Rules Are for Schmucks: Let’s Discriminate against Mississippians

Here’s an idea for politicians seeking to turn themselves into statesmen: let’s legalize discrimination against Mississippians.

Turnabout is fair play, right? Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, is it not? Standing against the tide of states like Georgia and West Virginia that recently rejected hate legislation, Mississippi just enacted an extraordinarily sweeping law giving carte blanche to anyone who wants to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals. So we know Mississippi can dish it out—can Mississippi take it?

Don’t sit back smugly and think, “Well, I’m straight, so this doesn’t affect me.” That’s decidedly unhumanistic, plus the bill condones discrimination against anyone, straight or gay, who has ever committed sex before or outside of heterosexual marriage. That covers quite a few of us, don’t you think?

Why the difference between Georgia and Mississippi? One difference is that the governor of Georgia, even though he’s a devout evangelical Christian and a strong conservative, appears to be a decent human being. The governor of Mississippi, on the evidence of this legislation, isn’t.

Another difference is that Georgia had something to lose. Major corporations do business in Georgia. The film industry is huge there. The Super Bowl is played there from time to time. So they had to sit up and pay attention when the generally rational people who run our major corporations said they had no tolerance for intolerance. But Mississippi? It has no major league professional sports teams. Not a single Fortune 500 company headquarters. It has the lowest student test scores, the fattest bellies, the worst infant mortality rates, and the highest proportion of the population on food stamps of any of the fifty states. By some odd coincidence, it’s also the most religious state. Reason and tolerance have nowhere near the influence in Mississippi that they had in Georgia.

The governors of Vermont and New York just banned non-essential state travel to Mississippi. Now there’s a useless gesture. No one goes to Mississippi anyway, so what’s the point? It would make more sense to focus on travel in the opposite direction. Maybe we could follow Donald Trump’s lead: we could build a wall around Mississippi, cut off all emigration from Mississippi to the civilized other forty-nine, and deport the glut of Mississippians already infecting the other forty-nine back to Mississippi. Could we get Mississippi to pay for such a wall? Nah, they don’t have any money. Maybe Trump could get Mexico to pay for it. Or, we could listen to Ted Cruz, and set up extra police patrols in neighborhoods where Mississippians are known to congregate. Trailer parks are natural candidates.

Of course that would be extreme, so I suggest a middle ground. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we should flatter Mississippi by doing something like they just did: pass laws allowing anyone whose conscience so demands it to discriminate against people who have the poor judgment to be Mississippian. Housing, employment, use of rest rooms, you name it: if in good conscience you don’t want to serve a Mississippian, no one should make you do it.

But, bleeding hearts might say, being Mississippian isn’t a conscious choice—people are born that way. Maybe that’s true. But the same pseudo-psychology industry that claims to be able to deprogram people from being gay could perhaps be modified to deprogram people from being Mississippian, giving them a wholesome alternative to their sordid, shameful Mississippi lifestyle.

That’s a detail we can worry about later. What’s important now is to protect the tender consciences of those who just can’t stand the thought of serving a hot dog or renting a room to anyone from a state as bigoted as Mississippi—much less allowing such a disgusting person to remain on an employer’s payroll.

Mississippi, of course, has a long history of other types of discrimination on religious grounds. It was 1960s Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett who once called God “the original segregationist.” I’m not one to defend racial segregation, but at least segregationists paid lip service to the premise of “separate but equal” accommodations for blacks and whites. The bill just signed by Governor Phil Bryant doesn’t even do that. It allows outright denial of service to LGBTQ individuals and other sex-committers without any alternative accommodation at all.

Am I being unfair to all Mississippians because of the actions of a few? Are the ideas here ridiculous? Of course. Some of my best friends are from Mississippi. (Actually, they’re not, but it’s the thought that counts.) But it’s the governor and legislature of Mississippi that started down the path away from “live and let live,” not me. They need to think harder about where that path is going to lead them.

