Which is the most powerful interest group in the United States today? The NRA lobby? Hardly. It constantly fights pressure from those who wish to emasculate the Second Amendment, and struggles with a negative reputation notwithstanding that it is defending a constitutional right. The Israel lobby? Not at all. It too struggles mightily to dilute the hostility of an unfriendly administration and partially succeeds only because its cause is just, Congress is steadfast, and the American people are largely supportive because of their reflexive understanding of Israel’s plight – made crystal clear by the global explosion of Arab terror in the last 15 years.
The most powerful interest group in America today is the homosexual lobby. It has ridden the twin steeds of “love” and “anti-discrimination” rhetoric to stunning political and legislative success. In a relatively short time – less than two decades – it has gone from decriminalizing its signature act (long banned in most states, with legal prohibitions that were upheld by the US Supreme Court less than 30 years ago!) to dozens of states legalizing same-sex marriage (through legislative acts, and when other state legislatures have stubbornly endorsed traditional marriage, through court action) and with the Supreme Court – again – on the verge of nullifying thousands of years of accepted morality and finding in the Constitution – that most malleable and ethereal document – “rights” to same-sex marriage that heretofore did not exist and still cannot be found.
But not content with those victories – and a simple “live and let live” approach to co-existence with others who don’t share their value system – that lobby is now seeking to impose its vision of morality on all and trample religious rights in the process. That is the back story to last week’s contretemps over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in its various forms. Through a combination of public pressure and protests, and rabid accusations that employ today’s buzzwords of “bigotry,” “intolerance” and “discrimination,” the homosexual lobby has silenced through intimidation all who uphold traditional morality and, indeed, religious people everywhere.
They should look in the mirror, because the real bigots, the really intolerant, and the people who are fostering discrimination in America today are the homosexual rights activists – and their bigotry, intolerance and discrimination are focused on people of faith. They are waging war against liberty, changing the face of America, and making it an unwelcome place for religious people.
It should be possible to respect all people, extend to all people courtesy, dignity and respect, and yet not be expected – or coerced – into endorsing, participating in or legitimizing relationships that people of faith find repugnant and immoral. The cases that have drawn public attention –bakers, florists and photographers who have declined to lend their services to same sex weddings –underscore the decline of personal liberty in America today. And before people of ill will yell “Jim Crow!” I shall explain.
We should be able to distinguish quite readily between the sale of a product and the provision of personal services. As an attorney, I was not obligated to accept every client, and did not accept every client. No person should be coerced to work for someone whose lifestyle, views or activities he finds abhorrent. A videographer who belongs to PETA should not be coerced to film a hunting trip. A bakery in Harlem should not be forced to provide cake to the annual retreat of the KKK with icing that reads “we hate blacks” or something of that sort, notwithstanding the white supremacists’ love of pastries. A shul should not be forced to host a same sex wedding any more that it should be coerced to host an intermarriage. This society is sufficiently diverse that one can find service in any industry of people who are either like-minded or simply care more about expanding their business and serving any potential clients.
A service provider should be able to forfeit the revenue from servicing people whose requests require the provider to compromise his values, violate his beliefs or sin against His Creator. News flash: Tolerance is a two-way street!
Whether or not society as a whole endorses or approves of a particular relationship does not obligate any particular individual or group to similarly approve – and certainly not to mandate their participation.
Personal service – such as a baker, florist, caterer or photographer attending a wedding – is different than the sale of an item in a store. The law should not protect a merchant who refuses to sell a shirt or a coffee to a Jew, black, woman, homosexual, Christian, Muslim, etc. But the law should protect the shirt seller who declines to print on a T-shirt a message that the seller finds offensive. That is when the buyer has to withdraw and find someone else to do it, or do it himself. So, too, the law should allow a business to ban the immodestly dressed, if they so choose, and the offended can take their business elsewhere.
Thus, I would distinguish as well between people walking into a store and buying flowers – no legitimate reason to turn them down – and hiring the services of a florist to come down to a catering establishment to do it herself. The merchant should have the right to politely decline. That is called “mutual respect.” The opposite is called sanctimonious bullying.
So too, the State has the obligation to protect equal access for all to public conveyances, transportation, institutions, buildings, etc. A private club should have the right to admit or exclude whomever it wants. That is the very definition of private, and the accepted notion that a liquor license, for example, makes an establishment a quasi-public place is ludicrous.
