« Five Years | Main | Playing Hearts »

Hotels, not Bakeries

So, the thing about Indiana’s terrible RFRA is that it’s terrible and bad. But the thing about the conversation about it, is that it has been about food, and that seems to be not the best possible way to talk about it. I know there’s a lawsuit somewhere about a bakery being sued for not making cakes for same-sex weddings, and there’s a pizza joint that won’t cater same-sex weddings, and so we talk about food.

I like food. I like weddings. It’s all good. But wouldn’t it be more illustrative to talk about hotels?

I mean, for one thing, the homophobic hotelier who does business with a same-sex couple is actually facilitating the sin itself. Cake is, I’m told, ancillary to the sin, but getting a room is proverbial. If you believe that "religious freedom" exempts a business owner from doing business with someone who is gay, or from encouraging or condoning homosexuality generally, it seems to me that it follows that such a business should be able to deny a motel room key to a gay couple just off the freeway, or to refuse the whole block of rooms for the guests of two brides. So the question is: should that be allowed?

I mean, for Your Humble Blogger, the answer is obviously no: a hotel should rent rooms to people regardless of sexual orientation, race, skin color, birth condition or religion. If the hotelier can’t square that with her conscience, she can get out of the business. That’s my opinion. It’s obvious to me. Presumably, the writers of the Indiana version of the RFRA disagree, at least as regards sexual orientation.

Of course, sexual orientation is not a protected class federally, nor in the state of Indiana. So when Mr. and Mr. Smith pull off the freeway in Indiana to look for a motel, they can be shut out because the desk clerk considers their fully legal marriage to have the wrong number of penes, and this has been true for some time. It’s true in a lot of places in this country. The RFRA doesn’t actually alter that, although by passing it, it makes it much more likely that a lawsuit brought by the Smiths against the Motel One-Penis Marriage and its desk clerk would be immediately dismissed. My home state, things are different. Yay New England! Massachusetts, the Lieutenant-Governor will be officiating at the wedding of the State Senate President and his groom, and if you have not been paying attention, that L-G is representing the Other Party. So, yay New England! But not Indiana. Or Michigan. Or Pennsylvania. Or twenty-odd other states. The state law in Indiana may or may not be held to overrule local ordinances, which will make some difference in knowing if there are freeway exits that can be taken with confidence, although there will still be plenty of hotels in South Bend that don’t care how many penes your marriage has. Just keep awake ’til you get there, right?

But why do I want us to talk about hotels instead of cakes and pizza?

For one thing, I think the wedding cake thing naturally lends itself to sympathy toward the baker. I believe that a baker of wedding cakes should make cakes for all and sundry, and I am happy with the government regulating that, but I understand that for Ms. Martinez and her fiancĂ©e to go to the Very Devout One Penis Per Marriage Bakery to order their three-tiered sodomy-and-butter-cream cake can be seen as a provocation, of sorts. Not so much the hotel business, for which I think people have less sympathy to begin with. For another, the Brides Martinez can go to South Bend or another local oasis of diversity for the cake, and everyone knows there are plenty of those; for the hotel, the location is pretty much where it’s at.

And then, this country has a long and storied history of bigots refusing hotel space to non-whites and to interracial couples. Stories about ballplayers not being able to stay with their teams, bandmembers not being able to stay with the band. Sleeping on the bus. The stories about car crashes that happened because an unapproved family had miles to go before they could safely and legally sleep. We know about those. We’ve had that conversation. (We’ve had the lunch-counter conversation, too, yes—if it were about cake, it would have been less sympathetic.) Making those Smith fellows cross the state line to get a room seems ugly in a familiar way, and one that rhetorically does much better for my side of the argument than theirs.

And then, I dunno, isn’t there a well-known story from Scripture about people being turned away by an innkeeper?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Thank you for shifting the conversation. It's been a bizarrely unexplained piece of legislation. Has any proponent of the law publicly explained a hypothetical fact situation which would now go differently than it would have last month? No? Is that because there is none? Or is it because they are actually ashamed of every single fact situation they can imagine that this legislation would protect?

It's a shameful piece of Clinton's legacy.

Renaming the legislation would help. The RFRA is a great marketing name. Who doesn't like freedom? Calling it "Indiana's Turn Away Jesus from the Inn Law" makes it a little harder to defend, I would think.

Though if the innkeeper had been required to give Mary and Joseph a room, Jesus wouldn't have been born in a manger, and all those mangers on everyone's mantels and lawns would be a bit unjustified. We'd have little hotel room scenes instead, and the branding opportunities would be endless! Also, the best room in every hotel would no longer be the Presidential Suite, but rather the Placentidential Suite.

Comments are closed for this entry. Usually if I close comments for an entry it's because that entry gets a disproportionate amount of spam. If you want to contact me about this entry, feel free to send me email.