The controversy over the religious freedom laws has been fascinating. To see the backers of these laws, signed recently by the Republican governors of Indiana and Arkansas, shocked by the backlash from the likes of Walmart and the N.C.A.A - not exactly wild-eyed radicals – has been, to say the least, something to see.
What we’re seeing with these laws, which not only ensure that people can’t be prosecuted for following their religious beliefs but also and most critically extend this protection or right to businesses, is the last gasp of the religious right. There is already a federal law providing this protection to individuals, but the extension to businesses is a key difference, and the concern is that, for example, a photographer won’t provide services to a gay couple having a wedding or wanting a family portrait.
These state laws are a last stand, the last gasp, against same-sex marriage, which is now legal in a surprising majority of states and which many say will be okayed by the Supreme Court in the next few months. With the backlash from big businesses and big-time, money-making sport and entertainment entities and the subsequent hasty dialing down and rewriting of these laws – oh, of course, gay people can’t be refused service in any case – the conservatives and Christian fundamentalists are seeing that they no longer have much clout.
Wow! This is change – big-time, fascinating change.
It gets even more fascinating. Not only are people donating thousands of dollars to businesses that oppose same-sex marriage, but here’s what Eric Miller of Advance America (really?), who vigorously opposed the changes in the law, said: “If you have a homosexual baker, a homosexual florist, a homosexual photographer, and they say we do not want to participate in heterosexual weddings, that’s their right.”
So straights should go to straight bakeries, and gays should go to gay bakeries. Or is it that Christians should go to Christian bakeries and gays should go to gay bakeries? Should there be bakeries for straight Jews and straight Muslims?
Then there’s Joshua Feuerstein, an Arizona evangelist who posted a video of a baker refusing to provide a cake that read “We do not support gay marriage.” Feuerstein went on to say, “We’re getting to the place in America to where Christians aren’t allowed any freedom of speech.”
There was also an article in Saturday’s Los Angeles Times by David Savage, who covers the Supreme Court and legal matters, pointing out that LGBT folks were legally and commonly discriminated against until these religious freedom laws became an issue. So not only are the conservatives and evangelicals losing clout, their schemes are backfiring and having the opposite effect.
Like I said, fascinating.