One of the ways the Religious Right is very, very predictable is that whenever they think they’ve found momentum, they go way too far. They don’t know how to quit when they’re ahead, which is part of the reason (along with increases in education and visibility and many other things) we have won the “culture war” over marriage equality so quickly. People like Porno Pete think that, if only they went even further, and got even weirder waxing about the mechanics of gay sex, that they’d take back the momentum, but the truth is that they lost it because they already took it way too far. Ed Kilgore argues at Talking Points Memo that they’re doing it again with this crusade for “religious freedom” laws, i.e. laws that carve out exceptions so that wingnuts don’t have the play by the same rules as everyone else:
Two years later, the “religious liberty” crusade shows signs of backfiring. This very day, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer may veto a bill just passed by a legislature controlled by her own party that provides a broad exemption from discrimination laws to businesses and individuals claiming compliance violates their beliefs. And more generally, an argument that once distracted from the extremist nature of conservative Christian objections to gay rights and reproductive rights is drawing attention to them in a dangerous way.
This began happening first on the contraception coverage front, where the religious objection to the Obamacare mandate had to be justified (in the Hobby Lobby litigation most notably) by the claim that highly effective contraceptive devices (the IUD) and treatments (Plan B and hormonal “patches”) used by millions of women were in fact “abortifacients.”
Similarly, the effort to “protect” religious believers from the consequences of a sudden shift in policies on same-sex marriage began as a reasonable-sounding request for two-way tolerance that might unite the near-majority of Americans who are not presently “comfortable” towards marriage equality with those whose views had recently “evolved.”
But the more the demands for religious “exemptions” from compliance with new marriage laws have become concrete, the less reasonable they have seemed. Nobody’s talking about requiring that religious communities perform same-sex marriages (or for that matter, ordain gay ministers, the most heated issue within many U.S. Christian communities). So the martyr’s cross of the “persecuted” must be found among the small ranks of marriage professionals who refuse to bake wedding cakes with two plastic men on top, or offer to offer planning services to two women.
Perhaps some non-sectarian Americans instinctively identify with “bakers of conscience” or wedding planners who consider themselves in danger of hellfire for booking hotel ballrooms for Sodomites. But like the fight for the freedom to treat IUDs as death machines, the fight to provide the conservative Christian elements of the wedding industry with plenary indulgences from obedience to the law tends to elicit less sympathy than ridicule from the non-aligned.
Ed argues that these things are key when one considers swing voters — the “mushy middle” — who don’t necessarily think about these issues too hard, but tend to try to err on the side of not being maliciously cruel. The trouble for wingnuts is that they think they’re jus’ folks, that they’re the Normal Patriotic Americans that everyone secretly agrees with but are too afraid to say it. It’s a huge miscalculation on their part. Moreover, big business evolved on this issue years ago, and whether large corporations are led by Republicans or Democrats, they’re concerned about the bottom line. They know that laws like these are horrific for business, and that’s why, just in Arizona, 83 companies have signed on to encourage Governor Jan Brewer to veto that state’s “religious liberty” bill.
It’s backfiring. We just have to play whack-a-mole until it’s out of the wingnuts’ systems.