As same-sex marriage marches across the nation, it is becoming evident that there is one argument that is failing the anti-gay groups rather miserably. Well, almost all of them are, but it is this one in particular that is failing to gain any sympathy from anyone, and it might have something to do with the fact that most people find the argument that it is alright to discriminate kind of hollow even if your religious beliefs call for you to discriminate.
The Christian legal and policy coalition, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) once called itself the Alliance Defense Fund. They have been a mainstay of the committee hearings regarding same-sex marriage, but their testimony defending the right to discriminate has done little to actually sway votes.
This might have something to do with the way in which most people view religion these days. The idea that pushing one’s own religion on others is simply just not done. It is considered impolite. Even if you believe that homosexuality is evil, or that Blacks are the descendants of Cain, or that Jews murdered Christ and must be punished, such feelings and thoughts are not suppose to be expressed in public and action is not suppose to be taken regarding them.
That is, if you are a Christian who believes that Blacks are the cursed offspring of Cain, you aren’t suppose to discriminate. The same holds true if you believe Jews murdered Christ, and that women caused The Fall. In most states, this also holds true if you think homosexuality is an abomination.
Or, as Leela in Futurama put it “Society will never make progress unless we all pretend to get along.”
In testimony before the Delaware Senate during the marriage equality debate, ADF senior counsel Jordan Lorence testified about a case in New Mexico (which doesn’t have same-sex marriage), where an anti-gay vendor faced legal action for violating the state’s civil rights laws. He believes that the public accommodation laws are unconstitutional and stated “It’s the business owners that deal with weddings. It’s licensed professionals having their licenses threatened because they believe the wrong things about marriage.”
This backfired, apparently. Delaware state Senator Dave Sokola, the lead Senate sponsor of the bill, said
We had recently added “sexual orientation” to our non-discrimination statute in 2009, and debated and passed Civil Unions just 2 years ago. Even with a large turn-over in both the House and Senate, this issue was very fresh in many of our minds. Equality Delaware did a tremendous outreach to all, with a special emphasis on our newer legislators, so there was sufficient understanding of the matter, and I do think he just firmed up the positions of all on the prevailing side. We also now have a 4-year track record of how Delaware businesses are doing with respect to this, and the predictions of our opponents have not come true since we enacted either of the previous bills. The facts have significantly diminished their credibility.
Delaware Representative Melanie Smith also said about Lorence’s testimony that “I believe he was mistaken in much of what he said and misrepresented the bill significantly.” She is pretty certain that no votes were swayed by what he said.
Lorence offered the same testimony in Maryland’s House Judiciary Committee. Maryland has had public accommodation non-discrimination laws covering lesbians and gays since 2001.
In Rhode Island, ADF litigation counsel Kellie Fiedorek made the same argument saying that those opposed to same-sex relationships in Rhode Island would have “a choice that no one should ever have to face — to either violate your conscience or face legal persecution.” She went on to say that “expanding a sexual agenda have been used to persecute regular, everyday Americans.” Discrimination against lesbians and gays in public accommodations was written into law in that state back in 1995.
Now, ADF’s legal counsel Jim Campbell may have told Think Progress that he believes that this line of attack is swaying voters, but it isn’t. He stated “First Amendment-protected freedoms are vital to the continued flourishing of our constitutional republic. They should not be ignored by state legislators who vote to redefine marriage. The failure to respect freedoms long-enshrined in our Constitution will lead to needless litigation. Sadly, even when those rights are eventually vindicated in court, the legal process will take a significant toll on innocent citizens who are simply trying to live in accordance with their conscience. Alliance Defending Freedom will be at the forefront of defending those Americans.”
The thing is, the American People, by and large, now believe that same-sex relationships are morally alright. Add to that, the tendency of most Americans to feel that religion should be best left in the private sphere, the argument is a losing one in the end.