Why The Rockettes' Inauguration Protest Is Totally Different Than Anti-LGBTQ Businesses Refusing To Serve People

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The Donald Trump controversy of the moment involves the Radio City Rockettes, the beloved dancers who are reportedly being forced under threat of termination to perform at his inauguration. Like most issues these days, online commentary seems largely drawn along party lines, with liberals sticking up for the Rockettes' right to boycott, and conservatives saying they should suck it up and perform. One popular argument used by those unsympathetic to the Rockettes' cause is the story of the Christian baker who was forced to make a "gay" cake. While the scenarios may seem similar and the argument potentially persuasive, there's a big difference between the Rockettes' protest and anti-LGBTQ+ businesses, because one is discriminatory and the other isn't.

Full disclosure: I was temporarily swayed by this argument. On the surface, it does seem unfair to force people with strongly held religious objections to grin and bear it, while at the same time advocating for the Rockettes' right to do the same on the basis of their own strongly held moral objections. Trying to have an open mind toward "the other side," I did briefly see a basis for this logic. But there are some crucial differences between Christian bakers and the Rockettes that make the situations incomparable.

When a same-sex couple walks into a bakery and asks for a wedding cake, the store owner doesn't know anything about them except that they are in a same-sex relationship. Thereby, refusing to serve them is discrimination, because the basis of their being treated differently than any other customer is just their belonging to a specific group of people. Christian, anti-LGBTQ+ business owners are technically defending their own religious beliefs, but they are also discriminating just because of one's sexual orientation.

On the other hand, the Rockettes presumably know a lot about Trump. There are innumerable reasons to stand in objection to him, from his business dealings, to his campaign rhetoric, to the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him (which he continues to deny). The Rockettes don't want to boycott his inauguration because he's straight or because he's a man. It's not about who he is, but what he's said and done. They have legitimate reasons to object to him personally, not just on the grounds of his belonging to a certain group of people.

I completely understand having religious questions about how to interact with LGBTQ+ people — Christianity, and particularly some of the more conservative denominations, use powerful emotional arguments to discourage followers from embracing people who deviate from the norm. But ultimately, refusing to serve someone because of an identity they have is discrimination, and there's no way to sugarcoat that. It's also not comparable to the Rockettes, because they have reason to object to Trump personally, by virtue of his actions, and politically, for myriad reasons.