The ABC hit show, What Would You Do, specializes in manufacturing awkward situations to see how the average person will react. Friday’s episode was no exception.
The first situation involved a bakery owner publicly turning away a lesbian couple wanting a wedding cake. He told them in no uncertain terms that he wouldn’t serve them on the ground that they were lesbians. You can watch the clip here.
Multiple bystanders supported the lesbians. Some going so far as to say that if the owner wouldn’t serve the lesbians, the bakery wouldn’t get their business either. The few customers that sided with the bakery owner chose not to have their faces shown on television.
While watching, not once did I see the actor playing the role of a bakery owner politely refuse away the couple. Instead he loudly used words such as “disgusting” and “appalling” to describe the lesbians and their behavior.
This prompted my tweet to host John Quinones:
I fully understand that advocates of gay marriage may consider my comparison of same sex couples to shoes insensitive. That is not my intention. My point is that stores have a long precedent that permits them to turn those away who do not fit their internal values.
But it goes further: Businesses have been sued and threatened to be fined for refusing to serve same sex couples. You can check out one of those instances here.
This kind of punishment brazenly violates business owners’ right to freedom of speech.
If you choose to exercise a gay lifestyle, that is in your constitutional rights to do so. Just as it is in a bakery’s constitutional right to turn you away because your lifestyle isn’t supported by their value system.
Finally, businesses who do turn customers away should do so respectfully, quietly, and delicately. I suspect that if the actor on “What Would You Do” had done the same we would have seen a different reaction from spectators.
Are there any points I missed? What advice do you have for business owners facing legal action as a result of exercising their freedom of speech?
Michelle Stansbury is a member of the marketing consulting firm, Boxxbury Marketing, that services small businesses in the United States and United Kingdom. If your small business needs marketing help you can learn more about Boxxbury Marketing by contacting Michelle here. You can follow her on Twitter: @mbstansbury