Re: “No rosebuds for discriminating against gay customers” (editorial, 5-8).
It is reasonable for the state to expect retailers to sell their goods to the general public without regard to the ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexual orientation of their customers. It is not reasonable to expect vendors to provide goods or services for events that are inconsistent with their goals or values.
Independent contractors have the right to choose the conditions under which they work and the venues where they display their products. While Arlene’s Flowers is a retail shop, the owner is acting as a contractor when she does a private event like a wedding or a funeral.
What if the shoe were on the other foot? What if a gay florist refused to provide flowers for a Catholic funeral mass or a Republican fund-raising dinner? What if an atheist artist turned down a commission to illustrate a Bible story? Should they be fined?
The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, whether religious, artistic or political. State officials do not have the authority to coerce people into contributing their talents to particular rituals, ceremonies, displays or publications. And they certainly don’t have the right to punish people for articulating their beliefs.
The ultimate question is: Do state officials want to encourage openness and honesty, or do they want Washington citizens to work in an atmosphere of fear, lies and oppression?