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#RFRA and a movement that shirks responsibility (almost) as much as it shirks equality

by Jeremy Hooper

The Indiana "religious freedom" (i.e. license-to-discriminate) fight has revealed a few key things. One, it shows how much this tide has turned and where America and its power sources are coming down on LGBT discrimination. Two, it has reinforced how powerful a people can be when we come together and refuse to accept injustice as status quo. Three, it's yet again proven the efficacy of social media in effecting change. And four, it has reminded us that there will be a fight beyond marriage, and we must still fight it.

But aside from those more important points, the Indiana fiasco yet again shows just how unwilling the anti-LGBT movement is to own its nonsense.

For the past couple of years, every single anti-LGBT group on both the state and national level has been talking about so-called "religious freedom" bills and their supposedly needed passage. That's what this whole campaign about bakers and florists and T-shirt makers has been about. With the writing on the wall for marriage equality and its inevitable expansion, the opposition knew it needed a new cause. Passing "religious freedom" bills was the cause they chose, and the hope is that doing so will carve out protections that allow people who think like they do to abstain from servicing same-sex couples in just about any public arena where our marriages come into play. And frankly, the anti-LGBT movement wasn't really trying to hide any of this. At least I didn't think they were.

Yet now, with these #RFRA laws in the news and under the microscope in a way that none of us could have anticipated, you'd think those of us who note the obvious about these bills/laws and their motivations were engaging in a form of blood libel. "Outrage!" they cry when we simply note that same-sex marriage was the main motivator. "How dare you?" they ask when we wonder why they think they should be able to discriminate against same-sex couples in public accommodation. "I abhor discrimination" demanded the governor of Indiana, who has never given us any reason to believe that he even disfavors, much less abhors, discrimination toward LGBT people. It's as if they think we all started paying attention three days ago.

The fact is that some of us have been paying attention, and for years. We didn't need any sort of outside guidance to tell us what the Indiana or Arkansas "religious freedom" bills were about because we know what the whole national campaign is about. We knew what it was about back when former governor Jan Brewer rightly vetoed Arizona's version. We knew what it was about when Tony Perkins, one of the most anti-LGBT men in American politics, stood behind Mississippi's Republican governor when he signed his state's version. And yes, we knew what it was about when Gov. Mike Pence signed Indiana's particularly strident version before an audience of anti-LGBT activists. And we know not because we've been digging or poking around in any sort of determined way. No, no—we know because the anti-LGBT movement has been talking about little else in recent years!

For them to now play the innocent victims of misinformation and misrepresentation is not only offensive (which it is) and duplicitous (which we're used to from them), but it's also just plain absurd. Imagine if our side went around talking about Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal for years and years, and then when some sort of controversy brought our concerted, all-hands-on-deck, indefatigable efforts to light, we were like, "Nah, we never asked for that; we'd look terrible in camouflage." Or if we pushed for federal LGBT employment protections, but then when that fight came into the spotlight, we pretended that our efforts were simply meant to protect the rights of straight stay-at-home parents who not have to take jobs outside the home. Or what if, after we win fifty-state marriage equality at SCOTUS, we cite our fetish for tan lines on ring fingers as the true motivator, even though we never mentioned it in any of the run-up. This whole pretense about this "religious campaign," conducted and promoted and supported by anti-LGBT groups and leaders, being about something other than anti-LGBT animus feels similar to any of those seemingly far-fetched situations.

What, are we supposed to think it's just coincidence that Tony Perkins, Peter Sprigg, Brian Brown, Ryan Anderson, and state leaders with various "family policy" councils are the ones on TV and in print defending these law? Are they really expecting us to believe that this is happening now, in states with newfound marriage equality, simply because these states were under some other unexplained and unknown faith crush that they don't feel they have to tell us about? Do they think we're just going accept their motivations in good faith when they have shown nothing but bad faith against us and our lives and our loves and our families and our rights? Are they wanting us to un-know everything that we do, in fact, know about these bills and what they've been saying about them in order to build a case?

I mean, the answer to all of those questions is surely yes, because that's how this entitled movement operates, particularly when it comes to us, the crowd that most triggers their feelings of supremacy. But our answer is a big, fat, resounding "NO, we are not playing by your rules!" In fact, I would argue that this week has changed the game forever.

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