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Should Religious Business Owners Be Legally Permitted to Turn Away Gay Customers -- And Vice-Versa?

“I didn’t do the cake because of my convictions for their lifestyle."

Remember Victoria Childress, the baker in Des Moines, Iowa, who refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple's wedding?

There was a great deal of debate surrounding the story, with supporters claiming that it was her right as a Christian business owner to decline the service; opponents, though, called her stance discriminatory and decried it.

Here's a recap from The Blaze's coverage of the story back in November:

Trina Vodraska and Janelle Sievers claim that they were shocked when they approached Victoria Childress, the owner of Victoria’s Cake Cottage, and she declined their business. “It was degrading, you know, it was like she chastised us for wanting to do business with her,” Vodraska said. [...]

“I didn’t do the cake because of my convictions for their lifestyle. It is my right as a business owner,” Childress explained. “It is my right, and it’s not to discriminate against them. It’s not so much to do with them, as it’s to do with me, and my walk with God and what I will answer (to) him for,” she continued.

While the couple were initially mulling legal action, Childress recently told The Blaze that she hasn't heard anything since the story of her refusal to serve the women initially broke. Additionally, rather than seeing her business decline, Childress says it has actually picked up as a result of the drama.

"I've had people call me, see that there's a boycott against my business...and say, 'Can I order something from you?,'" she said. "I shipped out 90 dozen Christmas cookies from people who wanted to support me from across the country [back in December]."

Despite the success, she says she is still getting hate mail. However, she maintains a positive outlook on the matter.

"It's been a blessing," Childress says. "God has used it."

The story certainly had strong emotion on both sides of the debate, but what would happen if the roles were reversed? Let's say the business owner is a gay male or female who refuses to serve an individual who is opposed to same-sex marriage. Does that change the way in which people view it?

Last month, The Blaze reported on a story encompassing this very scenario, as hairstylist Antonio Darden publicly refusal to style New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez's hair, citing her opposition to gay marriage in his reasoning. While same-sex unions aren't recognized in the state, Darden is apparently so turned off by the governor's opinion on the matter that he refuses to cut and style her hair.

According to The New York Daily News, the hairdresser told a local outlet that he has cut Martinez's hair three times, but that he won't do it any longer -- unless she reverses her opposition to gay marriage.

"The governor’s aides called not too long ago, wanting another appointment to come in," he said in an interview with KOB-TV. “Because of her stances and her views on this, I told her aides no. They called the next day, asking if I’d changed my mind about taking the governor in and I said no.”

These, of course, are only two examples of individuals who have opted to decline service. In the first example, Childress chose to withhold her support of a gay union (for religious reasons). In the second, Darden refused to provide service to a female client, because she opposes same-sex marriage (for personal reasons).

While there notable differences between the cases, an overall question lingers: Should business owners be allowed to decline service to customers based on ideological differences?

Take our poll, below, which explores several questions associated with this intriguing debate and we'll share the results with you in the coming days:

Freedom to Decline Service

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