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  • Bartley P

    Lets be real for a minute. There are no McDonald’s, Wal-Mart’s, or such businesses in Mississippi putting up signs that say LBGTQ not welcome. This is about small business owners in service industries such as bakeries, florist, and photography, that feel they should have the right to choose what events they will participate in. I just don’t see anything wrong with that. Should a baker be forced to make a swastika cake for a skin heads birthday party if it violates their conscience? should a photographer be forced to take nude photos of someone? should a florist be forced to provide arrangements in the shape of a swastika or inverted cross? Private small business owners should have the right to refuse service to whom ever they choose and the free market will sort them out. If you fall under the category of those who think people who provide services should be required to provide them with no regard for their own conscience, then you should also believe that Bryan Adams should be forced to preform his concert in Mississippi and not refuse his service to the good people there, for he does not have the right to have a conscience objection to preforming there.

    • bobco85

      I disagree with your interpretation of the situation as business owners all must follow public accommodation laws. A business owner can choose which events in which to do business, but they cannot refuse based on specific characteristics of the customer(s) which may include race, ethnicity, religion, gender, ability, sexual orientation, and gender identity among others (Quick note: Mississippi does not have any laws recognizing sexual orientation or gender identity in its public accommodation laws). The reason public accommodation laws were put in place is the historical fact that the free market does not sort these things out (e.g., racial segregation, hiring discrimination against women, etc.).

      My other issues relating to your argument is of the concept of the morality of a legal business transaction and the hypocrisy in how it is selectively practiced. I think that a legal business transaction has no moral aspect to it unless one or both sides is being misleading. If you ask a baker who advertises wedding cakes for a wedding cake, they make a wedding cake (the people/event whom the wedding cake is for does not matter). Barring any violations of laws regarding hate speech, pornography, etc., if a particular service is advertised it must be fulfilled regardless of the customer. Of course, the hypocrisy in this is that Christians (majority in Mississippi so I’m calling them out) feel taking photos, baking cakes, creating floral arrangements, etc., for weddings involving same sex couples is against their conscience yet have no qualms about serving fast food to obese people (supporting gluttony), selling condoms to unmarried people (supporting pre-marital sex), or throwing a wedding for a previously-divorced person (supporting adultery). It’s not about their consciences; it’s that they don’t want to serve certain people (gay people in the above example).

      P.S. – yes, I think that Bryan Adams should honor his agreement to perform his concert which includes refunding all tickets and probably paying the venue a fee if it is cancelled, but it would not relate to public accommodation.

    • Arjen Bootsma

      Let’s be real indeed: under this law those bakeries, florists, etc. DO have the right to put up a sign saying “LBGTQ not welcome”. How is that different from a sign that says “whites only”?

      • psrieth

        Well, this hypothetical can be expanded. What if Catholic bakers decide not to sell a wedding cake to a (heterosexual) protestant couple because the Catholics believe that only the Catholic marriage sacrament is a “real marriage”?

        What if a Jewish store refuses to sell an atheist non-kosher food?

        What if a Wendys refuses to honor your Subway sandwich rebate card only because Subway is a “different company”?

        What if a family only invites kids their son likes to his birthday party and excludes those he doesn’t like?

        In all seriousness: I think Gov. Kasich is the perfect example of how difficult this is. In one debate he opined (I paraphrase) “if someone doesn’t want to sell you a cake just go buy it from another vendor” – but in another debate he opined “if someone wants to buy a cake from you just sell them the cake”

        And in general, business does work towards non-judgementalism – usually because businesses want to keep customers happy and not get into controversy and customers usually prefer to just go elsewhere if they are dissatisfied rather than spend time and effort “fighting” some company.

        There are always going to be marginal cases of people being stubborn about their beliefs, and then clashes over this. I don’t think the tendency to magnify the clashes of marginal groups who can’t live and let live into major political crises which eat up time and resources is very productive, but I guess it’s just part of the process.

        Finally, I understand the main concern here is about exclusionary practices which are not marginal but engrained in the general culture, therefore making it practically impossible to “just choose another business” – this is where the issue becomes more serious because then it really is a matter of public accomodation.

        Very complex stuff. Very easy to be ironic – which is fine – but very very hard to solve in a just way.

