Freedom vs Fair: Why being "free" is not an excuse for discrimination

Photo: Associated Press

"Freedom" gets used far too often as an excuse to discriminate. Yesterday we posted our thoughts on Indiana's new Religious Freedom Law, which allows businesses to refuse customers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. We've received several comments we'd like to respond to. Here are some:

"Any business in America can refuse service to anyone. If you own a business in America you can choose who you would like to do business with. The only thing that changed is religious business owners cannot be targeted and then sued for everything they have for refusing to provide services to someone they chose not to. In a free country we will not always agree all the time."

"What if I hire The Sunpilots to play at my wedding. I give you a playlist of racist, offensive to gays, Nazi themed songs I want you to play. You refuse. I sue. How does it feel?"

Here's the thing- we aren't free to do whatever we want. Nor should we be. As a society we've agreed no-one should be free to be steal, extort, slander... the list goes on. We've elected governments to make and enforce laws which curb these "freedoms" and without them society couldn't function.

Businesses are not "free" to refuse service based on, for example, skin colour. 50 years ago society grew up, deemed it wrong & civil rights laws making race discrimination illegal were introduced. It's for that same reason you couldn't sue a band for refusing to sing racist Nazi songs in America.

However there are no protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in Indiana's civil right's law. None. A religious freedom law is great as long as it's counterbalanced by laws which prevent people from using it to violate human rights. So what this comes down to is whether we, as a society, consider the right of consenting adults to chose who they love a "human right". Answer: of course it is.

It's freedom from discrimination we need to fight for. Otherwise our children are going to look back and shake their heads at how backwards we were.

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