Fox & Friends: Are We A “Free Country” If Businesses Can't Discriminate Against Gay Customers?

Fox News continued its defense of anti-LGBT discrimination by businesses, conducting a one-sided interview with the owners of a now-shuttered bakery that refused to provide a lesbian couple with a wedding cake and suggesting that those who oppose anti-LGBT discrimination fail to display “tolerance.”

On September 4, Fox & Friends invited Aaron and Melissa Klein, the co-owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa. The Kleins closed their storefront in the wake of a civil rights complaint that alleged the couple violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which prohibits discrimination against LGBT individuals in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Co-host Steve Doocy suggested that refusing to serve the lesbian couple didn't indicate a bias against LGBT people, just opposition to same-sex marriage. "[Y]ou didn't refuse to serve gay people, simply the gay weddings, right?" Doocy asked Melissa Klein, as if the lesbian couple's sexual orientation was irrelevant to Klein's refusal to serve them. Klein undercut Doocy's suggestion that she and her husband lacked anti-LGBT animus when she replied that she “can't participate in the wedding” because “homosexuality is - the behavior - is a sin.”

Making no distinction between personal religious belief and public business practices, co-host Gretchen Carlson then used the closure of Sweet Cakes by Melissa to question whether we're still a “free country”:

CARLSON: So that's your personal belief and that's your husband's personal belief and in this free country we would think that there would be tolerance for your beliefs and for people who disagree with you. But what ended up happening, because I'm watching the video now of these protests and people outside with signs and you ultimately had to close your business.

Carlson's idea of a “free country,” it would seem, is one where businesses can freely discriminate on the basis of customers' identities - but not one where citizens could stage protests and hold signs protesting bigoted discrimination.

Contrary to what Fox & Friends and other critics of anti-discrimination policies claim, laws like the Oregon Equality Act don't create “thought police” to threaten basic rights. If a business owner wants to believe that gays are sinful and depraved, that African-Americans are inherently inferior to whites, or that all Latino immigrants should be deported, there's nothing the government can do to prevent the owner from holding such views. What the government can do is ensure that the business owner doesn't engage in discriminatory business practices on the basis of them.