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May 06, 2009


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The whole conscious object view is in my opinion an un-acceptable policy, that carries my seminaries to people who turned away blacks from their restaurants and stores because they objected to those people and their ways. The author of this article says that allowing people to refuse services to same sex couples will cause little harm. He bases his belief on the view that the couple can go elsewhere to get the goods and services they need for the civil union ceremony. In a more dense urban area that might be true but it is less likely in the more rural areas of the state where there might be only 1 or 2 floweriest and if both hold the same view on same sex relationships the couple becomes inconvenience as they have to go out of their way to the next town to find a floweriest and hope that they don't share that same discriminatory view of things. There is also the issue for example that even if the second flower shop in town will serve same sex couples their quality might be poor by comparison to the first shop or their prices might be far higher than the first shop. Either way the same sex couple has to suffer to satisfy the discriminatory behaviour of some conscious objector (some Bigot).


While the author argued carefully and forcefully for allowing conscientious objections to facilitating or providing services for same-sex marriages, it still seems that the better position to take in practice and in principle would be to forbid such objections.

First, to turn attention to practice: as the earlier commentator, dan, pointed out, conscientious objections would work best in highly populated areas, for in such places, there are plenty of options for one's nuptial service providers. But suppose there are just two florists in a sparsely populated area, and further suppose that both object to providing flowers for one's ceremony. There are then serious questions about A) how inconvenient is too inconvenient for one to look elsewhere and B) which of the two florists would be forced to ignore her objection, should it prove to inconvenient for the couple to look elsewhere. For question B, I suppose that there is no non-arbitrary way of resolving that issue.

Of course, the practical problems raised are small in comparison to the principled reason for forbidding conscientious objections: protecting equality concerning sexual orientation is just plainly more important than respecting individuals' personal views about sexual morality. We recognize that people have the right to be treated fairly and roughly equally; conversely, people do not hold the right to be a law unto themselves. The author rightly endorses something close to my view, given that he allows for the equality concern to override the conscientious objection when the former cannot otherwise be satisfied. What prevents him from taking the more clear-cut position? If we admit that the equality concern overrides the conscientious objection business, why can’t we also see that the very process – the process of shopping around for someone to be accepting and filing a lawsuit should that task prove difficult – illustrates one’s status as a second-class citizen and negates any claim about one’s alleged equality in reference to others who don’t have to undergo such things?

What seems to prevent the author from taking my view is that he actually believes that there is something oppressive about making people treat same-sex couples equally. He writes, “it will be at best a wash for civil liberty if same-sex couples and their allies henceforth oppress traditional believers in the way that traditional believers and their allies have historically oppressed same-sex couples.” First, it strikes me as ridiculous to suggest that, without a measure to ‘protect’ conscientious objectors, traditional believers would be oppressed in a way at all comparable to the ways same-sex couples have been oppressed. But more importantly, allowing people to think, say, and write as wish having while expecting them to comply with laws that guarantee equality across the spectrum of sexual orientations is not oppressive. We have the similar policies regarding race and gender. Why not here?

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