        • Arjen Bootsma

          I doubt the Jewish store would have non-kosher items in stock. Therefore complaining that they refuse to sell you a ham sandwich would be silly because you should have a reasonable expectation that they don’t carry non-kosher items. I’m sure that they would be happy to sell you a kosher roast beef sandwich whether you are Jewish or not.

          Wendy’s and Subway are two different companies (I don’t know if they are both owned by the same corporate entity).

          “There are always going to be … cases of people being stubborn about their beliefs, and then clashes over this.” I left out the word marginal because that way your statement pretty much sums up the totality of human history.

          “exclusionary practices which are not marginal but ingrained in the general culture”. That could be a very accurate description of the pre civil rights era South. It took the leadership of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson to recognize that the prevailing culture was morally wrong and they used the power of their office to right that wrong against the grain of culture and they changed the culture to a large extent. Right now several governors are using the power of their office to strengthen some morally wrong exclusionary practices.

          To end with your first hypothetical about the catholic baker and the protestant M/F couple. My personal opinion as an atheist is that religion and supernatural beliefs are irrational and delusional, and are used to divide people, to pit one group against the next. From a more practical perspective, it seems that the bakers and the florists that make the news in this regard seem to love being martyrs for their beliefs. Christianity is a religion being build on martyrdom, so to “prove” your worth, your dedication, your standing and your prestige as a Christian, a little martyrdom goes a long way.

          • psrieth

            Don’t forget that President Eisenhower sent the 101st airborne to escort the Little Rock 9 to school. 🙂 can’t let Democrats take ALL the credit

          • Arjen Bootsma

            I wasn’t familiar with the story of the Little Rock Nine (born and raised in The Netherlands; since 1995 a resident of the US) but it was in 1957 according to Wikipedia. I’ll happily give the pre-Nixon / pre southern strategy Republicans credit for that. As a political scientist you are well aware that the GOP and the Democrats sort of flipped positions during the Civil Rights Era: the Republicans were more socially progressive before, the Democrats were more socially progressive after. I like to associate myself with the more socially progressive faction whether they be Republicans or Democrats.

  • BoomerLefty

    I often fantasize over the idea that Lincoln should have said “f**k it” and let the south succeed. The remaining US could have passed federal laws forbidding ANY commerce, to include raw or finished products, with countries or states where slavery was permitted. Money speaks louder than bigotry, and the institution of slavery would have died on its own. And we would have been forever freed from the narrow-minded hatred that continually festers from that neck of the woods.

    Yes, I know it’s unrealistic, but is sure is fun to think of it that way.

    • Bartleby

      Yes, I have the same fantasy. The South seems to have won the Civil War, in a way. Their small-minded backwardness has coalesced into a formidable voting block. Let’s just ask them to secede. (It’s “secede,” by the way.) They can take their brain-dead religious delusions with them.

  • Arjen Bootsma

    “One difference is that the governor of Georgia, even though he’s a devout evangelical Christian and a strong conservative, appears to be a decent human being.”

    As a GA resident, I wouldn’t be too sure about that. I think a major reason why Gov. Deal vetoed this legislation was to protect all kinds of economic activity, especially the TV and movie industry. Push those fine, evangelical christian conservatives a little bit, and you’ll find that a dollar turns out to be just a bit more valuable than their loudly shouted beliefs.

  • psrieth

    Abstracting for a moment from this Act, will anyone grant that a gay club (unless explicitly “hetero friendly”) tends to cater to men rather than to women, and tends to aim for larger male attendance than female (from my experience there is never any “checking” to find out if someone is gay or not)? Would this fall under an act of discriminination in the pejorative sense of the word (as opposed to the neutral meaning of simply being selective). Or would gay clubs be innocent of abusing what is argued to be public accomodation since their explicit purpose is to cater to gays and create an atmosphere conducive to gay expectations of good clubbing? This question might pertain to clubbing in general as there is always some sort of selection at the door based on categories which usually have nothing to do with character and everything with physical attributes. This Act might not be the best way to solve the issue it addresses, and while I appreciate good irony, how should this issue be solved? People ought to be given reasonable leeway to make judgements about what actions are comfortable and which are not.

