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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Comments (11)


  1. Michael says:

    it’s private property. they (should) have a right to deny access to it to whomever they want, period, however “offensive” the grounds on which they’re doing so are.

    this is not different than someone’s right to read whatever they want, no matter how offensive what they choose to read may be to me.

    period. All the rest is you trying to rationalize curbing their freedom of association, and the current legal regime of forced integration.

    It’s bs, and not the stuff true liberty (i.e. property) is made of.

    But go ahead and rationalize it some more.

  2. Jonathan J. Judge says:

    Michael, what about the freedom to use property as you wish? Cash is property. You are suggesting that someone has less of a right to convert cash into goods or services than a landowner who does business by allowing use of his or her property for cash? It has to work both ways or else there’s only liberty for one property owner and not for the other property owner. Then, certainly, there is no true liberty where there is not equal opportunity for all to employ such liberty.

  3. Gary Popkin says:

    Sorry, Jonathan, an argument that a person has a “right” to convert their cash to anything they like, regardless of other people, simply does not wash. In a free society, a transaction must be agreeable to all parties. Using your innovative argument, I should have the “right” to convert my cash into a house, any house I choose, let’s say your house, that is, buy your house from you regardless of your willingness to sell, and deposit you and your family in the street.

    Your argument makes the farm owner into a slave, and his farm not his private property, but the property of any passerby.

  4. Gary Popkin says:

    It is not “liberty” if one party to a transaction can force the other party to accept the terms. The “liberty” issue in a transaction is that all parties be free to accept or reject the terms, without coercion, violence, or threats of coercion or violence. As you say, it has to work both ways. Both, or all, parties to a transaction must be free to accept or reject. We can’t have one party force its will onto another.

  5. Michael says:

    Jonathan, I believe Gary has adequately responded your attempt at a reply. It’s actually quite shocking to me that you even attempted to argue that somehow one business owner not wanting to go ahead with a transaction somehow is a property rights violation of the other business owner.

    It is so patently absurd as to border the delusional. I really don’t know what to say. Seriously, analyze what you wrote and think about it a bit.

  6. Jonathan J. Judge says:

    Gary, no one is suggesting forcing anyone to accept terms of a business transaction that are unacceptable to either party. Quite the opposite. Is it so that the couple was unwilling or unable to pay the requisite fee, or thought they should get a break because they’re gay? What did the refusal to rent the farm because they were two women have to do with anything business-related? If a business selectively discriminates based on non-business-related characteristics of individuals, does that not increase the freedom of one kind of property owner at the expense of another property owner? Do we have a true free market if classes of individuals are de facto or de jure prevented from full opportunity to participate? I cannot see anything free about such a situation.

    There is a fundamental absence and denial of liberty if you are prevented from purchasing goods or services. Do we forget a common practice of business owners even 50 years ago that had signs up saying no blacks, no Jews, no Irish, etc. allowed? If enough people conspire to prevent a class of individuals from acquiring goods or services under the protection of the law, then you have allowed a restriction on liberty for some in favor of others, rather than expanding liberty for all. That could mean lower income, poorer health if the discrimination is nutrition or healthcare related, and most importantly fewer opportunities. It is especially on this point that I believe it is patently incongruent with Republican and American values to support or engender such a system of discrimination in the name of liberty.

    Michael, I would comment further on the merit of your response but it appears to be comfortably hiding behind that of another. Feel free to articulate one of your own at your leisure.

  7. Conservative Democrat says:

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

    let me know when you get there.

  8. Fabian says:

    I would have to agree with Gary’s line of thinking on this issue. In essence, this is a property rights issue. Individuals own themselves. That is the principle of self-ownership. They also own their businesses and are free to decide who and who not to do business with based on any type of reasons they like. It may be wise or it may be unwise. That part is up to them, because they have the liberty to make such a decision with their property.

    Do people have any type of inherent claim to anyone else’s property? The answer is simple. No.

    It is not free market to dictate to a property owner, the terms he must use when deciding whether or not to do business.

    There is a fundamental misunderstand between rights and privileges in this country.

    Let’s say a man decided not to serve someone of a particular religion or race at his restaurant. He has the right to do this, regardless of what others may think. Does anyone else have a legitimate claim to that restaurant owner’s space or food or service? Not at all.

    Freedom and Liberty means sometimes having to deal with boorish behavior. Liberty does not imply that human beings are angels. They never will be.

  9. Fabian says:

    In a more simplified fashion here … this argument has become a “Liberty is bad for business argument” .. which I would tend to disagree with. Someone does not have more liberty than someone else when they decline to do business or participate in any interaction.

    That really doesn’t make any sense. They have liberty to do with their property as they please.

    Saying that someone has less liberty, because someone declined to do business with them, implies that they have the moral authority to get what they want, regardless of the other party’s rights.

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