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The telling way anti-equality conservatives hide behind the marriage debate

by Jeremy Hooper

Over on the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal, staffer Kelsey J Harkness has a piece up under the following headline:

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 At 6.39.34 Pm
[Daily Signal]

Harkness repeats the "because of his belief in traditional marriage" line in her opening. The idea being that Kelvin Cochran, ousted fire chief, simply disagreed on a policy position.

Only thing? It's a lie. And not only is it a lie, but Harkness' conceit doesn't even accurately represent what the Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit, her basis for the piece, says. The ADF claims the following:

…[Cochran] holds religious beliefs concerning same-sex marriage and homosexual conduct that are contrary to the mayor’s and the city’s views on these subjects, and because he expressed those beliefs in the non-work-related, religious book he self-published.
ADF complaint off which Hakness wrote her article]

Even the ADF's wording is deceptive, since the major reason for people's pushing back against Cochran were because of his views on homosexuality, not really marriage. But at least the ADF does include the "and homosexual conduct" part. The ADF certainly doesn't claim, as Harkness does, that Cochran's firing was "solely" because of his marriage views.

But this is not at all an anomaly. In most every ridiculous controversy I've covered over the past ten years, the anti-equality spin machine tries to portray the person at the center of the controversy as just being like the everyday Joe or Jane who might've voted for a marriage amendment. From Phil Robertson to the Chick-fil-A guy to more conservative activists and politicians than I could count, this movement sidesteps whatever things the figures in the storm's eye actually said about gay and lesbian human beings and instead makes it about marriage.

It's obvious why they do this. The anti-equality/pro-discrimination movement is, at its heart, a very defensive operation. All of the thought leaders on that side know that a majority of the American public is, and has been for some time, uncomfortable with the idea of actually hurting LGBT Americans, as people. They also know the way all prior civil rights battles have played out, and how the people who stood against their brothers in sisters in aggressive acts against their citizenship are always—always, every time, in every instance—regarded as the historical light grows and brightens over time. This movement has been trying to flip the usual script for eons. They know what an organic telling of the tale means for their cause.

And so it's quite telling to see how they hone in on marriage, even when the much more pertinent point is on the subject's animus towards people (Cochran compared homosexuality to "uncleanness" on par with bestiality). It shows that even they know that certain words and attitudes, even if held by those whom they support, are unpalatable to the public and large. It also shows how they hide behind the marriage debate as cover for generalized animus. On one hand, it is one and the same to these folks, with "supporting traditional marriage" as stand-in for just about anything bad one can say or do against LGBT citizens. But on the other and much more strategic hand, it's a way for them to add a veneer of mild and measured politicking to what is more often abject ugliness toward minority populations.

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