There’s an increasingly popular strategy among antigay legislators that allows them to promote discrimination against LGBT people without actually saying the words, and 2016 Republican presidential hopeful John Ellis Bush (who knew ‘Jeb’ was just his initials?!) is fully on board.
Gone are the days when politicians can come out and make targeted antigay remarks without facing backlash (though some still try), so they’ve come up with a new rhetoric to wiggle around those pesky do-gooders.
They aren’t anti-gay, they’re anti-religious discrimination. It’s more of a death grip than a strategy, but it allows them to introduce bills granting people the legal right to discriminate against LGBT people without ever even having to hint at the word “gay.” Some Republican strategist must have been gifted a nice bonus for that one. Maybe an all-access pass to CPAC, the Woodstock of boring assholes.
Here’s how J.E.B. recently tap danced around the topic. When asked about pending Georgia legislation aimed at protecting the state’s oppressed
Christian religious folks, he said:
— Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) March 19, 2015
Here’s the text, which is as confusing to read as it is to listen to:
“I don’t know about the law, but religious freedom is a serious issue, and it’s increasingly so, and I think people that act on their conscience shouldn’t be discriminated against, for sure. There should be protections, and so, as it relates to marriage equality — and that may change, the Supreme Court may change that. That automatically then shifts the focus to people of conscience, and, I don’t know, have their faith make — they want to act on their faith, and may not be able to be employed for example.”
Classic. Just like “voter I.D.” laws are all about cutting down on non-existent voter fraud, and not, you know, disenfranchising minorities and poor people from casting votes, religious discrimination laws are simply there to protect “people of conscience.”
And as is usually the case in American politics, it gets much more farcical.
In a recent op-ed in the Washington Examiner, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) draw a comparison between so-called religious discrimination protections and, get this, Chipotle’s announcement that it will stop carrying pork at many locations due to a supplier’s violation of animal welfare standards.
“It is crucial that the same freedom of conscience enjoyed by the leadership of Chipotle remain equally available to business owners of faith,” they wrote. “Indeed, much more so, as freedom of religion is explicitly protected by the First Amendment. We cannot simultaneously laud the leaders of a business motivated by a commitment to environmental sustainability and discriminate against the leaders of a business motivated by religious belief.”
Is that the best they can do? Really?
A Chipotle spokesperson broke it down in one breath. “It’s a pretty ridiculous comparison,” Chris Arnold told The Huffington Post. “Our decision not to serve pork that doesn’t meet our standards isn’t discriminating against any customers or group of customers.”
The Human Rights Campaign added its befuddled logic:
“Using Chipotle’s business decision to not stock carnitas as a defense to give corporations having religious beliefs special legal protections is ludicrous,” said David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign. “It adds nothing and indeed trivializes a very serious debate about whether corporations should be able to refuse to hire some employees and turn away some customers based on who they are or who they love.”
An aide for Sen. Lankford said, “The column says nothing about gays; it’s about the importance of businesses being able to make decisions in line with their values. It’s as simple as that.”
Is that what they tell themselves to fall asleep at night?