The more the religious right loses on LGBT issues, the whinier it gets. This subset of believers want to wrap themselves in the cloak of martyrdom, but in fact don’t really want to be martyrs. They want to get a free pass for their discrimination and also complain about how they were wronged. After years of complaining that LGBT rights were “special rights,” conservative Christians are now the special rights caucus.
The latest case in point is the proposed law in Kansas that would allow anyone who objects to marriage equality on religious grounds to refuse services or, in the case of government employees, refuse to fulfill their duties. It’s just the logical conclusion of the religious right’s argument that they are the real victims. The all-purpose phrase that they like to use is “religious liberty,” which is code for the special right to ignore laws that you don’t like.
The Kansas bill was apparently too much even for some Republicans. The Kansas Senate President, Susan Wagle, killed the measure because of the provisions related to government employees. “I believe that when you hire police officers or a fireman that they have no choice in who they serve,” Wagle said. “Public service needs to remain public service for the entire public.”
The fact that such a basic concept of democracy has to be restated shows how far from the mainstream the religious right has wandered. What’s sad is that the corollary, that individuals and business can’t choose which laws to obey, is still being argued. In fact, opponents of LGBT rights have been introducing bills right and left (well, more right) to ensure that the marriage equality laws in particular don’t apply to them.
- A bill similar to the one proposed in Kansas popped up in Kentucky last year and became law over the governor’s veto. It limited the exception to businesses and individuals.
- A bill in Maine would have allowed individuals to sue the government to be exempted from laws they object to on religious grounds.
- In its unsuccessful attempt to stop marriage equality in Hawaii, the Mormon Church sought “to protect individuals and small businesses from being required to assist in promoting or celebrating same-sex marriages.” (Like all those poor bakery owners, put upon to decorate cakes for same-sex couples.)
These are just a few examples. Fueling the special rights argument are the contraception requirements in the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), which the Conference of Catholic Bishops has closely linked to marriage equality.
What’s frightening is that the Supreme Court is considering a case that could essentially codify these special rights on a far greater scale than most conservatives have imagined. Instead of granting exemptions to bakers and photographers, the Court is looking at the case of a corporation–Hobby Lobby chain stores–that objects to the contraception provision in Obamacare. The corporation wants to ignore that provision on religious grounds.
Columnist Josh Barro, who proves you can be gay, conservative and smart, nails the reason for this phenomenon. “Social conservatives have a reason for seeking these special privileges: the America they knew is falling away from them, and that change is mostly about social attitudes, not law,” he writes. “Legal freedom won’t be enough to protect people’s ability to be loudly and proudly anti-gay; the government will have to create special rules barring private action against the anti-gay.”
In other words, let us ignore the law and then pass a law to protect us for ignoring the law.
Now if that’s not special rights, what is?