If there are Christian tattoo artists, we may have the next wave of anti-anti-discrimination cases.
I can’t say I find Mr. Bythewood’s argument for not providing the tattoo particularly convincing (is there really a “traditional tattoo honor code?”) but that’s the point. I don’t have to. It’s his business, and unless I’m very mistaken, he’s not the only tattoo artist in New York.
Anti-discrimination laws, including those based on gender, were most needed when discrimination was extensive, unregenerate and unlocalized. Since the 1950s, America has switched the defaults, and marginalized the kinds of discrimination that were taken for granted: based on race, gender, and now even sexual orientation. There will never be no discrimination unless someone has finally figured out a way to make a utopia work when its inhabitants will be human beings endowed with liberty. The best a free society can hope for is to stand, as a whole, for individual liberty, draw clear enough lines about what is truly out-of-bounds, and leave the gray areas for people to negotiate.
Getting a tattoo, ordering a cake for your wedding, arranging for a photographer to document your happiness; these are perfectly respectable gray areas where there are choices pretty much anywhere in this country. Those choices will not always be ideal ones everywhere, but unless the rule we are seeking is that everyone must have ideal choices everywhere, every time, we have to consider what the appropriate limits on government power must be.
I don’t want my government demanding that I can get a tattoo or a cake from anyone I want. As an un-inked American, I could no more have gotten a tattoo from Mr. Bythewood than Jane Marie could. Going somewhere else is one of the calamities I must live with as someone who values a free society.
Bythewood is partly right that Jane Marie trivializes the tradition of feminism with her overstated “wolf cry.” But that kind of self-dramatizing is becoming endemic. As true discrimination has diminished, it takes more effort to play the victim. Histrionics are practically necessary.
This does not just trivialize the profoundly important movements that got us to today, it trivializes government itself. There are vitally important things that we should expect of our government. But policing an infinite number of daily commercial and personal transactions is not among them.