Following last week’s marriage equality rulings, opponents of marriage equality have been negotiating various strategies to avoid recognizing or respecting same-sex matrimony. A hardware store owner in East Tennessee took it upon himself to post a “No Gays Allowed” sign in his store window Monday. And if he did refuse someone entry to this story for being gay or lesbian, that would be perfectly legal.
Jeff Amyx, owner of Amyx Hardware & Roofing Supplies, switched the sign out on Tuesday with a new one that clarified, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who would violate our rights of freedom of speech & freedom of religion,” complete with his signature.
Amyx, a baptist minister, has been adamant about his anti-gay beliefs, explaining to WBIR 10 News, “I’m going to take more persecution than them because I’m standing for what I believe in.” He will sell to gay people so long as they “behave” and don’t express their opinions in the store.
In an interview Tuesday with WATE, Amyx clarified, “I don’t hate people. It’s not the people I hate, it’s the sin that I hate.” He also admitted that he might preach to gay customers a bit.
Amyx said that the sign will remain “until they tell me it is illegal to have my freedom of speech and to my freedom of religion.” That could be a while. Tennessee has no statewide law protecting LGBT people from discrimination in public accommodations like hardware stores. In fact, Tennessee was the first state in the nation where state lawmakers passed a law forbidding municipalities from extending such protections. (Arkansas followed suit earlier this year.) No protections exist at the federal level either.
That means that as blatantly offensive as Amyx’s business practices appear to be, there is absolutely nothing forbidding him from continuing to do so. He is a stark reminder that Friday’s marriage equality victory is by no means an end to the fight for LGBT equality throughout society.