Commerce is a fantastic window into the sphere of freedom itself. Take the example of the knitter from TN. She has the right, as does everyone who engages in commerce, to sell to whomever she wishes. Inseparable from this is the right to refuse service to anyone she wishes. Such is the working-out of the fundamental right of association, spoken of in the first amendment to the Constitution.
The Federalist party has it wrong. Neither the federal government nor the state has any justification for demanding that private businesses and private organizations hire or serve anyone. However, the government must be fair and equal to all citizens, for it represents the citizens. Private businesses and organizations do not. There is no representation in the voluntary association of individuals in a business, a church, a charity, a sports team, or any other non-governmental entity. To claim that a voluntary association must serve as a representative organ is to impale freedom.
Yet that is exactly what non-discrimination laws for private entities do, and they inevitably lock their hands around the throat of the free exercise of religion itself. Such laws are crutches for the insecure. “If we don’t have anti-discrimination laws for gays, then what will happen?” The answer is people will still make their economic choices, just like they do today. If you do not like the stance of a company or its practices, shop elsewhere. If you don’t find a company that serves your needs, start your own or partner with others to do so. Thus, the law is unneeded, but fundamentally, NO-ONE HAS ANY MORAL OBLIGATION TO SERVE YOU. To use government to force people to cater to you is immoral.
The freedoms of commerce are just as crucial as the freedom to create what I wish, the freedom to live where I wish, and the freedom to move about as I wish.
How did we get to this awful place where some freedoms are prized more than others? To this low point where people think that you can pick and choose and nothing ill will result? Some of it is ignorance – too many people are not engaged in business, so why would they care what businesses do? Too many people are not spiritual in any way, so why would they care what happens to those who believe differently than they do? The sliding scales of economic oppression and religious oppression are lost upon such minds. If they will regulate your neighbor, they will regulate you. If they will forbid his public practice of faith, they will forbid yours. The more the government regulates, the more it controls, and the less freedom we all have.
At the base of it all is that people think that they can live by giving away moral agency. However, nothing is more bound up with us as spiritual and fleshly beings than this, and it cannot ever be assigned to someone else. You can create something you think gives it away, but moral agency is non-transferrable. It always remains yours. Like you cannot outsource charity to someone else, neither can you outsource responsibility. No law will make you righteous. No government edict will end bigotry. You and I individually must choose to be fair-minded. You and I individually must practice righteousness.
The answer is not more laws for other people. The answer is more character for individuals.