My letter in the WSJ: antidiscrimination law and religious liberty

by Walter Olson on September 26, 2013

I’ve got a letter in the WSJ:

In claiming that “Gay Marriage Collides With Religious Liberty” (Houses of Worship, Sept. 20), Mollie Ziegler Hemingway conflates the effects of antidiscrimination law with the effects of recognizing same-sex marriage. Many of the conscience cases she cites involving private businesses arose in jurisdictions that don’t recognize gay marriage, and most would reach the same legal result so long as local antidiscrimination laws remain in place, whether or not the law on marriage has changed….

I go on to note that anti-discrimination law for years now has been obliging some small businesspeople to enter business dealings inconsistent with their private conscience, as when bed and breakfasts are obliged to accommodate unmarried cohabitants, or owners of print or video-duplication shops are obliged to duplicate literature promoting causes they abhor, whether religious or secular. So far as I can tell, we libertarians are the only group that has consistently raised alarms over the years about this coercive effect; most social conservatives have tended to ignore the area until quite recently, and of course the typical position of modern progressives is to see few if any real issues of concern here. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, I should note, says I wrongly assumed that she writes from outside the libertarian tradition; Twitter exchange on that here.

Some recent links on these controversies: Elane Photography (New Mexico) and followup; Oregon cake bakers; Arlington, Va. video-duplication shop, first, second, and third posts. I wrote about the relations between religious liberty, libertarianism, and social conservatism here (more, and yet more on Twitter with columnist Tim Carney). More: Bainbridge, Stephen Miller/Independent Gay Forum.