The Choice to Refuse Service

Can a business refuse you service?

Okay, I’m not afraid to admit that I didn't know much on the actual fine print of this subject. I was under the impression that the right to refuse service literally meant the right to refuse service, regardless of the reason; because, after all, a business can only stay in business if they make money, and if they refuse service, that is their prerogative to lose out on that particular profit; right? Not so fast… I have learned that there isn’t much of a “right” to refuse service, and it’s more of a choice; a choice that can result in bad things for the business owner.

There was a recent article that made national news about a lesbian couple being denied flowers for their wedding because of the florist’s religious beliefs. Do you remember that one? I of course was morally and ethically outraged; but, I came to the conclusion that the shop owner could do what she wanted, including lose money and suffer negative press; because, legally, she was within her limits… or so I thought.

Well, I read another article this morning about a very similar issue, but in a different state and with wedding cake. Basically, a gay couple tried to get a wedding cake by a Colorado cake shop, and the owner refused because it would infringe on his religious beliefs. Again, despite the fact that I think it’s morally and ethically wrong, I almost felt like the shop owner was being picked on for his stubborn beliefs.

However, I then went on to find out in that article that in Colorado specifically, there are no laws that protect business owners under the assumption that if there were, it would give businesses free reign to discriminate. So, it doesn't matter if the gay couple wanted a cake specifically by that cake artist, or were trying to stir up a little trouble (I am sure it’s the former). I did a little further research and found out through author Wendy Rotelli that restaurants have almost no legal leg to stand on when it comes to refusing service to anyone. In fact, the signs that say, “We have the right to refuse service,” are pointless and mean almost nothing.

What do you think?

Do you think "The Right to Refuse Service" should allow for discrimination?

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Reasons you CAN be Refused Service:

  • “No Shirt, No shoes” BECAUSE it violates health codes

  • Specific Dress Codes, since going to that establishment is a CHOICE.

  • Causing a scene

  • Bad hygiene

  • Putting the business over capacity

  • If you don’t order anything (at a restaurant).

Morals and Ethics for the Win!

Those all make sense. Right? They key is that a business can’t just kick you out because you’re gay or black or have freckles. Everyone is protected under the Federal Civil Rights Act; and, those who have disabilities are further protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Certain states may have even more specific protections and laws.

So, to quote Ms. Rotelli from her article, she concludes, “In short, if you are discriminated against because of something you cannot change, or control, then it is illegal. If you are discriminated against because of a choice you made, it is legal.”

While I firmly believe that homosexuality is not a choice, I am guessing that might be one of the main points of contention.

At this point, I can only venture to guess that since the Federal government has a Civil Rights Act, 12 states have legalized gay marriage, and many more have anti-discriminatory laws, the belief that it isn't a choice is dwindling.

As for this particular news story, if you don’t feel like reading the entire source, here is where it stands as per the article: The fate is still undecided, as it appears to be going to court. If they can prove it was discrimination, the cake shop can be fined five hundred dollars per case and up to a year in jail for refusing to serve homosexuals. If I were a business owner, I would personally never find myself in that position; however, is jail time a justifiable punishment? I understand the negative press and perhaps the fines… but is putting a (as far as we know) non-violent person in jail the right course of action… if it leads up to that?

It’s hard to write a conclusion, not only for a story that isn't finished, but for the major shift in the United States’ (and arguably all countries’) social and moral views that are still changing. After all, the MPAA, (a.k.a. the Hays code) initially forbid the portrayal of mixed race relationships on the silver screen because that was considered immoral.

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1 comment

Alphadogg16 profile image

Alphadogg16 3 years ago from Texas

As a business owner myself, I personally feel I have the right to refuse service if I so choose. I've never refused service on a religious beliefs or differences in beliefs. Everyone has their own beliefs/preferences and you can't go around trying to force yours on to other people. Money is green no matter where/who it comes from.

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