaving it up, instead of hiding the old shame, because although my presentation was awful, the argument itself I fully stand by.

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Nothing new about it

There’s a line that turns up in every extended debate around marriage equality. It is the notion that same-sex marriage is a “new” right, not extension of existing rights.

Gay “marriage” is a special right. The queers already have the right to marry someone of the opposite sex just like everyone else.
(source)

The central bit – “special rights” – has even lent itself to the name of an anti-gay political action committee in the United States.

This argument is so stupid that it falls under the heading of “I can’t believe I have to do this” but it comes up so often that, well, here we go.

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Captain Logic and the Polygamy Argument

Some people, who I will charitably describe as “offensively moronic”, keep claiming that legalising same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy.

Two things before we go further. First, a note on terminology; when most people use the word “polygamy” they mean “polygyny” (one husband, multiple wives), but the term “polygamy” does cover all the combinations (polygyny, polyandry, and group marriage).

Second, there’s a limit to the discussion; I am not making a judgement, one way or another, about whether or not polygamy is OK, desirable, or if the “social/legal equality” argument requires polygamy to be legalised as well. Those are beyond the scope of discussion; they are irrelevant. I am dealing with a specific claim.

This claim is;

legalisation of same-sex marriage will lead to the legalisation of polygamy.

There are two important things to note;

  1. The inevitability of polygamy; the claim is nearly always worded so as to present the legalisation of polygamy as an inevitable, unavoidable, consequence of the legalising same-sex marriage; and
  2. This is a positive claim; it is proposing that something will occur. It is not saying something won’t happen or doesn’t exist; it is asserting that something will happen or does exist – that x will lead to or result in y.

Let’s explore this, shall we?

That argument is horseshit (a technical term meaning that the argument “is groundless and baseless, lacking any factual supporting evidence”).

Look at the map of nations that recognise or permit polygamy, and compare it with the nations that recognise same-sex marriage. The United Kingdom and South Africa are the only two crossovers; the former recognises polygamous unions created abroad where they are already legal for welfare purposes, and the latter recognises them in customary law. In South Africa, the customary law recognition predates same-sex marriage recognition in that country – and the civil law prohibits it. The nations that do recognise polygamy (my research indicates it’s polygyny – group marriage and polyandry aren’t legal anywhere in the world) do not recognise same-sex marriage – in fact they are usually nations extremely intolerant of homosexuals. Even South Africa is patchy there.

That’s all she wrote.

There is no evidence whatsoever that legalising same-sex marriage will lead to legalising polygamy. If anything, the opposite is true; there is evidence of a strong correlation between the legal recognition of polygamy and anti-gay laws – but remember that correlation is not causation.

The argument is horseshit. But it still gets used, often with “you can’t prove it won’t!” – enter Captain Logic, stage left.

Because that’s where it falls down; reversing the burden of proof by demanding that I demonstrate that same-sex marriage won’t lead to polygamy. But if you’re making a positive claim, it’s up to you to demonstrate its truthfulness or accuracy. You have to show evidence for it. It is not up to your opponent to prove a negative. To reverse the burden of proof is to commit a logical fallacy on par with an ad hominem (where you attack my character, not my argument).

On closer examination, the argument bears the hallmarks of a slippery slope, an appeal to fear, and an appeal to consequence. It states x will lead to y without showing how (and against the evidence), and it tries to invalidate x through appeal to fear of y, without showing why y should be feared.

The same-sex-leads-to-polygamy argument’s logic is false on multiple levels, and it’s not even remotely true.

Things could change in the future, but for now it is completely invalid.

If you use the polygamy argument, you fail logic forever; shut up, the adults are talking.