So, the Daily Mail – predictably – doesn’t seem particularly happy about the decision in favour of the gay couple who were refused a double room by Christian B&B owners. There’s a lot of talk about liberty, rights and so on. For example, the owner in question, Mrs Hazelmary Bull, says:
“(The judge) said his decision affects our religious liberty and forces us to act against our deeply and genuinely held beliefs.”
And it might initially be tempting to see things in that light: that their rights and beliefs were somehow in direct and equal competition with the rights and beliefs of the gay couple in question, and that the gay couple’s rights and beliefs “won out” over the Christian couple.
But that is total bullshit, so let’s very quickly put that idea to bed.
In our society, at the most basic level, the principle is that everyone is equal. Everyone has the same basic rights. Those rights may be taken away at some point due to the individual’s behaviour, of course, but simply being something – gay, disabled, a particular ethnic minority, a woman – is no excuse to be treated as unequal in your dealings with the state. In equivalent dealings with the apparatus of the state – which a business unavoidably is part of – people must be treated as though those characteristics are invisible: access provided; characteristics ignored; etc. Otherwise, those people effectively become second-class citizens because of who or what they are.
We have anti-discrimination laws because, historically, certain characteristics have not been invisible and certain groups have ended up being treated very much as second-class citizens. And regrettably, some people would continue to do so if they were allowed to. Those laws recognise and address that. By saying to Mrs Bull “sorry – you can’t discriminate against gay people” we are making sure that gay people’s basic right to be treated the same as straight people isn’t violated as it has been in the past.
And the wonderful thing about doing so is that none of her rights are affected. The idea that rights are somehow in conflict here is a myth. She still has exactly the same rights as everyone else because nobody else can refuse gay people accommodation either. She isn’t being discriminated against for being Christian; she is being treated exactly the same as non-Christians. None of her basic rights are violated at all. She is simply being prevented from treating another human being as less than another. Boo hoo.
It’s not so fucking hard when you put it like that, is it?