The culture war of words
Assembly Bill 277 failed to pass and is now dead, but it raised issues that still merit attention. It would have been Nevada’s version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RFRA bills in Indiana and Arkansas caused a media firestorm that falsely claimed they would legalize discrimination against gays. Major corporations and the National Collegiate Athletic Association threatened to boycott the states. Even Walmart denounced the Arkansas bill. When you lose Walmart, you’ve lost the culture war.
That major corporations opposed the RFRA laws contradicts the stereotypes that the left harbors about them as greedy and uncaring. In fact, corporations were instrumental in fighting Jim Crow from the time the railroads supported Plessy in the separate-but-equal case, Plessy vs. Ferguson. They would not invest in the South until Jim Crow was dead. But their boycott threats now seem somewhat hypocritical, as they have major investments in China and other gay rights violating nations.
The RFRA laws have not provided any defense against anti-discrimination statutes. The law has been used to defend minor religious practices like Native American peyote rituals, allowing Muslim prisoners to have beards, etc. Then the Supreme Court in its Hobby Lobby decision ruled that a closely held, Christian, for-profit corporation could avoid paying for some employees’ contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act due to the owners’ religious belief that they were abortofacients. That was the gauntlet thrown down to the left.
The Hobby Lobby decision set off a progressive jihad to wipe out the last remnants of traditional Christian teachings on homosexuality and marriage. In Indiana, a small pizzeria’s Christian owner told a reporter that he serves gay patrons every day, but to cater a gay wedding would violate his conscience. The left’s social media political condemnation and violent threats forced him to close his pizzeria. Moral crusades don’t take prisoners.
Since then, the pizzeria owners have received close to a million dollars in donations from those shocked at the intolerance of the left. The religious liberty issue will certainly be with us for the 2016 election.
Politely declining to bake a cake is not the same thing as lynching a black teenager for talking to a white woman. Nor is being refused a permit to march in a St. Patrick’s Day parade the same as being hosed down on the streets of Selma by Bull Connor. Government marriage laws forbade same sex marriage, just as government passed, and enforced, Jim Crow laws. The Civil Rights Act correctly repealed the Jim Crow laws, but then it went further, and mandated no one could discriminate. This over-broad mandate is now clashing with religious liberty. The left is using it to force Christians to reject 2,000 years of Christian teaching and traditions over non-essential services that stretch the meaning of public accommodations. Isn’t this a violation of free thought, association and property rights?
Throughout history, people who don’t like each other for political or cultural reasons have found common ground in commerce. When people trade freely, they look for ways to serve each other despite their differences. Economists say anti-discrimination laws make people more cautious, less willing to take a chance. That results in more unemployment, not less.
Because the state is the monopoly provider of the marriage license, we fight each other over the rules. Legislatures pass laws that reflect the majority opinion of what marriage is. The minority viewpoint is often outlawed.
Maybe it is time to get government out of the marriage license business period. Since marriage is a contract, let the interested parties contract and let the government do what it normally does, enforce the contract. That would be real marriage equality.