Flat White

Tolerance – or else

8 February 2019

5:05 PM

8 February 2019

5:05 PM

The organisers of the Hardcore Till I Die festival and the managers of Sydney Newtown Hotel both deserve credit for exercising fundamental human rights recently.

The festival refused entry to Derrick Krusche, who had bought a ticket, because he had been identified as a journalist from The Sunday Telegraph. “Management has the right to refuse entry,” he was told.

On the same day – Australia Day – the Newtown Hotel posted a sign in its window banning patrons wearing Aussie flags.

Both businesses attracted a flurry of criticism from online commenters and even politicians.

Curiously, though, nobody threatened either business with violence or complained that what they were doing was illegal. That’s because most reasonable people, no matter how irate, instinctively know that business owners are free to decide who they should let in and who can be politely told to take their money elsewhere.

If a business wants to attract a certain demographic at the expense of others, so be it. The market will decide if the business survives. That’s how it works in a liberal society.

Or at least that’s how it works until the patron seeking entrance to the business wears a flag bearing a rainbow instead of a Union Jack and Southern Cross.

Last year a West Australian wedding magazine called White was forced to shut down after gay activists learned it was omitting to feature same-sex marriages. The Christian couple who had been running the magazine for 12 years were branded bigots and warned their house would be burned down, according to a report in The Australian.

“A number of advertisers withdrew their sponsorship out of fear of being judged, or in protest,’’ the owners said. “We have had to recognise the reality that White magazine is no longer economically viable.”

It’s not just individuals who reach for the pitchforks when gays are allegedly maligned. Also last year, a Perth photographer who agreed to do a job for a same-sex couple but admitted to feeling uneasy about it due to his religious beliefs was forced by the WA Human Rights Commission to publish a humiliating apology on his own website.

LGBTI devotees argue that the photographer and the magazine were discriminating on the grounds of sexual orientation, which in the past has been systematic and heinously oppressive.

The Newtown Hotel, meanwhile, was merely making a fashion statement, and the festival was trying to prevent adverse publicity. These crimes are not as insidious as homophobia has been for much of Australia’s history.

There is a legal distinction here too. Sexuality is a “protected attribute” under Federal law, which makes discrimination on such grounds illegal. Fashion statements and journalistic inquisitiveness do not enjoy the same protection for good reasons.

But it’s also important to note that neither the magazine nor the photographer strictly discriminated against gays. The magazine opposed gay marriage, which is a separate issue, and the photographer accepted the job from the gay couple anyway.

The severity of the sanctions against both clearly indicates the pendulum has swung too far towards the gay lobby.

Fortunately, a solution is at hand, one which social justice warriors already seem to endorse.

Like the case of the pub and the festival, business owners should be free to decide who to accept as clients. If their discrimination defies social standards, their business will suffer. And to paraphrase Groucho Marx, why would gays want to spend their money in a business that wouldn’t have them as a customer?

We don’t need laws to make these decisions on our behalf. When politicians start enforcing moral standards upon us they have gone too far. Not only are they assuming a moral superiority that they do not possess, but they create rules that become unnecessarily complex.

Last year a committee chaired by former federal cabinet minister Philip Ruddock investigated how the legalisation of same-sex marriage affected the balance of gay and other rights. Its key finding was that religious organisations should retain the right to not enrol students or hire teachers if doing so contravened their religious beliefs.

Really? Christian schools responded by saying they didn’t do this anyway. Most Australians feel the same way. We have long since shed both our casual and institutionalised homophobia.

There is an old fable by Aesop about the wind and the sun seeing a man wearing a coat walking along a path and making a bet about which of them can force him to remove the coat. The wind goes first and tries to blow the coat off. But the harder it blows, the tighter the man clings to it. You can guess the rest.

The gay lobby these days acts like the wind, trying to force the rest of society to adopt its position when most of us have already done so anyway.

It wasn’t long ago that it was more like the sun – warmly persuading everyone that gayness was nothing to be afraid of.

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