This week, wingnuts tried to frighten Americans into believing that gays were going to take away their religious freedom, and learned — in Indiana, Arkansas, and a few other states — that those old tricks don’t work anymore.
Discrimination Doesn’t Pay
Ever since the Supreme Court all but overthrew the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), right-wingers have been fired up about “religious freedom.” Some even insist that as business owners their religious beliefs give them the right to deny services to same-sex couples. After some anti-gay bakers refused to bake cakes for gay couples, and were found guilty of discrimination, wingnut legislatures decided it was time to write discrimination into law again.
Last week, Indiana became the latest state to pass a “religious freedom” law. Governor Mike Pence (R) signed it into law. Then all hell broke loose. A #boycottindiana movement sprang up almost overnight on social media. Almost immediately, the law cost Indiana $40 million, when the CEO of Angie’s List nixed plans to build its headquarters in the state. Ultimately, the law could cost Indiana about $256 million in business lost because of boycotts.
Meanwhile, Pence repeatedly made a fool of himself on national television, and revealed himself as either dishonest or deluded in his defense of the bill.
Meanwhile, legislators and governors in other states took a lesson from Indiana’s trouble and Pence’s bungling.
- Georgia Republicans cancelled their “religious freedom” bill in the aftermath of Indiana’s debacle.
- North Carolina governor Pat McCrory (R) refused to sign the “religious freedom” bill passed in his state.
- Montana’s “religious freedom” bill was narrowly defeated after Gov. Steve Bullock (D) said Montana didn’t need the law or an Indiana-style backlash.
- Arkansas Republicans passed a “religious freedom” bill anyway, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson refused to sign it, and called on legislators to “fix” it and send it back to his deck
After defending Indiana’s bill, and declaring that it would not be changed, Pence finally called on legislators to “fix” the bill he said wasn’t broken. Both Pence and Hutchison ultimately signed altered bills that protect against anti-LGBT discrimination that might have happened as a result of the laws.
That doesn’t spell the end of their troubles, though. Activists are already saying that the “fixes” don’t go far enough. The situation in Indiana and Arkansas shows that Republicans are still up against the wall on gay rights issues.
In some ways, you can’t blame them for trying. After all, exploiting fears about gay people has worked well for right-wingers ever since Pat Buchanan stood on the stage at the 1992 Republican convention and declared: “There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.”
Buchanan lost his campaign against George H. W. Bush for the GOP’s 1992 presidential nomination. Some even said extreme rhetoric like Buchanan’s hurt George H. W. Bush’s chances for re-election. However, the “culture war” he invoked long outlived his presidential ambitions.
- It resurfaced during Bill Clinton’s first term, when “culture warriors” gained control of Congress in 1994.
- In 1996, “culture warriors” incited panic that a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling would legalize same-sex marriage, to pass the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.
- George W. Bush embraced the “culture war” after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, and threw his support behind the Federal Marriage Amendment in his first term, and rode the issue to a re-election victory, before quietly declaring himself in favor of some form of marriage equality towards the end of this term.
Of course, wingnuts would be the last to know they lost the culture war long ago. They probably still haven’t figured it out.
- Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D-who-should-know-better) said his state’s same-sex marriage ban doesn’t discriminate, because “men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, cannot marry persons of the same-sex under Kentucky law.”
- Texas Republican State Rep. Matt Krause compared requiring businesses to serve LGBT people to requiring a Jewish bakery to “bake a cake for the neo-Nazi convention coming to town.”
- Texas lawmakers resurrected part of nearly-dead Defense of Marriage Act, to stop gay people from taking family medical leave.
- Alabama doctor-turned-Republican Sate Sen. Larry Stutts is seeking to overturn a state law named for one of his patients, whose death triggered legislation requiring insurers to pay for minimum post-pregnancy hospital.
Here’s the rest of the best of the worse in wingnuttia this week:
- Pat Robertson urged Americans to resist “caving” to the “totalitarian dictators” of the “gay lobby.”
- Robertson also warned “700 Club” viewers that gays are “going to make you conform to them,” until “You are going to say you like anal sex, you like oral sex, you like bestiality, you like anything you can think of, whatever it is.”
- Colorado Republican State and radio host Gordon Klingenschmitt said that in 100 years “twenty percent of Americans could become homosexual.” Through recruitment, that is.
- Radio host Bryan Fischer warned that clarifying Indiana’s “religious freedom” law would lead to Christians being pushed into slavery.
- Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee thundered, “It won’t stop until there are no more churches, until there are no more people who are spreading the Gospel.”
- Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal declared that anti-gay businesses are the “real victims of discrimination.”
- Glenn Beck warned his viewers that gay rights activists are becoming modern-day Nazis who area leading an “Inquisition” that will become a “Christian holocaust.”
- Sen. Tom Cotton (R, Arkansas) suggested that gay people get some “perspective” on Indiana’s “religious freedom” law. “In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay,” Cotton said, suggesting that gays should calm down and just be glad they don’t live “over there.”
- Singer Miley Cyrus responded by inviting her 19.4 million Twitter followers to “stir some shit up” in Sen. Cotton’s office.
- Fox News host Andrea Tantaros defended Indiana’s “religious freedom” law, saying that business owners “would go out of their way not to discriminate.”
- Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, became of the first businesses to declare it would deny services to LGBT people under the new law. (Thus making a liar out of Gov. Pence?) Still, owner Christine O’Connor claimed, “We’re not discriminating against anyone.”
- O’Connor needn’t have worried. Thanks to the internet, Memories Pizza is now closed indefinitely, after being swamped with protests — but not before raking in donations online.
- A Georgia florist said that she’d server adulterers, but not gays, because gay couples are “a different kind of sin.”
- Supporters of “religious freedom” laws don’t seem to have much in the way of coherent arguments. Arkansas Republican State Senator Bart Hester instead tried squirming out of admitting that the law he sponsored is discriminatory.
- Comedian Penn Jillette reminded supporters of the Indiana law, “There is more to gay sex than cake and flowers.” Gillette added, “We are not talking about forcing people to engage in gay sex or even endorse gay sex. We’re asking them that maybe they can treat people the same as other people and that does not seem unreasonable.”
- In a Facebook post, former congresswoman Michele Bachmann compared President Obama to the pilot who deliberately crashed a Germanwings flight in the French Alps, killing 150 people.
- Speaking a the Lincoln Day Dinner of the Republican Party of Maricopa County, Arizona, Ted Nugent blamed President Obama for veteran suicides, “because the Commander-in-Chief is the enemy.”
- Republican former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu claimed that President Obama was traveling to Kenya just to incite “chatter” from the “birther” brigade.