My Turn, Steve Owen: Don’t put gay marriage on menu

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 14, 2015

To date, discussions of religious liberty versus court-mandated services (centered on bakeries, photographers, and caterers) have been focused on obligation to serve.

I would like to introduce a new but related topic: the ability of a business owner to define the services he or she is willing to extend.

Suppose I come into a Dairy Queen. I approach the server and request items from the menu.  If I have the means to pay, the server must provide me the items I request, unless the shop has sold out of a particular selection.

If I come into the Dairy Queen and request a porterhouse steak, or tortillas or chicken chow mein, the server does not have to provide the items. Why? Because those items are not on the menu. Dairy Queen has the right to choose the items it will provide, to establish where the service will be provided (counter or table), and thereby legally establish the scope of service.

I would suggest this course of action for bakeries, photographers, caterers and others who want to assure that they do not violate their conscience in serving the public.

Provide each customer a menu, itemizing products and services, with a consistent delineation of costs per item and service.

For example, customers wanting a cake would know the slogans the baker will place on the cake.

That list can be as comprehensive or as limited as the baker wishes it to be. The customer can choose not to employ the baker if the limits do not suit him.

A photographer could inform potential customers that he does not cover weddings, but limits herself to portraits made within the studio.

By offering a menu, a baker married to someone of the same sex could avoid having to bake cakes reading “Adam & Eve,” not “Adam & Steve.”  A caterer can inform customers right from the start that he limits his business to commercially sponsored events, held on business premises.

Up to this point, businesses have had the power to decide what legal products they will offer for sale. Businesses have had the authority to decide the limits of service.  Some of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten have been at places without indoor tables, for example. I really didn’t think I was being deprived of something while I stood there eating.

Of course, all I wanted was something to eat; I wasn’t getting into a snit about some political point.

Steve Owen lives in Rowan County.

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