Civil Liberties

Don't Ban Gays; Ban Politicians!


Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria
Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria

Arizona is in the midst of of one of its habitual tussles over pointless and stupid legislation intended to make some portion of the population feel unwelcome. In this case, Senate Bill 1062 is intended to give state businesses a right they already have: to deny service to gay and lesbian customers. Shunning gay customers is an expression, however unsavory, of free association rights that has never been abridged in the Copper state, and needs no encouragement on the part of lawmakers. In response, a Tucson pizzeria is exercising its free association rights in a much more praise-worthy way: by telling state legislators to take their hunger, and business, elsewhere.

As Reason's Scott Shackford documented, "sexual orientation is not included in Arizona's public accommodation laws. Discrimination against gays is actually legal in a lot of places in America still. What Senate Bill 1062 does is essentially tweak the state's existing freedom of religion laws to say that, no really, people in Arizona have the right to the free exercise of religion."

So Arizona lawmakers are basically just being homophobic pricks. They're playing off of incidents in other states where socially conservative bakers and photographers have been penalized for turning away gay and lesbian customers (the wisdom of insisting that somebody who hates you bake your wedding cake is a topic for another conversation). Those other states' laws don't apply in Arizona, so this is grandstanding.

In response, Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria posted a sign in its window (above right), and a brief and pithy statement on its Facebook page.

As a longtime employer and feeder of the gay community, Rocco's reserves the right to eject any State Senators we see fit to kick out. That is all.

Owner Rocco DiGrazia told the Arizona Daily Star that he has a lot of gay customers and employees, so "why discriminate against anybody? I'm just trying to make some food."

Of course, he is discriminating—against meddling politicians who offend his sense of right and wrong. That's essentially what some socially conservative business owners have done by shunning homosexual customers, and it's a legitimate expression of rights in both cases. Personally, I think that politicians of any stripe are a better target for such shunning than are people who happen to live a lifestyle with which some people disagree—lawmakers inherently inflict their preferences on others, while gays and lesbians do not.

But if the best response to speech is more speech, shunning is a perfectly good response to shunning.