Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association called people who wanted Governor Jan Brewer to veto the bill allowing businesses to discriminate against gays, "jack-booted homofascist thugs."
The whole business, he said, is an illustration of how, in the U.S., “We are going to have to choose between homosexuality and religious freedom, because we can’t have both.”
“If homosexual activists actually believed in tolerance, what they would do is they would respect the convictions of Christian businessmen,” he insisted. “In fact, I think they’re jack-booted homofascist thugs is what ‘Big Gay’ is. I’m not saying all homosexuals are like that, I’m talking about the homosexual lobby.”
“They don’t believe in tolerance,” he reiterated. “They are jack-booted homofascist thugs who want to use the tyrannical and totalitarian power of the state to send men of faith to jail, and that frankly sounds a lot more like Nazi Germany than the United States of America.”
The problem with Fischer's logic is that it is a false choice. The 1st Amendment protects freedom of expression. The 14th Amendment, however, states that Arizona cannot deny its citizens equal protection under the laws. Therefore, laws that protect against discrimination apply to gays.
When I walk into a business, I expect to be served. Therefore, when a gay person walks into an establishment wanting to order a wedding cake for their upcoming marriage, they have no way of knowing that the business in question is run by a diehard religious fundamentalist who thinks that gays are engaging in a sinful lifestyle. Businesses should be upfront about their convictions -- "Celebrating your wedding to the glory of God," for instance. When a gay person walks into an establishment and they are denied service, that is when conflict starts. But when they see for themselves up front that the owner of the establishment might not be enthused about making them a wedding cake for their gay marriage, they will likely go somewhere else.
But then, there is the flip side. If I am upfront about my Christian beliefs, and someone walks into my establishment wanting a cake for their gay wedding, I have a moral obligation to serve them, not just a legal obligation. Last time I checked, Jesus told us to go the extra mile for anyone who asks. Back in Jesus' times, Roman soldiers had the legal ability to make people carry their luggage for a mile; Jesus was telling his followers to go beyond the call of duty and go two miles with them. "Give to him who asks," he said. These were pagan soldiers who killed and butchered people for a living. If we were told to go the extra mile for them, surely we have a moral obligation to go the extra mile for gay people. To put it another way, I may not agree with your lifestyle, but I will defend your right to live it.
The solution, therefore, lies in the ability of each person to respect the fact that other people might not think the way they do. The problem with the Arizona bill legalizing discrimination is that it uses the same logic that the segregationists used to justify Jim Crow.