Why Your Point is Pointless

Are you someone who has said something like the tweets below, in the media, on social media or just to friends?

You probably thought you were gosh-darned clever, and caught these guys red-handed being hypocrites!

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the point you’re making doesn’t actually exist. You’re really making a terrible analogy.

Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and others are engaging in a boycott, a form of protest against what many see as unjust, regressive and discriminatory legislation in North Carolina. It is both making a statement and penalizing the state financially. And a really important point, they are not choosing their clientele. They are not denying their services to anyone. Any person in NC could attend a Springsteen or Pearl Jam concert somewhere else. They would not be turned away. If they’re “discriminating” based on anything, it’s geography.

But the hypothetical religious bakers is completely different. Let’s make it clear what this baker would be doing: He would be baking wedding cakes for opposite-sex  couples, but not same-sex couples. While his professed reason for doing so would be “religious beliefs”, there would probably also be an element of protest involved; it would be a means of expressing disapproval. And the targets of this act: same-sex couples, aka gay (or bi) people.

This is where someone will usually say that it’s not anti-gay discrimination because he would bake other things for gay people, just not wedding cakes. But that doesn’t change the target: it’s still same-sex couples. To quote Matt Baume in his excellent video on the topic, “Only gay* people have gay weddings.” The refusal is on the basis of sexual orientation. The baker might sell weddings cakes to black couples, and to white couples and even non-wedding goods to mixed black/white couples. But if he refuses to sell them a wedding cake because they’re not the same race? You bet your ass that’s discrimination based on race!

*or bi.

Let’s try fixing this with a more appropriate analogy:

Let’s say we have a caterer, Sarah. She serves an area in the vicinity of her home town. One day, a neighboring town–let’s say it’s called Springfield–passes an ordinance that Sarah finds unjust in some way. It doesn’t impact her directly, but she thinks it’s a bad law that hurts other people. She can freely say, in even the state with the strictest non-discrimination laws–that she will stop catering events within the city of Springfield. Sarah would be well within her rights. Just like Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Cirque du Soleil, etc.

What I find interesting about this line of thought is this: The law in North Carolina is not, on its face, about religious freedom or being able to choose one’s clientele. In fact, it establishes that public accommodations cannot be denied–people cannot choose who they serve–based on a number of factors. Of course, those factors do not include sexual orientation or gender identity. And no city or county in the state can add those or any other category. HB 2 was ostensibly about a few things: “common sense” bathroom privacy and safety, establishing state-wide non-discrimination policy and helping business by making employment and service laws consistent across the state.

But the people above seem to be reading between the lines, and getting to part of the real motivation for HB 2: establishing a de facto statewide right to discriminate against LGBT people. Sure, gay wedding cakes and flowers are part of it. But it goes well beyond that.

To recap, for those clever conservative commentators out there implying that Bruce Springsteen or Pearl Jam are being hypocritical in not performing in NC by choosing their “clientele,” your analogy stinks, and you don’t actually have a point at all. I also provided a better analogy for you, but it doesn’t help further your agenda so you’ll certainly ignore it. But at least I tried!

When I was looking for exemplar tweets for the opening, I came across some… less nice ones. This shows we have a long way to go. I’ll just close with this:

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