On this I concede that I am not in the mainstream. But, in truth, I have no interest or desire in entering a store, facility or country club that doesn’t want me. If a store or country club banned Jews, I would not hesitate to patronize another store or country club. I respect private rights. I would love it if Burger King posted a sign: “We do not sell cheeseburgers to Jews.” Absolutely. I would love it. And it’s a shame it would never happen.
I subscribe to reverse Marxism. Not Karl, but Groucho, who said “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” Indeed. I don’t care to belong to any club that doesn’t want me as a member. I have no need to prove myself, to impose myself where I am not wanted, and I wonder what insecurities lurk in anyone who would.
What exacerbates the current controversy is – stock in trade of this particular lobby – the utter distortion of the law in question. Primarily, it mandates that the state show a compelling interest in restricting one’s free exercise of his religion. It does not mention homosexuals at all, does not discriminate against anyone, but, in one application, merely gives a merchant who declines to join something he finds offensive to his faith the right to raise his religious beliefs as a defense. In other words, it doesn’t give him immunity from prosecution or lawsuit; it merely enables him to assert a defense which may or may not be accepted. Frankly, I am wary of having a court determine whose beliefs are genuine and whose are contrived. I would rather that the laws state explicitly that no private citizen can be forced to serve another private citizen against his will. That is the very foundation of personal liberty. What has happened to erode that norm, in addition to fear and intimidation?
Here are the basic questions that today confront American society on this issue: Is opposition to same sex marriage prima facie evidence of bigotry? Can an American today oppose same sex marriage – or choose not to participate in the celebration of one – and not be construed as an evil hater? The correct answers should be, of course not and of course, but that is not the approach that liberal elites have chosen. They have rather articulated quite forcefully the equation that rejection of same sex marriage on any grounds equals bigotry, racism, Jew-hatred and other such evils. That equation is unconscionable, and should embarrass those who propose it. It is a blatant – but to date, successful – attempt to expunge the Bible, destroy its moral norms, undermine the moral foundations of Western society for millennia, and humiliate people of faith.
It works, and most people have been intimidated into, as they say, “evolving” their morals, which really doesn’t say much for the depth of their faith or their understanding of G-d’s will.
Should the free market reign? That is, the aggrieved homosexuals and their supporters can boycott stores and merchants and Indiana, and the side of traditional morality can boycott companies and Starbucks and Connecticut. We can split ourselves into a society of two or ten groups and just boycott everyone with whom we disagree about anything. There is logic to that.
But how about a more reasonable approach – also known as “live and let live”? I don’t interfere in your private acts and you don’t interfere in mine. I need not know what you do in the privacy of your bedroom to sell you my widgets, and you should have no need to tell me what you do unless I am interested. And let each state choose the moral norms that it wishes to undergird its society. This way we can all get along. That sounds about right.
Morality based on the Bible cannot constitute unjust discrimination, nor is “discrimination” necessarily pejorative. We discriminate when we offer women discounts on drinks at bars. (I’ve only heard about that, never seen it.) We discriminate when we don’t allow ten-year olds to vote or drive. We discriminate when we choose to marry only Jews. We discriminate when we teach our children what is right and wrong, what is moral or immoral. To discriminate – at its root – is to make distinctions, what we call havdala – distinguishing between the holy and the profane, between light and darkness.
It’s not about love. There are a number of different types of “love” that are prohibited by law, such as polygamy and incestuous marriages. “Love” is not a license to do anything and then demand universal acceptance.
And it’s not about intolerance, unless we are speaking of intolerance of religious people by the new bullies. What the lobby is seeking is not tolerance, as in “live and let live,” but approval, sanction, legitimacy, endorsement, and especially admiration.
They should settle for mutual tolerance, as should we all. They should eschew trampling on the liberty of others and on the holy writ of Bible-believing people. They should not seek to coerce people to do their bidding. To date, the florist and the baker who refused participation in same sex weddings and were sued have both gone out of business.
That is the real disgrace to an America that is barely recognizable anymore.
Shame on all the bullies – the lobby, politicians, media and others.
Ancient Israel was liberated 3327 years ago from the Egyptian house of bondage on this holiday of Pesach. To force another human being to perform personal services against his/her own will is a form of slavery. Been there, done that. Those days of tyranny are in the past and they should not be resurrected by anyone.
Live and let live.
Vayikra / Leviticus, chapter 20, verse 13:
“If a man has intercourse with another man in the same manner as with a woman, both of them have committed a disgusting perversion.
They shall be put to death by stoning.”
