Apparently it’s OK to ban Trump supporters and kick alt-right douchebags like Milo Yiannopoulos and Chadwick Moore out of bars based on their political beliefs, according to a recent ruling by a Manhattan judge. But before you get too happy, just know this could open the door to a bar owner banning any customers based on their political beliefs.
When “Making America Great Again” goes wrong
A Philadelphia-based Trump supporter named Greg Piatek and his friends visited the Happiest Hour bar in New York City’s West Village in October 2016. He reportedly enjoyed a combination of 17 beers and cocktails before he was allegedly asked to leave by a manager who, according to Piatek, said, “Anyone who supports Trump — or believes what you believe — is not welcome here!”
Piatek was wearing one of Trump’s red “Make America Great Again” campaign hats at the time.
Because state anti-discrimination laws do not cover political beliefs as a protected class, Piatek’s lawyer tried to claim he had worn the hat to express his religious beliefs, in solidarity with those who had perished at the 9/11 site, which Piatek had visited before coming to the bar.
But Elizabeth Conway, the bar’s lawyer, didn’t see how wearing a MAGA hat is an expression of religious faith, and neither did the judge. Conway argued, “Supporting Trump is not a religion,” and reminded the court that political belief isn’t a type of discrimination forbidden by local, state or federal discrimination laws.
Piatek sued the bar for religious discrimination in March 2017 for “unspecified emotional damages.” Despite his alleged mistreatment at the bar, he still paid his $186 bar tab and left a $36 tip, perhaps because that’s what God and/or Trump would’ve wanted him to do.
Does this mean bars can now ban gay customers?
This raises the question of whether a gay person could ever be kicked out of a bar, the excuse being they’re a Democrat, liberal or progressive.
While New York state has laws forbidding discrimination in places of business based on “actual or perceived sexual orientation,” not all states have such laws. Even New York lacks a law explicitly forbidding discrimination against transgender people for their gender identity and expression.
But New York and other U.S. courts have held that discriminating against a gay, bi or trans person is a form of “sex discrimination,” and is thus covered by existing law. Furthermore, cases examining this very question are currently working their ways through several levels of the U.S. judicial system.
In a state where LGBTQ people are a protected class, a bar that tried to ban LGBTQ customers for wearing rainbow or pro-LGBTQ gear would have a difficult time winning that case. But in states without such laws, it’d be a more precarious situation.
Will & Grace recently touched on a similar issue, but got the politics dead wrong
Interestingly, a recent episode of the gay sitcom Will & Grace, entitled “The Beefcake and the Cake Beef,” tackled this issue in a different way when the show’s resident Trump supporter, Karen, ordered a “Make America Great Again” cake from an unwilling baker.
While the episode was funny, it got the politics dead wrong, mostly because it concluded that public businesses have an obligation to make cakes with political messages or to serve all customers regardless of their politics. Neither is true.
Businesses have an obligation to avail their services to people regardless of their sex. If they sell rainbow-colored cakes or wedding cakes to different-sex couples, then they have to sell them to same-sex couples, regardless of gender. But courts have ruled that bakeries aren’t obliged to make cakes with a political message the baker doesn’t approve of.
So while it may seem great that bars can ban Trump supporters whenever they like, this opens the door to other bars throwing out anyone showing support for liberal politicians. That might not happen in New York City, but it’s easy to envision such a thing happening in less liberal parts of the country.