Contra Mozilla

Saturday, February 22, 2014

TMM: Turning Away the Gays?

My co-blogger posted a short link about a recent law which passed the Arizona legislature. I also didn't realize that this was a thing. Who would have thought there'd be enough politicians in both parties in any state and at any level to pass something like this?

I actually have mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, I too think that religious liberties are important enough to deserve further protection. I noticed, furthermore, that just because a right is "guaranteed" by the Constitution doesn't mean that some collaboration between the different branches and levels of government won't find some way to effectively nullify it. The First and Second Amendments have been under especial attack of late, but I think we can find examples of just about any right enshrined in the "Bill of Rights" which has taken some hits in the last couple of decades.

What are my concerns about this law, then? Assuming that it is not vetoed, I have two. The first is the one mentioned by my co-blogger, namely that this will be a Pyrrhic victory. In effect, it gives people with religious qualms some protections in a few states (apparently, this couldn't even pass in Idaho). These will ultimately be short-term, and will eventually be thrown out by the courts (if not repealed first). In the meantime, they will galvanize the homosexualist lobby to push the envelope even further in any state where these laws are not passed first. We've already seen lawsuits over refusals of service from bakers, photographers, hotel/reception/wedding cites (really, anybody in the wedding or honeymoon business); there have even been rumblings of jail-time for some people who have refused their "services."

It's not a far stretch to see anti-discrimination laws of the sort used to sue business owners combined with so-called anti-bullying laws (who says those should be limited to kids?). The result might be legal repercussions not only for businesses and business owners who refuse service based on "sexual orientation" [1], which refuse but for anyone who says anything bad about homosexuality in public. Thus, a business owner who provides services under protest might still face fines, not for refusing service, but for simply stating that he disapproves of the gay lifestyle. Not only will the beds-and-breakfast which refuse to host a "gay honeymoon" be punished, but also the church which refuses to host a "gay marriage/wedding" ceremony.

This is speculation, of course, but it really isn't that far-fetched. It may be that this issue plays out similarly to the abortion issue (a long, protracted battle in which the tide turns first one way, then another), or it may be a long march to defeat for people of good conscience. It will be ugly, and Christians will be made to suffer at least in the short term (that is what we ultimately signed up for by our Baptism and Confirmation).

This brings me to my other concern. Not knowing the exact wording (and thus, scope) of the law, and having only heard reports (given the sources, quite likely biased, possibly exaggerated and probably propagandistic), my gut feeling is that these laws do go too far. There is, after all, a definite difference between (say) protecting Catholic Charities' rights to place children only with families consisting of one father (male) and one mother (female, married to the father) and allowing a Catholic hospital to refuse to treat a gay man's injuries or illness [2]. For that matter, there is even a difference between allowing a florist to decline to provide flowers to a "gay wedding" ceremony and a restaurant refusing to provide a meal to a gay man upon learning that he is gay.

And then, moreover, there is a difference between what conscience prescribes and what the government declares legal. I tend to favor the rights of conscience for the most part, even in some cases where I think that a man's conscience may err.

[1] Scare quotes around "sexual orientation" because not all these service refusals have actually been about "sexual orientation," whatever the lawsuits have alleged. For example, there is the florist who was sued after declining to provide flowers for a "gay wedding", despite having provided flowers on many other occasions to one of the pair who wanted to tie the knot. The fact that the many was gay wasn't the bar to providing service in this case.

[2] Of course, it's pretty rare that a Catholic hospital would actually turn away a patient in need like this, so this scenario is a bit farcical).

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