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Chasten Buttigieg Slams Transphobic Michigan Salon Owner From His Hometown

Chasten Buttigieg Slams Transphobic Michigan Salon Owner From His Hometown

Chasten Buttigieg and a sign from the period of segregation

The Buttigieg family lives in Traverse City, where the owner of a local salon banned transgender and queer customers.

Author, educator, father of twins, and husband to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Chasten Buttigieg appeared on MSNBC to discuss how the owner of a hair salon and beauty supply store in the Michigan town where the Buttigieges live proclaimed that she would not serve transgender and queer people.

Appearing on The Beat with Ari Melber Wednesday, Buttigieg was asked to respond to news of a stance Christine Geiger, the owner of Studio 8 Hair Lab in Traverse City, took just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled discrimination against LGBTQ+ people is sometimes okay.

Geiger had made a now-deleted Facebook post, “If a human identifies as anything other than a man/woman, please seek services at a local pet groomer. You are not welcome at this salon. Period.”

Buttigieg, who grew up in Traverse City and wrote about his experience feeling alone and marginalized while growing up in his new memoir, I Have Something to Tell You–For Young Adults, blasted the owner’s bigotry.

“You’re free to have an opinion in this country, but you’re not free to discriminate. You are less free in this country if you have to start looking up in a directory where you will receive service and where you won’t,” Buttigieg said.

Although the court’s ruling in 303 Creative LLC vs. Elenis was very narrow and protected only businesses that engage in customized and expressive services from being compelled to make messages with which they disagree. The plaintiff in the case was a web designer who argued the state’s anti-discrimination law would force her to design wedding websites for same-sex couples, which is something she doesn’t agree with based on her religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court’s conservatives agreed.

According to the conservative majority on the court, the First Amendment allows such businesses to reject working for, among other things, LGBTQ+ people if they have firmly held beliefs about the community.

Melber mentioned that after the U.S. removed “whites only” signs after segregation, it appears that the American right wants to move to have “straights only” signs.

“I’m telling you the news that the Supreme Court is saying you can put up similar signs. They don’t happen to say whites only. They would say something like straights only or whatever word you want to use,” he said. “We have the Supreme Court of the United States erecting and allowing new discrimination on the basis of identity and cue the reaction around the country.“

Buttigieg noted, “[Y]ou are totally allowed to have an opinion, and that is one of the great things about America — that you can speak freely and have an opinion — but again, an opinion is very different than discrimination.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the Michigan Democrat, signed an amendment to the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights into law in March, which extends equal rights protections for people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The state’s attorney general, Dana Nessel, a lesbian, indicated to The Advocate through a spokesperson that she is aware of the salon owner’s position and that the department will address the matter.

Buttigieg cautioned viewers not to pigeonhole the entire community of the town, where he said many have moved toward a sense of inclusion and belonging.

“This is a town I ran away from when I was younger, convinced that I would never fit in, that I would never know community or family or love here, and now I love being here,” he said. “I love seeing this community and progress work towards that equality for everyone, and the outpouring of support for the LGBTQ community just in the last 24 hours after that Facebook post has been overwhelmingly supportive.”

Melber noted that Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the 303 Creative case that “…tolerance, not coercion, is our nation’s answer. The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands.”

However, Buttigieg said that this assertion is flawed because framing rights around tolerance leaves the door open for acts of prejudice.

“Tolerance is a tricky word because what you’re saying there is there might still be room for discrimination,” Buttigieg said. “I will tolerate your existence. I will tolerate the idea that some people might deny you service.”

Buttigieg said that the issue was quite simple.

“This is just a question of freedom. Are you free to be LGBTQ in this country? Is it okay to receive services? Will you be turned away simply for how God made you? I believe that this is how God made me. There was no choice along the way,” he said.

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