    Second point: As a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln, I see that there is always a temptation on all sides of the debate to prefer secession. So I remind those who fantasize about “letting the South go” that this would likely have only accelerated the pace of expansion of slavery into the territories and it would be the Confederacy, as a Slave Empire spanning from Florida to the west and encompassing the Carrabean which would have been pressuring a reduced United States and not the other way around. Lincoln did the right thing in saving the Union for this and for many other reasons.

    • Arjen Bootsma

      To your first point: I’d advise the gay club in question to re-establish itself as a “church”. That way they will have the formal right to discriminate against heteros and it would have the very pleasant side effect that they’re tax-exempt!

      • psrieth

        Comments like this often remind me of my defiencies: namely a limited sense of humor. To my mind a Church is like a 501 (c), not for profit. Clubs , gay or otherwise , are decidedly business venues that sell entertainment , alcohol etc. Maybe the best answer to this whole problem is the first amendment to the US constitution . Mississippi clearly is trying to address a real concern of some citizens while creating new concerns amongst others. No wonder “Congress shall make no law” was, in hindsight, a rather good idea when dealing with religion, though I understand states were not bound by the law (it says nothing about state legislatures) and we’d have to get into Everson vs Board (1947) and onward to figure it out, they might consider binding themselves with the idea. My point with the gay club was to simply illistrate an act of exclusion based on opinions about the nature of the business which somewhat echo acts of exclusion made by florists or photographers based on their opinions about religion.

        • Arjen Bootsma

          You seem to equate (to some extent) the selective exclusion that may be going on at a gay club to the selective exclusion that may be going on at a floral shop owned and/or operated by a bigoted florist. While the end result may be the same, the mechanism is decidedly different. Just as a vegetarian may decide not to have dinner at a steakhouse, a straight man may for himself decide not to go out in a gay club. But once inside, the vegetarian will not be expected to abide by the beliefs and practices of the steakhouse and be forced to eat a delicious, juicy steak (I’m most definitely not a vegetarian) and likewise, the straight man will not be forced by the proprietor to abide by the beliefs and practices of the club and engage in gay sex.

          It makes a significant difference who is doing the selection and thereby the exclusion. Not too long ago the florist could have posted a s sign that said “whites only”. Now businesses can post a sign that says “heterosexuals only”. In other words, business owners can freely discriminate against a class of customers that in one way or another offends their own sensibilities or beliefs or whatever even if it has nothing to do at all with the nature of the business.

          • psrieth

            I think I understand the point, but I also do not really see the analogy you make that clearly. As far as I can tell, no one is refusing to sell flowes to gay people because they are gay, but they are refusing to participate indirectly in a ceremony (civil or religious gay marriage) which they claim violates their religious beliefs.

            Would they also refuse to sell flowers to Christian heterosexuals who are divorced and want to re-marry? The point was made elsewhere that for some reason gays are singled out. I concede those of us who profess to be Christian (myself amongst them) are totally wrong about this. We make a big bruhaha about gay marriage but never about heterosexual divorce which is a far bigger problem. Of course there is the seperate issue that business hours exist for business, so it is a bit suspect to make a point of probing someone’s sexual orientation during business hours. But of course everywhere there will be people with fixations.

            Now I grant there is a fine line here, to say the least. If I am a Catholic who sells crayons and someone buys them to make posters that say “Satan is great!”, have I participated in something which violates my beliefs? If my answer is yes, maybe I should live in a monastery instead of selling crayons because I doubt it would be possible to monitor who buys the crayons and how they are used. I could try, and the result would likely reduce my customer base to people who share my very narrow and specific beliefs. I do not see this as a threat to the general welfare.

            What could be a threat would be a culture where the majority was exclusionary of a minority, where that minority could not “go somewhere else” – unless they effectively left town or went out of state. Technically, our Federal system exists to remedy this situation if we take Federalist #10 seriously. But if you think it is wrong for such exclusionary practices to take place and want to change culture by way of enforcing non-discrimination laws this will be very very hard. We have to accept that people will tend to isolate themselves from others and abide their beliefs. Live and let live is not always happy, it is only peaceful and partially just.

            Usually, however, I think there will always be businesses arising to fill niche markets that remain unattended to because they do not represent the majority of possible buyers.

