The derechistas are melting down over the failure of their “religious liberty” bills in Arizona and Kansas. Nothing surprising there.
What is new is a particular slant I’m seeing in their whines: Nobody, they’re saying, was going to use these bills to discriminate against gay people.
Here’s Stephen Kokx at catholicvote.org:
“Anti-gay? Refusal to serve?
What a repugnant way to report the news, given the fact that there wasn’t a shred of evidence suggesting Arizona business owners were chomping at the bit to indiscriminately refuse service to customers based on their sexual orientation.”
“But the Kansas bill and similar bills that protect liberty are about preventing the kind of coercion that happened under Jim Crow.”
And here’s Napp Nazworth, Christian Post Reporter:
“Business owners do not want to deny service to gays. This is not because they fear government sanction. Rather, it is because: 1) Their religious, ethical or moral beliefs tell them it is wrong to deny service; and/or, 2) the profit motive – turning away customers is no way to run a business.”
Kokx’s post is my favorite.* He’s partly right: Arizona business owners weren’t chomping at the bit to discriminate against gays, which is a big part of the reason the bill failed. But look at his next paragraph, in which he argues that such bills are necessary to protect religious freedom:
On the other hand, there was and continues to be, in Arizona and across the country, undeniable evidence that individuals are being coerced into acting against their deeply held religious beliefs, that the free exercise of religion is being infringed upon, and that stronger, sensible protections for religious liberty areneeded.
Um, Stephen… in what way are these individuals being coerced to act against their “deeply held religious beliefs”?
Oh, yeah: they’re not allowed to refuse to serve gay people.
Seriously, do these people read their own words? Do they just type a paragraph, and then get up and, I don’t know, make a sandwich or something, and then walk back to their laptops having completely forgotten what they’ve already written?
Or do they think that their readers are incapable of holding onto a thought from one paragraph to the next?
Anderson and Nazworth try the dodge that these laws only allow for discrimination against things related to gay marriage, not gay people, but they ignore the incredible broadness of “things related to gay marriage” or, in Anderson’s words, anything that affirms the relationship of a gay couple. As commenters at Andrew Sullivan’s site point out, that “protection” could plausibly apply to hotel owners, gas station attendants, travel agents, restaurant owners, or anyone who thinks that providing a service to a gay couple could celebrate that couple’s relationship. Anderson unwittingly** makes this point when he lists all the people who have argued for a right to refuse service to gay people or couples: “aphotographer, a baker, a florist, a bed-and-breakfast, a t-shirt company, a student counselor, the Salvation Army, and more.”
Look, we can debate whether and in what cases people who provide services to the public should have the right to refuse service. There’s a reasonable conversation to be had there. Weare balancing rights here, and that’s tricky. Let’s have that conversation.
And I understand that there is a principled case to be made against anti-discrimination laws, and for an unfettered right to free association, and if you want to make it, I’m willing to hear you out, as long as you understand with whom you’re standing. But this squirreling around, this refusal to admit what you’re advocating, is unbecoming. Have the courage of your convictions, guys.
*Kokx’s article is entitled “Is the Ghetto All We Have Left?” and his thesis is that he, poor soul, is now living—in his words—in a “Catholic Ghetto.” The lack of self-awareness is so obvious that I won’t waste words commenting on it.
**In fairness, all of Anderson’s best arguments are made unwittingly.