NOTE: translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in year 1981 CE in THE LIVING TORAH
Shaar HaGilgulim, Introduction [hakdamah] chapter 22:
“He who has sexual intercourse with a man,
he will be reincarnated as a rabbit or hare…”
Arizal was Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, born 1534 CE, died 1572 CE.
שער הגלגולים – הקדמה כב
הבא על הזכר, יתגלגל בשפן או בארנבת
Sifra commentary on Parshat Acharei Mote,
parashta 8, paragraph 8:
What did they [the Gentiles of Egypt and Canaan] do?
A man would marry a man, and a woman would marry a woman.
A man would marry both a woman and her daughter.
A woman would marry two [men at the same time].
Therefore, [the Torah] says:
“…AND YOU MAY NOT FOLLOW THEIR STATUTES.”
(Vayikra, chapter 18, verse 3).
Sifra is also known as Torat Kohanim.
Rambam attributes Sifra to Rab, who was active around year 220 CE.
Malbim attributes Sifra to Rabbi Chiya, also active around year 220 CE.
Shulchan Aruch, Chelek Yoreh Deah,
Siman 252, Sif 8:
We [must] redeem a [captive] woman before a [captive]
man [when it is not possible to redeem them both].
But in a place where they [the kidnappers] are
accustomed to commit homosexuality, we must
redeem the man [from captivity] first.
The Shulchan Aruch was written by Rabbi Yosef Caro,
who lived from 1488 CE to 1575 CE. He was forced to flee
Spain at the time of the expulsion (or inquisition), eventually
settling in the city of Tzfat, Israel where he was immediately
appointed to a position of great importance.
The introductory section of Sefer Charedim refers
to refers to Rabbi Yosef Caro [קארו] as Gadol HaDor
[the greatest Rabbi alive at that time].
שו”ע יורה דעה – סימן רנב
(ח) פודים האשה קודם האיש, ואם רגילין במשכב זכור, פודין האיש קודם.
As a libertarian I find the whole issue of state (any state) licensing marriages to be unnecessary. Marriage is a purely religious rite. (Would nonbelievers ever need a civil service ceremony if none of the laws singled out a “spouse”? None should. Why discriminate against unmarried people?) It is none of any government’s business who anybody lives with, who should inherit whom, or who has a sole right to visit a dying person.
As a side comment. How about the following gedanken experiment (unless somebody wants to try it out) Those conservative rabbis who see nothing wrong granting the same sex marriage, or those reform rabbis officiating in intermarriages, would they perhaps allow one to marry a second wife? As far as they are concerned it could be purely for a purpose of bringing some poverty stricken girl from a huge Temeni family to live in much better conditions than she has now! This would not violate any Torah laws, after all, would it? So if marrying a gentile gay man is ok, why not a nice second Jewish girl? … Just don’t tell my dear wife about this 🙂
The second point is a valid question. To the first I would respond that the State has an interest in promoting the family, which is the bedrock of society. Family, here, means traditional family – one husband, one wife (father, mother), children. Such has proven its worth in establishing stable societies. As such, law, tax policy and other benefits have always been used in the US to facilitate those relationships.
Society tampers with that at its peril. And the growing confusion over sexual identity that is roiling American youth today in a way that it did not when I was young might indicate (?) that there are already consequences to the new “morality.”
Why Islam is a religion of peace we can all trust 🙂
2013 CE: The Boston Marathon Bombers were Muslims
2012 CE: The Libyan U.S. Embassy Attack was by Muslims
2009 CE: The Fort Hood Shooter was a Muslim
2009 CE: The underwear Bomber was a Muslim
2008 CE: The Bombay & Mumbai India Attackers were Muslims
2005 CE: The London Subway Bombers were Muslims
2004 CE: The Besian Russian School Attackers were Muslims
2004 CE: The Madrid Train Bombers were Muslims
2002 CE: The Bali Nightclub Bombers were Muslims
2002 CE: The Moscow Theatre Attackers were Muslims
2002 CE: The Beltway Snipers were Muslims
2001 CE: The Shoe Bomber was a Muslim
2001 CE: The September 11th Airline Hijackers were Muslims
2001 CE: The Sbarro’s Pizza store in Jerusalem bomber by Muslims
2000 CE: The U-S.S. Cole Bombers were Muslims
1998 CE: The Pan-Am flight #93 Bombers were Muslims
1998 CE: The Kenyan U.S, Embassy Bombers were Muslims
1996 CE: The Saudi, Khobar Towers Bombers were Muslims
1995 CE: The first World Trade Center Bombers were Muslims
1994 CE: The Buenos Aires Suicide Bombers were Muslims
1985 CE: The Achille Lauro Cruise Ship Hijackers were Muslims
1983 CE: The Beirut U.S. Embassy bombers were Muslims
1983 CE: The Beirut Marine Barracks bombers were Muslims
1979 CE: The Iranian Embassy Takeover was by Muslims
1976 CE: The Air France: Entebbe Hijackers were Muslims
1972 CE: The Israeli Munich Olympic-Team Attackers were Muslims
Excellent piece! Thank you
Do you support some concept of civil unions for homosexual couples? I.e.,giving homosexual couples identical rights to heterosexual couples (such as tax benefits, inheritance, hospital visitation, etc…) but just not labeling the relationship a marriage?
