Dana Liebelson published an in-depth piece in Mother Jones today, examining the underpinnings of the Religious Right’s campaign to pass “Jim Crow-style” laws around the nation, enshrining anti-gay discrimination in an effort to fight against the tidal wave of marriage equality and LGBT acceptance crossing the United States. Truth Wins Out has been sounding the alarm on false claims of religious persecution over the past year, and TWO’s Evan Hurst was interviewed for the article:
Kansas set off a national firestorm last week when the GOP-controlled House passed a bill that would have allowed anyone to refuse to do business with same-sex couples by citing religious beliefs. The bill, which covered both private businesses and individuals, including government employees, would have barred same-sex couples from suing anyone who denies them food service, hotel rooms, social services, adoption rights, or employment—as long as the person denying the service said he or she had a religious objection to homosexuality. As of this week, the legislation was dead in the Senate. But the Kansas bill is not a one-off effort.
Republicans lawmakers and a network of conservative religious groups has been pushing similar bills in other states, essentially forging a national campaign that, critics say, would legalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Republicans in Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee recently introduced provisions that mimic the Kansas legislation. And Arizona,Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have introduced broader “religious freedom” bills with a unique provision that would also allow people to deny services or employment to LGBT Americans, legal experts say.
“This is a concerted campaign that the religious Right has been hinting at for a couple of years now,” says Evan Hurst, associate director of Truth Wins Out, a Chicago-based nonprofit that promotes gay rights. “The fact that they’re doing it Jim Crow-style is remarkable, considering the fact that one would think the GOP would like to be electable among people under 50 sometime in the near future.”
What follows is an examination of exactly what groups are pushing — and in some cases, writing — these discriminatory bills. The American Religious Freedom Program, one of the primary organizations behind the bills, believe that they are not supporting discrimination, but simply “finding the balance” between religious freedom and LGBT equality. We disagree:
[Brian] Walsh [head of the American Religious Freedom Program] told Mother Jones he believes these bills, particularly the one in Kansas, have been misunderstood, and the aim is not to facilitate discrimination against the LGBT community. “Our goal—and we suspect the goal of others—has been to try to find the right balance between fully protecting religious freedom and other civil liberties so that both sides of the marriage debate can coexist harmoniously,” he says. But Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU, takes a different stance: “These bills are discriminatory, pure and simple.”
“This seems to be a concerted Hail Mary campaign to carve out special rights for religious conservatives so that they don’t have to play by the same rules as everyone else does,” says Hurst, from Truth Wins Out. “In this new up-is-down world, anti-gay religious folks are ‘practicing their faith’ when they’re baking cakes or renting out hotel rooms to travelers. On the ground, [these bills] hurt real, live LGBT people.”
Head over to Mother Jones to read the whole piece.