Whatever Happened To The Freedom Of Association?

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The North Dakota legislature is considering SB2252 which would add gays to the list of classes protected from discrimination under state law. If the law passes, it would be illegal for employers, lenders and landlords to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Religious organizations, however, get an exemption. Gay activists are testifying in favor of the bill, as is the Chamber of Commerce which is strange because you’d think that organization would want to stand up for the right of businesses to make these choices.

The problem I have with these laws is that I don’t think the government ought to be taking away our right to choose who we want to associate with. Maybe this is just a quaint notion from a by-gone age, but I happen to believe that the freedom of association not only means that you’re to associate with whoever you want, you’re also free to choose who you don’t want to associate with.

In fact, it is this very right to association that gays are fond of invoking when they argue for their right to marriage. I believe gay marriage should be legal because I think consenting adults ought to be able to associate themselves with one another in whatever fashion they find agreeable. But if we’re to expect the right of free association for gays when it comes to marraige, why can’t we respect that same right of free association for businesses or individuals who might not want to associate with gays?

That’s not an attitude I would agree with, I would personally boycott any business or organization discriminating against gay, but I’m not in the supporting limits on choices simply because I disagree with them. Because otherwise what we’re saying is that we have freedom of association, except for certain associations mandated by law.

I think discrimination against gays is cruel, but I also get a chill down my spine when I read stories like this one about a baker under investigation by the government for refusing to make a cake for a gay wedding.

I think people ought to be free to make choices about their associations, even when their choices might be motivated by bigotry and hatred.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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