Personally, I don’t, although I find that suggestion less offensive that re-defining marriage. I don’t favor those unions because I cannot then distinguish between two friends who live together (roommates, like Felix and Oscar), or siblings who live together (elderly brother and sister), or any other combination of sexual relationships (like polygamy, polyandry, or polyamory). Notice the first two groups are not romantically linked at all, but the closeness of their relationships would also be enhanced by the societal benefits you list.
Indeed, couples living together in sin (i.e., without formal marriage) would also benefit from hospital visitation rights and other financial benefits, although nothing stops anyone from entering into a contractual agreement that codifies their mutual rights and obligations.
So if you would extend the marriage rights to two women living together in a romantic relationship, why not extend it to two sisters living together? I would therefore leave the state’s involvement to the promotion and defense of traditional marriage, and those people who have more “creative” relationships can draw up any type of contract they wish to guarantee visitation, inheritance, health proxy, etc.
This allows the individual in a free secular society to pursue his/her own course in life but retain the state’s imprimatur for the relationship that has always solidified society – even if that institution is now waning in the United States with all the attendant and predictable consequences.
Why then do you support a heterosexual marriage for an elderly couple (i.e., a non-reproductive marriage)? This seems to be two people linked only by romantic interest, just like a homosexual marriage (as you describe it).
Most often, this line of questioning clarifies that the basis for opposing same sex marriage boils down to a moral objection to homosexuality. Your initial post contained these references as well. However, restricting a minorities’ rights/benefits/freedoms because of the majority’s moral objections is dangerous territory and I think should generally be avoided. I wouldn’t say that this is always true, but I think its a good general principal.
For what its worth, I think the state should either recognize all marriages regardless of sexuality or get out of the marriage business all together. Recognize and confer benefits on civil unions (yes, even between roommates not romantically involved) and let religious institutions define marriage.
Because the “elderly couple marriage” partakes of the framework of marriage – between a man and a woman – even if it is not going to produce children.
The opposition is based not only on the moral objection you mention but something fundamental as well. The traditional marriage is the foundation of civilized society. You, indeed, have to draw lines, if you must: college roommates? Three men and two women? Unless you are suggesting that society recognize – with rights and benefits – anyone who lives anywhere with anyone in whatever arrangement – or, essentially, non-recognition of marriage in any form as a social desideratum.
That would be – and already is – disastrous to civil society. The collapse of the American family has already been devastating to children and to two generations of wayward youth. The redefinition of marriage is just a part of that. But redefine it more and the US will be unrecognizable.
An excellent article as usual, Rabbi, but, I want to post my response slightly off topic, yet, not entirely. Saw the movie “The Gold Woman” today with Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. Would recommend it to everyone. It is excellent with a subtle message that anti-Semitism is still alive. The story is poignant, true, and, at the same time, so very tragic, but, also, necessary to tell. Go see it.
Who is Mr. Cohen who so prolifically responds to your articles?
Even a law barring discrimination in sales could clash with Halacha. For example, if a woman would would into a sofrut store and ask for tefillin for herself there would be a problem of מסייע לדבר עבירה. It would be far better to amend the laws so that they only apply where there is a concerted effort to force people to deny service, as was the case under Jim Crow.
Sometimes with secret pride I sigh,
To think how tolerant am I;
Then wonder which is really mine:
Tolerance, or a rubber spine?
– Ogden Nash
I have responded in full on my blog to this article:
In short, your distinction between services and products needs to be fleshed out. Can a barber refuse to give haircuts to Jews?? Isn’t that a service? Also, at the end out the article you seem to throw the distinction out… Why can Burger King refuse certain customers? Isn’t that a product?