The same sex wedding business, cemented by the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling in 2015, is estimated to reap some $2.6 billion by the end of this year.  Some 486,000 LGBT couples have been married as of last fall, a doubling of marriages since 2014.  Good news, most of us would proclaim. 

But, despite a couple of high profile court cases over the non-provision of services – cake baking, wedding planning – where business owners refused their services to same sex couples and have been shot down, (metaphorically not literally speaking), 29 states in the United States of America have laws on the books that permit businesses to refuse services to same sex couples, married or not.  Most often couched in terms of “closely held religious beliefs” just like the majority Supreme Court opinion in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby.  And, as Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg predicted in her dissenting opinion, the Hobby Lobby decision would continue to roil the waters related to the interpretation of the First Amendment for decades.

The Utah Expo, repeated many, many times across the country, is a gathering of businesses who are either LGBT owned or LGBT friendly, meaning that gay men and women who patronize these businesses will not be denied service.  And this is a good thing.  After all, who wants to be forced to file a lawsuit when some business refuses to decorate your wedding cake with the names “James and Rick” or “Nancy and Judith” or your wedding photographer refuses to cover your wedding because: Religion.  Also, Utah is a Mormon state, that has the largest population of Mormons in the country.  This branch of Christianity still preaches that acting on homosexual attraction is a sin.  

The rise of LGBT expos, in my view, is an adaptation, an accommodation, if you will, to a hostile social and business environment.  Similar, let’s say, to the accommodations Black people were forced to make to in the real world of an overridingly hostile social environment when Black folks were refused rooms at “Whites Only” hotels and had to search out the local Black hotels in towns and cities across the country.  Or the accommodation of having to go to that window at the rear of restaurants to be served rather than being served alongside Whites in the main dining room or soda fountain counter.  All of these adaptations and accommodations were standard operating procedure until the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Public Accommodations Act in 1964.  It was then, and only then, that the hostile environment Blacks faced was finally shattered, at least for the most part.  But it didn’t happen overnight.  And it didn’t happen without the force of lawsuits.

Sure. I know that social change occurs slowly, that it takes time for Supreme Court decisions to permeate throughout the land.  But just as it was with the decades of slow change that finally allowed Black men and women to stay at the local Holiday Inn Express or Marriott Courtyard across the country, so too will society change in regard to eliminating discrimination when it comes to accommodating LGBT folks at businesses across the country.  But while those LGBT Expos (nothing new, really since gay men and women have always preferred patronizing businesses that are “gay friendly”) might be a “reasonable accommodation” in Supreme Court style legal terms, they do nothing to force states that pass laws to discriminate against the LGBT community to do the right thing.  Don’t forget, it is still not illegal to discriminate against gay men and women – or at least this is how states get away with their discriminatory business service laws – since we have yet to include sexual orientation as a protected class like Blacks, the disabled and the handicapped.  This remains to be achieved.

And this is why taking the easy route through the efficacies of LGBT Expos must be accompanied by the much more difficult, the harder route of filing lawsuits against every business that denies service to gay men and women regardless of whatever “beliefs” these business owners might hold, closely, loosely or otherwise.

And Then There’s This Unfinished Business

Thursday Mar 03, 2016 · 3:43 PM EST

T. Greg Doucette is running for state Senate in North Carolina. He is a criminal defense attorney who is also a Republican (record scratch). But the Twitter rant he went on last week crosses all partisan boundaries.
It began innocently enough.
My guess is that very few Republicans get asked if “they hate police” often.
Doucette proceeds to explain a case he has where a 17-year-old black young man is being hit with the serious charge of reckless driving to endanger. His client is terrified.

The charge comes from an eyewitness who told police that the young man was driving donuts (360 degree circles) and almost hit the eyewitness’s wife. That’s pretty damning stuff. More damning is the police officer’s report.

“Clear 360 degree circles.” T. Greg Doucette’s client has a mother. She took photos of the spot where the alleged reckless driving took place.

Republican or Democratic, Libertarian or Socialist, Independent or co-dependent—we can all agree that Doucette’s exclamation of “What. The actual. F*ck.” is 100 percent appropriate. The kid is going to get off. The prosecutors have dropped the charges. But the story is bigger than that and Doucette makes an important distinction for those out there that want to retreat into the no harm no foul justification for not being outraged.

And that’s the point. This is a system that takes away people’s humanity early on. A 17-year-old kid trying not to hit a cat swerves his car and his family is out money, he’s been stressed out, and would have been convicted if his mother hadn’t taken photos of the crime scene. Doucette continues on his rant and gets into the actual systematic failures in this equation—everything from court costs and the numbers game of cases dismissed versus guilty plea deals.

The court is charged with paying for itself and so legislatures move the money that would go to courts elsewhere, leaving the courts underfunded and continuing to gouge the poor for minor offenses. Those poor people usually end up being young and black like this client.

It doesn’t matter what your party affiliation is—it isn’t right.

NOTE: There Is Still Much Work To Do!


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