Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Bigots should be allowed to be bigots

Inspired by that B&B in Cornwall. Both Bobski and I have written about this before, but if twitter and our legal system is any way to gauge opinion, this stuff needs to be reiterated. From the BBC:Link

The owners of a hotel who refused to allow a gay couple a double room acted unlawfully, a judge has ruled.

Peter and Hazelmary Bull, of the Chymorvah Hotel, near Penzance, said as Christians they did not believe unmarried couples should share a room.

Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy, from Bristol, said the incident in September 2008 was "direct discrimination" against them.

I'm not particularly bothered by the details of the case - only in the general outline. Two people, the B&B owners, declined service to two other people, a gay couple.

For me that is as far as it goes.

Discrimination and bigotry, of course, are ugly things and ought to be condemned as often as possible. Not only is it just nonsensical, but from a financial point of view, I don't fully understand what anybody is supposed to gain if their business doesn't deal with a certain type of person. Unless this is the business's raison d'etre - y'know, like those lady-only insurance companies and, presumably, gay-only hotels dotted about the country.

But this is the point. This is a very simple matter of property rights. The only difference between a business and a home is that artificially created by law. Yes, obviously I am aware the law says that if you open a business you have to adhere to certain rules, one of which is anti-discrimination (more on that later), but let's not labour the point here. My point is deeper than simply 'the law was applied wrongly', much more that 'the law is wrong'. More simply put: I can't see a philosophical difference between a person's home and a person's business if they're both that person's property.

Firstly, the decision on whether or not to serve a customer lies entirely with the business. The business owners are the ones whose necks are on the line if the business fails - they are the ones who are responsible for the risk, and they are under no obligation whatsoever to serve anybody. This is very important. Exchanges between seller and buyer are voluntary on both parts, and either can choose not to buy or sell for any reason they like.

Second, I'm curious as to why this gay couple thinks they have been damaged in some way. It isn't as if they lost out by not being allowed to stay at the B&B. As above, the B&B owners are not obliged to serve anybody, just like they were not obliged to set up a B&B, or be in Cornwall, or do anything except lie about reading bibles and muttering all day long. No, they chose to set up a business and, as the property owners, probably expected that they'd be setting the rules. Suppose they had chosen not to set up a business at all. Would the gay couple have been damaged in some way? I suspect not. These damages stem directly from the idea that the reason the B&B owners didn't want them to stay was because they suspected they'd be up all night bonking, and bonking in a very un-Christian way. But surely the reason is irrelevant. Suppose they had lied and turned them away, I dunno, 'because we don't like the look of them'. Why not? Or perhaps they could have a policy of not allowing more than one male to stay in a room at a time. After all, camp sites around the country have similar rules regarding all-male groups. Would there have been any damage then? The outcome would have been the same. Claiming damages to me smacks of crass opportunism.

Not that I give a damn that it was a Christian couple vs a gay couple. For all I care, it could be a couple of druids vs a bloke with big ears. And they don't like big eared people. So they don't let that bloke stay. Boo hoo, they're not obliged to deal with big eared people, and to force them to do so, to me, seems much worse than leaving people to sort their shit out voluntarily.

This, for me, is why anti-discrimination laws don't really achieve what they say on the tin. They aren't there to nudge - or, really, force - people to see past superficial labels like 'homosexual', 'muslim', 'black' or whatever at all. No, they're there to heighten the considerations of specific minority groups. By trying to create a culture of non-discrimination, the law has, in effect, provided us with the inverse of that. Whether it's fair or not, certain minorities (not all) find themselves on the right side of the discrimination law, as this gay couple found out. And others, like the Christian couple, do not. And before somebody says, 'oh but Christians aren't a minority!' well that isn't really the point, is it? Discrimination isn't a case of majority or minority, it really should be a case of individualism. People are individuals. Treat them like individuals. The real fallacy here is trying to mitigate discrimination by empowering certain groups beyond the level enjoyed by others. Which, to me, seems the opposite.

The solution? Let people sort it out on their own terms! The profit motive is a wonderful mitigator of bigotry for one, and secondly I'm pretty sure, nay, certain, that if a B&B were outed, quite legitimately, as being vehemently anti-gay, I personally would at best feel embarassed for staying there and most likely wouldn't stay there at all - and I'm pretty damn sure I'm not alone in that. Of course, being a white, straight male, I wouldn't be able to claim damages for the offence that caused me...not that I'd have been allowed to stay there either if I had a ladyfriend with me!

The real crime here is using the law to force an opinion on somebody. This is a semi-hidden version of thought crime here. Private property is private property, and on that property one may express oneself how one wishes. If that means not allowing homosexuals on said property, so be it. Prosecuting somebody for such an antediluvian rule is in effect criminalising their opinion. And that should never be encouraged.


  1. Ben and Bob, eh? Sounds like a pair of poofter names to me!



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