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04/05/2013

ADF's five supposed 'victims' of marriage equality? All from states that didn't have marriage equality at time of incident!

by Jeremy Hooper

Yesterday, I showed you that ridiculously fearful (and patriarchal) graphic that the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom is using to suggest fathers across America must protect their families from the "evils" of same-sex marriage (seen at left). Today, let's look at the equally misrepresentative text that accompanies the scare-pic.

To make the flawed case that marriage equality will threaten religious freedom, ADF cites five examples. They are:

Elaine Huguenin, a New Mexico photographer, received death threats and was fined thousands of dollars for declining to use her artistic talents to photograph a same-sex couple’s commitment ceremony.

Blaine Adamson, a Kentucky shirt shop owner, is being investigated by the City of Louisville for declining to print t-shirts promoting homosexual behavior.

Donald Mendell, a Maine high school guidance counselor, was threatened with losing his career for publicly sharing his belief that same-sex “marriage” would not positively impact the education of Maine’s children.

Emily Brooker, a student at Missouri State University, was ordered by her professor to write a letter to the Missouri legislature expressing her support of same-sex adoption.

Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church members were harassed by Montana state officials for taking a stand on marriage.
How Same-sex Marriage Threatens You [ADF]

So what do these five really have in common? Well, a few things. The most glaring, however, is the fact that all five of these instances of supposed attacks on Christians that allegedly stemmed from marriage equality all happened at states that, at the time of the incident, did not actually have marriage equality! In fact, only one of them (Maine) has it now. Isn't it just a little bit silly to use a state like Kentucky, which is about as far from marriage equality as you can get, to suggest that gay people's legally-recognized unions will pose a threat? I'm thinking yes.

Then there's the other glaring fact that groups like the ADF overlook: that all of these examples are linked not to marriage but rather to nondiscrimination ordinances. In the photography case: the exact same case would arise if the photographer refused to photograph any event on the grounds of the potential client's sexual orientation. This just so happened to be a non-legally-binding commitment ceremony, but it would have been the same scenario if the photographer denied a anniversary party, birthday, Bette Porter Appreciation Society meeting, or any kind of event involving lesbians who refused to hide the fact that they are lesbians. The issue was the pointed (and expressed) denial on the basis of sexual orientation.

In the KY t-shirt case: No one even claims it had to do with marriage; it was all about being anti–"homosexual behavior," which is a discussion that is 100% about how LGBT people are protected in local ordinances and not about marriage. This conversation about businesses and how fully they must accommodate the public does not hinge on whether or not the locals have "I do" rights.

The Missouri example: Whatever actually happened was an instance of a teacher and one certain classroom instruction. It may have been a good idea or it may have been a bad idea—like all classroom choices, the students and faculty can debate that. But when it comes to whether this had anything to do with marriage equality, there is absolutely no debate. Marriage equality is not in Missouri's immediate pipe (barring a historic SCOTUS ruling) and this assignment, regardless of how you feel about it, was about adoption. We gay folk actually do things beyond marriage (despite what the past few weeks of coverage might suggest)

The Canyon Ferry case: This one was about election law. The church was incredibly politically active in passing a state marriage amendment, and the state officials simply said that the church, if it wanted to act in such a way and still retain tax-exempt status, had to report expenditures in a way differently than it did. Ultimately, the 9th Circuit (the same one that groups like ADF so regularly malign as "biased") sided with the church. But whether you think that was the right or wrong decision, the issue at hand was how, why, and to what extent a church can engage in politics. The discussion could be applied to any issue in which a church takes an outside role; it just so happens that this one involved a marriage amendment because it just so happens that far too many of America's churches in the past decade have turned themselves into de facto campaign headquarters for state marriage campaigns.

And then there's the curious case of Don Mendell: First off all, Mr. Mendell was much more than a mere guidance counselor. He wrote all kinds of Op-Eds that smeared the LGBT person, and he willingly involved himself in marriage campaign activities. When this came to light (thanks in large part to yours truly), some citizens with connections to his school filed a complaint out of concern that Mr. Mendell's activities negatively affected his ability to serve all students. The administration looked into it, the way they hopefully look in to all complaints from the community. School officials ultimately sided with Mendell (who's now retired)—but the investigation didn't turn him into a "victim" of anything other than the kind of heightened responsibility that comes from being a guidance counselor in a state-funded public school. These schools have an interest to protect all students, so if an adult who is tasked with guiding all students is found to be writing commentaries that say married gays will "ridicule tradition and belief in natural law," that marriage equality is "a change that strikes to the heart of the Sacraments," and denying that same-sex marriage is something that "our Lord would support" (all text from his now–hard to find Op-Eds), the school has a *duty* to look into the behavior.

Oh, and yeah: Maine did not have same-sex marriages at the time. In fact the marriages never happened in 2009, thanks to Don and his allies at that year's campaign (**we eventually won marriage in the state in 2012).

But never mind all this concrete information. Never mind the fact that all of these cases could happen today, tomorrow, or ten years ago, since none of them require even one legally married gay couple to bring into being. The Alliance Defending Freedom knows that a fair and nuanced conversation about how we foster fair-minded communities is far less likely to bring in the big bucks than is the media-sexy matter of marriage. They know that if we talk about discrimination, they lose.

The ADF attorneys' answer: A father who looks like he is protecting his family from an attack by gay-wedded UFOs. So classy. Their respective law schools must be beaming with pride.

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