We discriminate when we select foods and drinks to consume (and which to eschew) from a vast array of available choices, when we choose which books to read, which films, television program and plays to see, broadcast programs and music to hear, products to consume, and commercial establishments to patronize.
We discriminate when we choose friends and others with whom to associate as well as whom to date and wed.
Few of us would find life worth living without the freedom to make these discriminatory choices, and especially the last of the above-listed associational examples.
The freedom of association -- to associate with individuals we choose -- also necessarily includes the freedom to not associate with those we prefer to avoid.
There was a time in the not too distant past that the freedom of not associating was protected by the posting in many commercial establishments of signs proclaiming:
We Reserve the Right
to Refuse Service
to AnyoneSociety found it necessary to limit that right because its exercise often made it impossible for members of disfavored minorities to obtain housing, adequate education, and essential public accommodations and services such as rooms, food and drink, and transportation. And the resulting limits on denials of those things have been laudatory . . . until recently.
Overbearing bureaucrats once again are demonstrating that even good ideas can be pushed to counterproductive and even destructive extremes.
That, for example, is what has been taking place as public (though unelected) bodies operating as "equal rights" enforcers have been coming down on the proprietors of small bakeries and catering businesses for refusing to provide goods or services to homosexual nuptials. Such refusals of business are hardly the equivalent of denying essential goods or services to a member of a racial or ethnic minority. The desired wedding cake or catering service is not an essential of life and is almost always available from competing businesses and alternate sources.
Nonetheless noncompliance with the bureaucratic dictates and edicts have resulted in fines so draconian that they have caused the small businesses to fail or shut down. In addition, the proprietors and their employees have been compelled to participate in sensitivity training sessions -- forced reeducation programs along the lines envisioned by George Orwell in 1984 and actually put into practice by Stalin in the Soviet Union, Mao Tse-Tung in China, and Pol Pot in Cambodia.
If the proprietor of a business (other than one dealing in the basic essentials of life) chooses, to forgo doing business with anyone, he or she should be left alone to do so. The reason for making such a choice is not the business of anone else. It can be based on individual conscience, religious beliefs, personal preference, just feeling cranky, any other reason, or even personal whim or no reason at all. That's what the freedom of association, the freedom to discriminate, is all about.
In addition, there's that pesky prohibition of involuntary servitude enshrined in and protected by the Constitution's 13th Amendment.