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Ryan Anderson's priest/preacher conflation shows fundamental misunderstanding of nondiscrimination law

by Jeremy Hooper

Anti-LGBT activist Ryan T. Anderson took to the blog of his employer, the Heritage Foundation, and further proved that his overall political goals exceed well beyond his key cause of stopping equal civil marriage rights for loving, deserving, peaceful American taxpayers. But while I'm not surprised to hear Ryan extending his fight beyond marriage since anyone who follows him knows that his advocacy goes much further (yesterday he promoted and staunchly defended a piece from an "ex-gay" who claims that "same-sex sexual action harms the dignity of my body"), I am somewhat surprised to hear this completely baseless conflation of faith and public accommodation:

Traditional civil rights include protections for the rights to free speech, religious liberty and free association, as well as the right to vote, own property and enter into contracts. All Americans stand equally before the law and have their civil rights equally protected.

But no one has the right to have the government force a particular minister to marry them, or a certain photographer to capture the first kiss, or a baker to bake the wedding cake. Declining to perform these services doesn’t violate anyone’s rights. Some citizens may conclude that they cannot in good conscience participate in a same-sex ceremony, from priests and pastors to bakers and florists. The government should not force them to choose between their religious beliefs and their livelihood.

FULL: Why These Citizens Voted to Repeal a Bad ‘Civil Rights’ Law [Daily Signal]

A minister and a baker and a photographer? To take it back to Sesame Street, Ryan—one of these things is not like the other.

No LGBT activist with any sort of mainstream platform is attempting to force ministers to perform same-sex weddings. Freedom to Marry and HRC, the two largest groups fighting the longest for civil marriage equality, have been clear about this from the get-go. All marriage equality advocates are 100%, in every way willing to let marriages remain as they are now: churches and faith leaders have the right to deny a marriage ceremony to any couple for just about any reason (e.g. prior divorce, interfaith union, atheists, couple fails premarital counseling, etc.), but the state marriage license—which is a requirement for any couple wishing for state and federal recognition of a marriage—is to be granted without such faith tests.

Public accommodations are not in the same boat as churches. By any stretch. Every community has nondiscrimination ordinances that apply to any number of categories (e.g. race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, etc.) and all businesses wishing to serve "all comers" must abide by these policies. This is a notion we've been familiar with for decades now. This is nothing new. The only new part is this truly wacky and wholly disingenuous notion that the game and the stakes are different when its LGBT consumers we are talking about.

Ryan's conflation of priest and baker shows the real problem here. To people who share his thinking, they are kind of one-and-the-same in the sense that the most staunchly conservative people of faith tend to believe that they have a right to brandish their faith as an "out" whenever they wish to put their convictions before the duties of their jobs, their sense of community, or simply the bounds of respectful citizenship. There are far too many of our fellow citizens who are wont to believe that church and state separation is simply a suggestion, at best (and an outright lie, more typically). Sadly, there are also far too many groups like the Heritage Foundation that are willing to service this fundamental misread of fair business practice.


*Oh, and by the way, this is the most-liked comment (as of 12pm EST) that follows Ryan's post:

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 At 12.00.49 Pm

Just to give you a sense of audience and how these kinds of dog whistle messages tend to play out with the base.

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