Why are Liberals heaping praise on Dick’s Sporting Goods following its announcement last week that it’s stores will soon start discriminating against customers?
After proclaiming “thoughts and prayers are not enough” on Wednesday, Dick’s Sporting Goods Chairman and CEO, Edward W. Stack, declared the national chain “will no longer sell firearms to anyone under 21 years of age.”
The same politicians and pundits screaming “bake the cake,” are celebrating the sporting goods giant’s announcement that it will treat customers differently based solely on their age. When Walmart and Kroger (which according to The Wall Street Journal sell guns at its Fred Meyer stores in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington) followed suit, stating they too would discriminate against young adults, the accolades hit a crescendo.
How is it that the Left celebrates this discrimination, while seeking to destroy bakers and florists who are more than willing to sell a cake or flowers to all comers, but just cannot, in conscience, create a masterpiece to celebrate a same-sex marriage? The bakers and florists aren’t discriminating on the basis of the customers’ status. And they aren’t discriminating based on stereotypical views. They are merely holding firm to their sincerely held religious belief that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman. Yet, if they refuse to design a cake for the impending nuptials of two 19-year-old men, they are condemned as bigots.
But if the same couple walks into Dick’s Sporting Goods, or Walmart, or Fred Meyer, to purchase his-and-his hunting rifles with the money they received as wedding presents, the retailers would be performing a public service by refusing to sell the guns to the under-21-year-old set. That’s right: Discrimination is now a public service. And not just any discrimination — discrimination based solely on the stereotypical view that age determines the maturity and responsibility of the would-be purchasers.
Same-sex marriage is now considered a constitutional right. But the right to bear arms is actually in the constitution. Sure, some states limit firearm sales to those 21 or older, but in states setting 18 as the legal limit, why should businesses that are open to the public discriminate at the check-out based on the identity of the adult purchaser? No one is asking the sellers to smith the weapons — just scan them.
Hypocrisy to the side, once the public-relations outreach quiets down, corporate lawyers might want to have a word with their clients. While federal civil rights laws don’t protect individuals under 40 from discrimination, several states have adopted laws prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations based on age, no matter the customer’s age.
For instance, in Delaware where state law allows 18- to 20-year-olds to purchase shotguns and rifles, but not handguns, the state’s anti-discrimination laws prohibit age discrimination by a place of public accommodation. The Delaware statute defines a place of accommodation to mean “any establishment which caters to or offers goods or services or facilities to, or solicits patronage from, the general public.” Dicks Sporting Goods and Walmart, which both have locations in Delaware, easily qualify as places of public accommodation.
Delaware’s law further provides that the owners and operators of a place of public accommodation shall not “directly or indirectly refuse, withhold from or deny to any person, on account of race, age, marital status, creed, color, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin, any of the accommodation, facilities, advantages or privileges thereof.” Being denied the right to legally purchase a rifle or shotgun would qualify.
The Delaware anti-discrimination law goes further, though, and Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart may have already violated a second subsection of the anti-discrimination law that provides that the store may not “post or display any written, typewritten, mimeographed, printed or radio communications notice or advertisement to the effect that any of the accommodations, facilities, advantages and privileges of any place of public accommodation shall be refused, withheld from or denied to any person on account of race, age, marital status,” or the other protected classes noted above.
While only about 20 states ban age discrimination, and many of those jurisdictions limit the protection to older Americans — those 40 or older — a handful of states, such as Connecticut, Montana, Ohio, prohibit all discrimination on the basis of age. To complicate matters, as Eugene Volokh explained over at the Volokh Conspiracy, “some cities and counties have similar ordinances (even if their states don’t); two I found, for instance, are Madison, Wisconsin and Broward County, Florida.” So even if the state doesn’t prohibit age discrimination, each store location would need to verify that its anti-youth animus is lawful.
The question now is whether some enterprising attorney will swoop in to push an age discrimination case. With the state civil rights statutes authorizing the payment of attorney’s fees, it could be soon. But with the deep-pocket retailers involved, they can well afford the cost. The mom-and-pop bakers defending religious liberty? Not so much.