Can our economy thrive when “Liberty” is not for all?

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“I BELIEVE in equal rights, equal justice and equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, creed, sex, age or disability.”
“I BELIEVE the strength of our nation lies with the individual and that each person’s dignity, freedom, ability and responsibility must be honored.”

– Republican Party Statement of Beliefs

Melissa Erwin and Jennie McCarthy wanted to get married at Liberty Ridge Farm in upstate New York, taking advantage of the same-sex marriage law passed in New York State in 2011.

They sought out Liberty Ridge Farm as the venue for their marriage ceremony, something Liberty Ridge Farm openly rents out its property for as described on their website.

The owners of Liberty Ridge Farm explicitly refused to allow the couple to rent out the farm because they were two women getting married.

Same-sex marriage is recognized under New York State law.  Furthermore, Liberty Ranch Farm is not owned or operated by a religious sect or organization, which would be protected by the U.S. Constitution and New York State law in such a situation.

Instead, however, the farm is merely a private enterprise whose services are available to the general public for a fee.  It’s a small business just like any other.

Today, a local Republican State Assembly candidate put out a statement in favor of defending the right of the farm’s owners to choose with whom they will or will not do business on religious grounds instead of business-related grounds.

It is on this point that, while I am sympathetic with the concerns and rights of the proprietors, especially as a small business owner myself, I must disagree with my fellow Republican on which is the right side to stand on this issue.

We are the party of equal opportunity for all. That means everyone must be allowed to pursue their own paths towards success and happiness as unimpeded as possible by government intervention. That’s the American way.

Moreover, we are the party of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, to say the least of our history as a party championing equal opportunity for everyone. Even if our voter base has changed somewhat over the years, the core values that define us politically as Republicans have not changed, nor should they.

These values are especially important to uphold in all situations, not just according to one’s own preferences, whether they be religiously or morally based. Without these values, there can never be any such thing as true justice. We, in fact, see plenty of examples from around the world where one set of strict religious and moral values are allowed to trump political freedoms and the true administration of justice. That is not the American way.

If we permit discriminatory business practices based on non-business-related criteria (read: the ability to pay or perform contractual obligations), we strangle the economy and we hurt American jobs.  It’s that simple.

Imagine for those of us who are divorced, or perhaps had sex before marriage, or might have cheated on a spouse–acts that under the scrutiny of many faiths and moral teachings have been questioned and denounced in some way.

What if we were turned away from restaurants, banks or schools because of one person’s subjective disapproval of our lifestyle?

How does the desire to refuse business from a same-sex couple differ in any way from the refusal to do business with a person who is a man, woman, African American, Asian American, Christian, Jew, Muslim, blonde-haired, brown-eyed, mathematician, artist, and so forth?

How is that, at the end of the day, relevant to a business or at all good for our economy?

Especially in an economy as tough as ours, can we afford to provide legal protection to actors in the economy who refuse doing MORE business in New York State on non-business-related grounds?  I don’t believe so.

As much as I support this couple’s right to pursue happiness in their own way, I also feel for the owners of the farm.  There are still plenty of people who culturally, religiously and otherwise are not supportive of same-sex relationships and certainly same-sex marriage.  Outside the modern era, there has been no civilization that has ever institutionalized such relationships under law equivalent with marriage as we have all known it for millennia.

And so, in a free country like ours, the farm’s owners have every right to say what they think, defend their beliefs, and encourage society to share their views, including, yes, their customers.  At the same time, I do not believe, as an American or as a Republican, they should legally have the right to refuse doing business on such irrelevant grounds.

The couple also has a right to go somewhere else to get married, and they probably should.  That doesn’t mean however the law should further frustrate their efforts to find a nice place to hold their ceremony.

With that said, the law of the land is the law that our elected representatives have made on our behalf.  Americans are nothing if not the strongest and most dependable advocates for the rule of law.

Therefore, we ought not refuse doing business with people based on our own personal, non-business-related preferences.  We should treat every customer the same, so long as they are capable of fulfilling their end of the business arrangement.  Finally, the law does not, nor should it, permit irrelevant criteria from being used in discriminating against people and their business in the marketplace.

At the end of the day, all this means is more business for everyone and plenty of happy customers.

(And for what it’s worth, I’ve never heard of anyone going to hell for someone else’s sins.)

Jonathan J. Judge is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Brooklyn Young Republican Club.  The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of the Brooklyn Young Republican Club.

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