Monday, October 20, 2014

The Gay Thing: So-called "Religious Freedom" Cases are Not What They Seem

When I started this blog, I never intended for "The Gay Thing" to be anything more than an occasional topic. The news cycle doesn't really permit that anymore, does it? Couple that with the fact that this blog is also my sounding board, the place where I go to get things off of my chest. And this topic often generates that need, particularly when it comes to backlash and stupidity (they often go together).
Here's a FOX "News" story about one of the early
"religious freedom" cases, Sweet Cakes by Melissa.
There wasn't legal marriage in Oregon at the time.

Helpfully labeled so you know he's not Melissa.

Marriage equality is very nearly a done deal. Before the end of the year, we'll likely be past 35 states and the District of Columbia. What's left is pretty much the deep south and the Dakotas, with some stragglers around the edges (come on, Ohio, you're embarrassing me!). But the anti-gay side--and don't kid yourself, that is what they are--isn't ready to give up. Since they're pretty much out of options in regard to the actual legality of same-sex marriage, what they've got left is to make all sorts of claims of "religious freedom." They're actually making a case that the ability to legally discriminate, shun, or otherwise refuse service to gay people, is a central tenet of their religion.

And the story about the
Houston sermon subpoena
thing from Joe.My.God.
That's mayor Annise Parker,
who's caught up in it.
Finding the commandment or verse that calls for this is difficult, but that's not stopping them. This actually started a while back, when the marriage equality tsunami was just a few lapping waves. It was odd too, because it was almost exclusively wedding industry Christians (cake bakers, photographers, venue operators, dress makers, caterers) from states where gay people couldn't marry anyway. It actually rather shone a light on their lie that they weren't anti-gay, just religiously objecting to gay marriage. How can that be true when these weren't legal marriages anyway? Sometimes--as in a religion-meddling-in-politics case in Houston--marriage isn't even a part of the controversy. It's pretty plain: they just don't like gay people, and want to be mean and/or able to ignore that they exist.

So, they've amped up their martyr complexes, and made mini celebrities out of themselves all across Right Wing World. And now that equality has come to the majority of the US, they're turning it up to eleven. The trouble is, their claims have just enough truthiness, and surfacy-outrage to potentially stick. In other words, though their claims are absolute bullshit, it might sound convincing enough to create backlash. Now, why do I say their claims are bullshit?

Well, first there is the above note that they have a difficult time pointing out the specific religious objections they might have to selling products or services to gay people. Second, this often has little to do with marriage itself, it has to do with public accommodation laws, which predate legal marriage. If you have a public accommodation business, open to the general public, you must serve the general public. It's as simple as the Woolworth's lunch counter not being legally able to bar black customers. I don't care if you don't think sexual orientation is a perfect analogy to race, legally, these cases are identical. If there is a public accommodation law that covers gay people (and they are far from universal, lest you think otherwise), you can't refuse to do business with them just because they're gay. Or have a different religion. Or are black. Or anything else covered by the law.

The unbelievable disingenuousness of Las Vegas
wedding chapels (Elvis?) alleging to be solemn
churches is just galling.
Now, there are new cases, even right here in Nevada, where wedding chapels are deciding not to perform marriages for gay couples, using a "religious freedom" excuse. And this is where the truthiness comes in. It sounds like a religious freedom case, because: chapel. And the officiant may very well be religious and homophobic (I'm sorry, your religion doesn't shield you from being a bigot). But these chapels, in every one of these new cases, are not churches, they are businesses. Consider if you will, the parade of couples who have gone through your average Las Vegas little white chapel. Do you mean to tell me every one has been as pure as the driven snow, with a religion that aligns perfectly with the officiant? Really?

So, while I believe that these cases are bullshit, and a transparent attempt by the anti-gay to exert some control over a situation where they have none, I do worry. I saw Hobby Lobby, a case that was a
A rustic, wild west, for-profit church?!?
Our latest martyrs from Idaho.
Pandora's box filled with mind boggling implications. One of them could be giving these chapels inherent religious beliefs and rights, out of thin air. And once you've carved out exceptions to some laws for the "sincerely held beliefs" of one religion, tell me, where would it stop? This isn't a slippery slope question, this is an obvious, and clear eventuality: there would suddenly be other beliefs that need to be "protected" by carving out exceptions to other laws. And pretty soon, it wouldn't just be Christians seeking them. Right Wing World rarely thinks about that.

As an atheist, I am a staunch supporter of religious freedom, because it protects my lack of belief, or is supposed to. But I don't like disingenuous, manipulative, dishonest movements like this one. And I have a very hard time thinking it's a good idea to grant legal exceptions for what amount to mythical beliefs.

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