Religious Freedom or Discrimination? Americans' Views on Denial of Service to Same-Sex and Interracial Couples

Fri, February 21, 2020 12:00 PM - Fri, February 21, 2020 1:30 PM at 457 Berkey Hall

ABSTRACT: Whether same-sex couples should be treated differently than two-sex couples is at the center of the current petition drive initiative in Michigan to legally protect the LGBT population. Legislators and courts continue to debate whether same-sex couples should be denied services if such services go against the business owner’s religious beliefs. Proponents of service refusal contend that requiring a business to provide services undermines religious freedom—and, for some businesses, artistic expression and freedom of speech. Opponents respond that service refusal to sexual minorities discriminates in the same way as service refusal to racial minorities did in the past. These debates are occurring at the same time that Americans’ views on gay rights have liberalized and same-sex marriage has been legalized. Yet we know little of what the public thinks about denial of services. Brian Powell reports patterns from the first national survey experiment that clarifies the extent to which the American public endorses or rejects businesses’ right to refuse service and the conditions that increase or decrease such support. He also discusses how Americans talk about religious freedom, discrimination, and denial of service.

BIOGRAPHY: Dr.Brian Powell is James H. Rudy professor and co-director of the Preparing Future Faculty program in the department of Sociology at Indiana University. He also is affiliated faculty in the department of Gender Studies and the Kinsey Institute. He served as department chair and recently was a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation.

Professor Powell's research focuses on family, education, gender, and sexuality. With grants from the National Science Foundation, American Education Research Association, and the Spencer Foundation, he has examined how families confer advantages (or disadvantages) to their children and how family structure influences parental investments in children. He is especially interested in several increasingly visible groups of "atypical" family forms: families with older parents, bi/multiracial families, adoptive families, and gay/lesbian families. His research has appeared in American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Sociology of Education, Social Psychology Quarterly, the American Journal of Public Health, and the Harvard Education Review, among others.

Professor Powell's award-winning book, COUNTED OUT: Same-Sex Relations and Americans' Definitions of Family co-authored with IU Ph.D.s Catherine Bolzendahl and Claudia Geist and Lala Carr Steelman from the University of South Carolina documented the transformation in how Americans define family and, in turn, their views regarding same-sex families. He currently is working on his next book, WHO SHOULD PAY? Higher Education, Responsibility and the Public, which explores Americans' views regarding the role of parents, children, and the government in college funding. He also is completing a series of studies that consider Americans views regarding same-sex parenting, transgender youths and adults, and denial of services to same-sex and interracial couples.