Does a business have the right to refuse service to anyone as they see fit?
The answer is NO.
The 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act guarantees all people the legal right to “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”
Many states also passed their own Civil Rights laws to extend the federal protection even further. For example, California passed the Unruh Civil Rights Act which also makes it illegal to discriminate against any person because of unconventional dress or sexual orientation. But unfortunately not all states followed California’s lead.
Now, do businesses have the right to refuse service for other reasons? YES, of course.
Basically, if there is a legitimate business reason to deny service, like general disruption or drunkenness, for example, then there is legal precedence for the business to refuse service.
The reason there has been so much uproar recently about these new Religious Freedom Laws….specifically in Indiana and Arkansas….is that they basically give businesses the legal right to refuse service and discriminate against patrons because of their sexual orientation under the protection of “religious freedom.” And one of the big problems with the laws passed in Indiana and Arkansas is that unlike the other 19 states who have similar Religious Freedom Laws, these two offer absolutely no protection for gays. These two laws were written clearly with the intent of leaving that protection out.
My guess is that the Republican lawmakers in both Indiana and Arkansas realized at that time that in all likelihood the Supreme Court would soon be making a decision which will legalize gay marriage nationwide – which they did last year. And so these Religious Freedom Laws (with the clause protecting discrimination against gays purposefully left out) were drafted as a way of preemptively protecting businesses in their states from having to accept or deal with gay marriage.
It is inevitable that these Religious Freedom Laws in Indiana and Arkansas will end up before the Supreme Court. And I really don’t see any way that the court will uphold these discriminatory laws. But in the meantime Indiana and Arkansas are going to face some serious backlash by the American public who simply no longer have the stomach for this kind of bigotry. And of course, in the process, the Republican party continues to shoot themselves in the foot by alienating large sectors of the population.
Good job righties. Let us know how this all works out for you…..