THE BLOG
02/28/2014 01:30 pm ET | Updated Apr 30, 2014

I'm With Stupid: Refusing the Religious Right's Right to Refuse

You know those signs that restaurants and other businesses sometimes have -- the ones that read "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone"?

Do those signs only exist on TV, or are they real? Seriously. I could have sworn I've seen them before, but now I'm starting to wonder, because apparently you can't just refuse service to anyone; you actually have to have a legitimate business reason.

What that means -- and these are actual examples -- is that you may not tell a same-sex couple that they can't sit in a booth at a restaurant, but if punk rockers do drugs and make rude comments at a funeral, you can kick them out of the cemetery.

Let me explain. In the first example, it's assumed that a gay couple eating a meal does nothing to negatively impact a restaurant's business. In fact, they might even be helping it if they order drinks and an appetizer with their dinner. Booting them from the booth would be an act of discrimination.

In the second example, however, the punk rockers being douche bags was considered to be depriving the deceased person's family of the full extent of the cemetery's business, particularly the part wherein the cemetery provides a dignified funeral service. Thus, it was perfectly legal to oust the little twits.

So now I think you can see why the proposed bill in Arizona that would have made it OK to refuse service to gay people on religious grounds was doomed to failure and why Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed it. Refusing to host a gay wedding or serve a gay customer would be discrimination based solely on sexual orientation, and there would be no legitimate business reason for doing it, even if serving gay people would somehow cause you to violate your religious beliefs.

Of course, this is not to say that there weren't compelling business reasons for Brewer to sign the veto. Numerous high-profile companies had stated their opposition to the bill publicly and were considering boycotting Arizona if the bill became a law. Under pressure from the business community, civil rights groups and the national Republican Party, Brewer had little choice but to do what she did.

Anyway, the bill got shot down, which is a good thing, but I have to admit I was kind of hoping it would pass. I think it would have cleared the way for all businesses to refuse service to anyone they didn't feel like serving, and I figured that could have been a lot of fun.

Think about it: If religious people could refuse service to gay people, then it would only be fair for gay people to have the right to refuse service to religious people, wouldn't it? That would have been a hoot. I'd love to see members of the Westboro Baptist Church try to go shopping in San Francisco if gay business owners or employees could tell them to get lost.

Allowing everyone to discriminate against everyone else would be an interesting first step, but it'd be great to take it even further and allow discriminatory pricing policies for people who you think deserve to get gouged a little.

For instance, the emergency room doctor who stood around and watched for 15 minutes while two orderlies got a pebble out of my son's nose had the audacity to charge me $700 for his "professional services," which basically consisted of drinking coffee. Wouldn't it be awesome if I could charge him $10 for something at a store and then tack on $800 extra in "turnabout-is-fair-play services" after he'd handed me his credit card?

I'll answer that one for you: Yes, it would be totally freaking awesome and just what the doctor ordered, in a manner of speaking.

Some of you might think that if we could size people up and then decide whether to do business with them based on our gut reactions, society would break down even further. But I think just the opposite is true. I think that if no one were guaranteed service anywhere, it would make people be on their best behavior all the time.

Because if you happened to be the sort of prick who would say to someone, "I won't serve you because you're gay," you'd now have to deal with possible repercussions, such as someone saying to you, "I won't serve you because you're an asshole."

Call me crazy, but I think that might help dissuade people from being assholes in the first place.

Todd Hartley refuses to let rational people read his column. Irrational types can read more or leave a comment at zerobudget.net.

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