Gay-haters’ free market hypocrisy: How Arizona bill backers are changing their tune

When it comes to LGBT discrimination, the right says let free market decide -- until it gets an anti-gay CEO canned

Topics: LGBT, LGBT Rights, anti-gay laws, Discrimination, Mozilla, CEO, Arizona, Arizona SB 1062, Editor's Picks, duck dynasty, Gay Rights, ,

Gay-haters' free market hypocrisy: How Arizona bill backers are changing their tuneMike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann (Credit: AP/Susan Walsh/Reuters/Larry Downing/photo collage by Salon)

In February of this year, Arizona considered passing a law that would give explicit permission to businesses to discriminate against people involved in gay marriages. In the run-up to the eventual veto, conservative pundits largely supported the bill, arguing that anti-discrimination laws are liberty-infringing and overly blunt instruments for tackling the ongoing animus against gays in society. Instead, as has been their line since the Civil Rights era, conservatives implored that people take the battle out of the courts and legislatures and into the market and civil society.

The two most elegant explanations of this view at the time came from Cato’s Ilya Shapiro and the National Review’s Kevin Williamson. According to Shapiro, “while governments have the duty to treat everyone equally under the law, private individuals should be able to make their own decisions on whom to do business with and how – on religious or any other grounds. Those who disagree can take their custom elsewhere and encourage others to do the same.”

While reaching the same conclusion, Williamson noted that “genuine hostility toward gay Americans is today a distinctly minority inclination but one that still should be challenged.” Nonetheless, Williamson continued, “it is a far healthier thing for that challenge to take place on the battleground of civil society rather than in the courts and legislatures” because “civil society has the ability to distinguish between an honorable disagreement and ill will.”

These are nice-sounding arguments, and many conservatives certainly held them up as emblematic of their position at the time, but in reality almost nobody actually believes in them.

At their root, Shapiro and Williamson are debating about which coercive disciplining institutions are the appropriate ones. They seek to answer the question: If folks do not like it when people engage in certain behavior toward gays, should they seek to discipline those people with legal coercion (anti-discrimination laws), market coercion (boycotts), or civil coercion (shunning)? And they conclude that market and civil coercion are the way to go.

The problem is that for most cultural conservatives, the answer is actually “none of the above.” They don’t think anti-gay gestures that many find unconscionable are actually worthy of any disciplining. As the case of the resignation of the Mozilla CEO and the Duck Dynasty debacle show quite clearly, even the application of market and civil coercion against anti-gay actions is met by conservatives with accusations of rights infringement and persecution. (In the former case, cries of “hateful, intolerant, illiberal, persecutorial” greeted the result.)

Conservative proclamations of persecution on this front are of course hypocritical. When the Dixie Chicks spoke out against the Iraq War, the right wing reveled in a full-scale campaign of civil and market coercion that culminated in successfully banning them from hundreds of radio stations across the country. George W. Bush himself weighed in on the debacle, remarking that “they shouldn’t have their feelings hurt just because some people don’t want to buy their records when they speak out. … Freedom is a two-way street.”

The reasons for the hypocrisy on this topic, which is not just contained to conservatives, are not mysterious. In actual reality, people have visions about what a good world is and how society should look. When market and civil coercion is useful toward that end, they use them and convince themselves that doing so is liberty incarnate. When market and civil coercion is being used against that end, they recoil in horror and declare such coercion to be oppression. They are motivated, not by some abstract consideration of whether legal, market, or civil coercion is the best kind of coercion, but by their concrete vision of what society should look like and whether some particular power move, whatever its origin, contributes to the realization of that vision.

This may seem cynical, but if you look at where people line up on any given controversy, what you find in almost all cases is that they line up according to their substantive worldview, not according to any consistent view on appropriate process and mechanisms. When they had the power to do it, conservatives gladly used legal coercion to restrict gay actions throughout the country with anti-sodomy laws. Now they’ve evolved to the view that even market and civil coercion around the issue of gay inclusion in society is inappropriate. Liberals, on the other hand, have evolved in the exact opposite direction. The only thing consistent throughout is that one side supports gay-unfriendly things and the other gay-friendly things. Everything else, it seems, is rhetoric.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 7
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    AP/Jae C. Hong

    Your summer in extreme weather

    California drought

    Since May, California has faced a historic drought, resulting in the loss of 63 trillion gallons of water. 95.4 percent of the state is now experiencing "severe" drought conditions, which is only a marginal improvement from 97.5 percent last week.

