It is easy to celebrate our recent Supreme Court victories. Their last two terms have been kind to the gay rights movement. It is obvious that there is some work yet to be done, and there always will be, but are we at risk of losing our hard-fought victories by becoming “sue happy?”
It is easy to get caught up in the “gay rights” movement, but do we not cross the line, when at some point we begin to fight for the same things we once fought against. Should a wedding caterer be forced into a contract even though they express a religious exemption? Wouldn’t it just be better to choose a caterer that does not have this issue? Should a church be forced into allowing gay marriage to take place when it goes against their religious beliefs? Wouldn’t it just be easier to pick a venue that you know would have no objections to a gay ceremony?
A recent case decided by an appellate court in Colorado raised just such an issue. The court decided that publicly owned companies are not protected by religious exemptions. This is a perfect example of what I mean with the term “sue happy.” Since when does, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone,” equate to, “We are gay and because you do not accept us we’re going to sue you?” Doesn’t this send the wrong message? Sure, there are some real jerks out there, but is suing them really the answer to something bigger?
However, the recent controversy over county clerks not issuing a same-sex marriage license, claiming religious exemptions is a bit different. These are elected officials who are expected and required to carry out their duties. There is only one place we can go to acquire marriage licenses, and holding elected county officials accountable by filing suits is a legitimate response, but suing someone because they won’t decorate our wedding cake isn’t. How would the queer community feel if they were not allowed to refuse service to anyone? I am certain that those who are homophobes do not do business with queers, they choose to do business elsewhere. We are in danger of polarizing society by forcing the issue instead of just letting it play out.
Let’s stop being “sue happy” and let’s start by being smart. Let us continue to hold those we need to hold accountable, but let us stop suing those businesses who are merely expressing their rights and beliefs. We may not like what they stand for or believe in and that’s okay. Their objections are much like ours, based upon the same principles we fight for. I’m not calling for complacency. Let’s be happy with our hard-fought victories. Queers love to push the envelope. Let us not become complacent, but let us not become overzealous or cocky going ahead.