Blog of Rights

Would You Stand Up Against Discrimination?

By Eunice Hyon Min Rho, ACLU at 12:11pm

Imagine: A bride-to-be trying on a wedding gown, her face lights up and the clerk beams in response. The shopper happily informs the clerk that she is marrying a woman, and declares, "My girlfriend is going to love this." The clerk immediately tells the shopper that she disapproves of gay marriages and will not sell the dress to her.

Stop here: What would you do if you were a bystander watching this unfold?

ABC News recently reenacted this exact scene at a bridal store in New Jersey on four different occasions. Even though the bride-to-be and clerk were actors, those watching them argue were very real customers.

Each one reacted strongly to this scenario. The first walked out, telling the clerk that she refuses to patronize a store that would discriminate. The second told the clerk that she needs to do her job and serve the customers of the store, instead of interjecting personal views that are irrelevant to the store's business. Another expressed shock that such blatant discrimination would exist in 2012. In the final scene, an African-American mother told the clerk that such prejudice is no different from the racism she faced growing up and her daughter began to weep.

If you think this scenario is strictly "made for television," take note.

A nearly identical scenario took place in New Jersey, when a bridal shop owner refused to sell a dress to a lesbian bride.

Last year, the ACLU sued an inn in Vermont that refused to host a lesbian wedding reception, in defiance of that state's anti-discrimination laws.

This past legislative session, New Hampshire contemplated giving any private businesses and their employees the right—based on their religious beliefs--to break anti-discrimination laws and refuse to serve individuals. Thankfully, the legislature voted resoundingly against such state-sanctioned discrimination by a 246-85 vote. One legislator condemned the bill, deeming it "unconstitutional, illegal, immoral and mean-spirited."

Private business owners are entitled to their own beliefs; however, if they decide to serve the public, they must abide by the same rules as everyone else. This means that they cannot discriminate as they please. Claiming that their desire to discriminate is based on a religious belief is no different—this should not grant them an exemption from the law.

Yet that's what's happening in towns, cities, and states across America. Legislators from Arizona to Michigan are trying to enact laws that would allow people to claim an exemption from existing laws, professional obligations and responsibilities, all to the detriment of women, children, and Americans of all sexual orientations and races.

Don't wait to voice your objection. Learn more and say NO to discrimination.

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