Regarding that "No Gays Allowed" sign

The Supreme Court recently made an excellent decision about marriage equality and now, the backlash from conservatives.

Businesses that deal with weddings, like photographers, bakeries, florists, and wedding planners will be making some decisions. A friend says that for those businesses that don’t want to serve the LGBT community, perhaps we can say, "OK, fine, as long as you advertise that you are denying these customers.” Let the market itself take care of those businesses. Unfortunately though, in many rural places, people do not have a variety of choices.

Recently, some news: “Tennessee hardware store owner has been getting death threats after posting a ‘No Gays Allowed’ sign on his front door, but he stands by his homophobic message,” according to the New York Daily News. He took down the first sign and replaced it with:

We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who would violate our rights of freedom of speech & freedom of religion.

I do not understand how LGBT customers can violate his freedom of speech, much less his freedom of religion.

Jeff Amyx, the store owner, is also a Baptist minister. I don’t know anywhere in the Bible that it says not to sell a wrench to a LGBT person. Maybe this man doesn’t serve people of other faiths, like Jewish people. Does he serve adulterers? Wasn’t there something in the Ten Commandments about that? I don’t know how business owners can know such facts about our private lives anyway, unless they have gaydar.

Chris Sanders, Executive Director of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) says, “A few hateful business owners cannot stem the tide of the growing number of companies embracing equality. We have over 20 new members of Tennessee Open For Business from East TN. So this hardware store doesn't define the region.”

My friend, Ernie Boyd, said in response to the USA Today article: “Can you imagine if a sign says, ‘No Baptist Ministers Allowed?’ He’d justifiably be upset. But, then again, he wasn't born a Baptist pastor. He chose to be one.”

Over 50 years ago, African Americans often couldn’t stop on road trips to eat in restaurants or use public bathrooms because they were barred from all-white establishments. There were laws against interracial couples as well. The Supreme Court finally intervened.

I don’t want to live in a country where business owners can deny services solely based on their beliefs and assumptions about people. The legality of denying customers is important but even more significant are the morality and ethics of excluding particular types of customers.

A business owner, Saralee Terry Woods voiced her opinion: “BookManBookWoman Bookstore welcomes everyone and we do not discriminate. One of the owners has been speaking out for gay rights in television and radio interviews for more than 30 years. We have a Tennessee Equality Project sign on our front door.” This is the kind of world I would like to live in.

Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of Tennessee’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says: “Gay and lesbian people are our neighbors, coworkers, family members and friends. When it comes to being able to be served by a business, they should be treated like anyone else. Religion should not be used as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people. Businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms.”

My question to Mr. Amyx, the hardware store owner: “If you are a Christian, didn’t you grow up singing a song about Jesus loving ‘all the little children of the world?’”




Barbara Sanders, LCSW, is a Nashville psychotherapist:

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