            I don’t think a florist will put up such a sign, and even if they did – with all due respect – how would they verify that one?

            I once went to get my hair cut at a place called “Korean Barber”. I’m not Korean and the business owner seemed serious about Korean Barber meaning barber for Koreans and not for you, so I went elsewhere. It was odd because it was unexpected and ultimately I had plenty of other choices. I would likely have felt discriminated if every single barber was a “Korean Barber” – and then maybe I’d be prone to holar “public accomodation!”

            I don’t live in Mississipi so I don’t know how hard it is for gay people to buy flowers. I would hope they find a sensible compromise.

          • Arjen Bootsma

            With a Korean barber I’d probably check first if he is North or South. You don’t want to end up with the Kim Jong Un hairdo!

            Kidding aside, I think you are a well-educated (JD?) and reasonable person. And that is your “problem”: you expect other people to be reasonable too. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. The more fundamentalist a person is, the less reasonable he/she is and herein lies the real problem: a fundamentalist is not interested in a sensible compromise or in a reasonable accommodation. A fundamentalist is only interested in reshaping the entire world according to his/her narrow world view. Any minimal slight requires a maximum response according to a fundamentalist’s beliefs. The fundamentalism can be on the part of the florist or the gay couple; either way, if one or both parties hold fundamentalist beliefs, a reasonable compromise can never be reached.

          • psrieth

            You are right and you are not the first person to tell me my greatest weakness is believing other people will be reasonable, although I think this is all the more why the law should take into account human irrationality. Do people have the right to be reasonably irrational ? Can the law itself ever be completely rational given how recalcitrant people are?

            Often times, compromise itself is irrational, which is why no one is ever enthusiastic about it.

            I’m not a JD, just a political scientist.

            I am also a Catholic who has been close to the gay community practically all of my adult life – so I guess I understand both “sides” and get frustrated that there are some Christians who react to gays as if they were the plague and there are some in the LGBTQ community who don’t distinguish between our (Catholic) religious belief that marriage is s sacrament between men and women (which has nothing to do with civil law) and is in no way “aimed” against anyone, it is something between a man and a woman who are deeply in love (hopefully!)

            I remember being a reluctant participant in the whole “gay marriage” debate ostensibly defending the traditional family, while in practice advocating that we just let people marry in their churches, mosques and ceremonies or whatever and not having any “marriage laws”.

            After the Supreme Court decision, which wasn’t my cup of tea, I took some time to reflect, accepted the verdict and thought to myself “well at least that’s over and we can move on to more important things”…but I see it just goes on and on.

            I wish it would end. I go to Church, I believe in God, I am married in the Catholic Church (no civil marriage though) and I have gay friends, partied with them in gay clubs and was the beneficiary of great kindness from other gays who also happened to be Catholic.

            I guess I’m confounded by how different my experience is from the public perception and evolution of this issue.

          • Arjen Bootsma

            For what it’s worth, I think you are on the right side of the issue.

            One final thought: the “law” is only as good as the people who wrote it.

  • JoJoJas

    I’ve had enough of these Humanists & liberals restricting my freedom of religion! Opposite sex marriage is immoral according to my religious beliefs because it tends to produce more children in a world that is clearly already very over-populated. Same-sex married couples, on the other hand, tend not to procreate (according to recent studies). Therefore, I must refuse serving opposite-sex married couples in my place of business. I’m sorry. I’ll take this to the Supreme Court if necessary.

  • Zell Lundberg

    There is only one sure way to turn the hearts and minds of Mississippians (and North Carolinians) away from such discriminatory laws and that is to get all the college sports organizations to ban all play in those states and prevent teams from those states from playing in other states. Sports are as revered in many states as much as the Bible and it’s the duty of all of the rest of us to “take are balls and go home.” It’s the only way I can see for us to teach them that it just isn’t right to fear and hate the rest of us.

  • Redins Mot

    One way of helping this situation is to cut off access to internet porn.. It is well known that the most religious states are the biggest users of porn. How long do you think they could hold out?

  • Gary Whittenberger

    I believe action through the courts is the best way to deal with Mississippi.