Via Mediaite comes footage from CNN last night in which hardcore libertarian and atheist Penn Jillette weights in on the Indiana RFRA hoohah.
Given his libertarian bona fides, many folks in the blogosphere have been surprised that Penn has come out in favor of anti-discrimination laws that would force business owners to bake cakes and shoot video at gay marriages even if they didn't believe in such things. Part of his contribution:
These people are not being asked to engage in gay sex or even endorse gay sex. They're being asked to sell flowers and cake to people….Now, I'm a libertarian and an atheist, so I'm kind of fighting myself on this. I don't like the government involved with telling people what to do and I certainly want people to have religious freedom–because the only way that people who don't have religion are going to have freedom is if people who do have religion have freedom. But all the same, we have to be careful we don't get crazy in the hypotheticals. We are not talking about forcing people to engage in gay sex or even endorse gay sex. We're asking that maybe they can treat people the same as other people and that does not seem unreasonable. It's OK, I guess, but goofy to be against gays, but it's not OK to be against people who simply want to…use your services as a business.
The doctrinaire libertarian position runs in the other direction: For the most part, rights to voluntary association trump claims a person or group might make on your business or service. However you feel about that, Penn hits on an inarguable truth too:
I mean, the free market should be able to take care of this faster than anything.
That much is not open for debate in at least two important ways. First, in all the accounts I've read about businesses turning away customers who wanted something related to a same-sex wedding, the businesses expressly and without issue served gay customers in other contexts. So they were not refusing to serve gays per se. Second, in each instance, there were plenty of other businesses to which customers could turn for service. The market has indeed generated businesses that are very happy to cater to gay and lesbian couples.
Penn also drops this knowledge which I also find inarguable (though surely controversial). When asked why these issues are capturing the public imagination, he says:
I don't know. It just seems that maybe it's a bunch of people who realize they've lost a battle that's very important to them. Anyone under 30 is OK with gay rights. The whole thing is ancient history. All we need is a little bit of time and this will simply be a joke. And sometimes when people feel their point of view is being lost and they're becoming an anachronism, when they clutch at what they used to believe, sometimes it's not very pretty and it's often embarrassing.
That should mix things up a bit. What do you think?