    A recent study published in the journal Science found that the Earth has actually risen about 0.16 inches in the past 18 months because of the extreme loss of groundwater. The drought is particularly devastating for California's enormous agriculture industry and will cost the state $2.2 billion this year, cutting over 17,000 jobs in the process.


    Meteorologists blame the drought on a large zone (almost 4 miles high and 2,000 miles long) of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast which blocks Pacific winter storms from reaching land. High pressure zones come and go, but this one has been stationary since December 2012.

    Darin Epperly

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Great Plains tornadoes

    From June 16-18 this year, the Midwest was slammed by a series of four tornadoes, all ranking as category EF4--meaning the winds reached up to 200 miles per hour. An unlucky town called Pilger in Nebraska was hit especially hard, suffering through twin tornadoes, an extreme event that may only occur every few decades. The two that swept through the town killed two people, injured 16 and demolished as many as 50 homes.   

    "It was terribly wide," local resident Marianne Pesotta said to CNN affiliate KETV-TV. "I drove east [to escape]. I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there."   

    But atmospheric scientist Jeff Weber cautions against connecting these events with climate change. "This is not a climate signal," he said in an interview with NBC News. "This is a meteorological signal."

    AP/Detroit News, David Coates

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Michigan flooding

    On Aug. 11, Detroit's wettest day in 89 years -- with rainfall at 4.57 inches -- resulted in the flooding of at least five major freeways, leading to three deaths, more than 1,000 cars being abandoned on the road and thousands of ruined basements. Gov. Rick Snyder declared it a disaster. It took officials two full days to clear the roads. Weeks later, FEMA is finally set to begin assessing damage.   

    Heavy rainfall events are becoming more and more common, and some scientists have attributed the trend to climate change, since the atmosphere can hold more moisture at higher temperatures. Mashable's Andrew Freedman wrote on the increasing incidence of this type of weather: "This means that storms, from localized thunderstorms to massive hurricanes, have more energy to work with, and are able to wring out greater amounts of rain or snow in heavy bursts. In general, more precipitation is now coming in shorter, heavier bursts compared to a few decades ago, and this is putting strain on urban infrastructure such as sewer systems that are unable to handle such sudden influxes of water."

    AP/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Yosemite wildfires

    An extreme wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park forced authorities to evacuate 13,000 nearby residents, while the Madera County sheriff declared a local emergency. The summer has been marked by several wildfires due to California's extreme drought, which causes vegetation to become perfect kindling.   

    Surprisingly, however, firefighters have done an admirable job containing the blazes. According to the L.A. Times, firefighters with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have fought over 4,000 fires so far in 2014 -- an increase of over 500 fires from the same time in 2013.

    Reuters/Eugene Tanner

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Hawaii hurricanes

    Hurricane Iselle was set to be the first hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii in 22 years. It was downgraded to a tropical storm and didn't end up being nearly as disastrous as it could have been, but it still managed to essentially shut down the entire state for a day, as businesses and residents hunkered down in preparation, with many boarding up their windows to guard against strong gusts. The storm resulted in downed trees, 21,000 people out of power and a number of damaged homes.

    Debbie Arita, a local from the Big Island described her experience: "We could hear the wind howling through the doors. The light poles in the parking lot were bobbing up and down with all the wind and rain."


    Your summer in extreme weather

    Florida red tide

    A major red tide bloom can reach more than 100 miles along the coast and around 30 miles offshore. Although you can't really see it in the above photo, the effects are devastating for wildlife. This summer, Florida was hit by an enormous, lingering red tide, also known as a harmful algae bloom (HAB), which occurs when algae grow out of control. HABs are toxic to fish, crabs, octopuses and other sea creatures, and this one resulted in the death of thousands of fish. When the HAB gets close enough to shore, it can also have an effect on air quality, making it harder for people to breathe.   

    The HAB is currently closest to land near Pinellas County in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is 5-10 miles offshore.

  • Recent Slide Shows


Loading Comments...