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Audio: Hear Tony Perkins struggle to explain why his version of discrimination is somehow different

by Jeremy Hooper

What follows is a very interesting and telling clip.

First we get a caller who throws Tony Perkins off of his game. The caller basically asks why businesses aren't free to discriminate at will. She thinks she's making a good "pro-family" point, but she's actually pulling Perkins off his desired narrative. The fact of the matter is that the anti-gay crowd doesn't want to talk about the freedom of businesses to refuse service to anyone for any reason because they don't want to highlight the truly dangerous precedent that this would set, even though it actually is the dangerous precedent that they should be acknowledging. It is, after all, the dangerous precedent they are encouraging.

As soon as he starts responding, it's clear that Tony is thrown. He truly struggles to make a coherent point. One tactic is to try to exalt the wedding industry into some sort of special class that, for some strange reason that he really can't explain, earns these businesses some sort of special waver. Tony acts like these vendors are unduly burdened because their business practices sometimes require them to show up at the event. Of course in truth, all kinds of vendors in all kinds of public-serving industries are tasked with showing up and serving their customers, and none of these businesses are free to just deny a potential customer on the basis of who he or she is. But Tony and his allies have framed the wedding industry as something different. Something special. Something godly, even. It's a ludicrous and unsupportable distinction.

Then, in an odd turn, Tony unwittingly acknowledges that the real issue comes from nondiscrimination laws. I'm actually shocked to hear the FRC president admit this, since he and his allies tend to overlook this truth. But he did and he's right: the reason why businesses are not free to wantonly discriminate has to do with nondiscrimination ordinances in the local jurisdiction. These policies are designed to protect citizens; these policies exist independently of marriage. And again, a vendor doesn't get a special pass just because his or her shop is filled with white dresses or because the cakes have a certain amount of tiers. Wedding-centered businesses, like all businesses that are engaged in commerce with the public, must comply with these public interest laws. Period. And duh.

But then Tony wraps up with an admission of what this is really all about. He starts (around the 2:20 mark) by saying that he thinks racial and other forms of discrimination were wrong, and that he sees no theological basis for that kind of shunning. But then he admits that he does think there is a theological basis for discriminating against LGBT people, saying that he feels we LGBT folk engage in "behavior that is outside the parameters of what is moral." Then the FRC president closes with what is the definitive line here, saying: "And I don't think people should be forced to have to participate in that."

That closing line is the nail in this conversation's coffin. The bottom line is that people like Tony and groups like FRC (and NOM and AFA and ADF and…) simply don't want to serve us. They don't want to acknowledge that we live and love among them, and they don't believe we have as much right to a full participation in our communities as heterosexual people do. They certainly don't believe that our casual happiness, arm-in-arm with our sweeties, is something they should have to even acknowledge, much less support. This being the case, Tony and his supporters don't believe that our protections are merited. They don't believe that the problem of discrimination as it pertains to our lives is discrimination at all. They not only want to overlook the fact that we are discriminated against every day, in ever way—they genuinely want to foster it! They want more of it! Tony Perkins is flat-out admitting that fact!

And this is why they will lose every community-defacing, equality-hostile, peace-robbing, family-shunning goal that they have put on their detrimental docket.

The clip:

[SOURCE: Washington Watch w/ Tony Perkins; 7/1/13]

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