The argument over these state anti-discrimination laws and their inevitable collision with the 1st Amendment’s freedom of religion clause is among the most emotionally-charged issues of what is otherwise a pointless and tiresome Culture War and it is one of the few remaining battlegrounds where I find it hard to say for sure who’s got it right.

I enjoy reading about these stories, mostly because it’s such a great controversial topic that most people have a very strong, black and gray viewpoint on while I haven’t finally made up my own mind.  I’m sympathetic to religious people’s viewpoint and I agree that the free exercise of religion and that individual decisions associated with the freedom of association are none of the government’s business.  Emotionally, I can relate to their frustration at being asked to celebrate and participate in a lifestyle that they genuinely believe, right or wrong, to be an abomination and that it’s unreasonable for the state to force them to do so.

Ah, but it isn’t that simple, is it? I also get the point of view of the gays who just want to live their lives the way in a way that they’re comfortable without being constantly reminded that a significant chunk of the population thinks that they choose to like having buttsex, deserve to catch AIDS, and will be sorry when they’re broiling in Hell.   Having gay sodomy with Satan. But LGBT folks want equality and aren’t asking much more than to be treated with dignity by others.  In these cases, the law is on their side too.  

Bear in mind that these anti-discrimination laws are passed by state legislatures, not forced on people by judges.  In most instances, I believe that the people of the states should have the right to live under the laws that they have passed and that these state laws should never be struck down by the federal courts except in the most extreme circumstances.  

You can say that these Christian florists and bakers have the right to conduct their private business according to their values, but it seems clear that the people of the states in which they live have already decided what the values of the people who live there really are.  Don’t like the law?  Get some new legislators.  Move.  Or something.  I always find the States’ Rights arguments to be most appealing when all else fails, you know.

We should, I believe, be very cautious when calling for the federal judiciary to further encroach on the power of the states, especially when the Constitution isn’t terribly clear on the issue and when it means one side or the other will inevitably have its rights harmed.  After all, the Supreme Court sticking its nose in where it didn’t belong got us Roe v. Wade.

Then again, the Left never shies away from using the most tepid 14th Amendment arguments for striking down state laws that it finds problematic for its ends, regardless of the popular approval those laws had.  Maybe I’m wrong and that this sort of lawfare is just the way it’s supposed to be done now and my preferred concepts of self-determination and the democratic process is a lot of antiquated tommyrot.  Good for the goose, good for the gander and all that.

Ah, I just don’t know.  I’m in a place where I’m indifferent to what gays do because I see them as a tiny and harmless minority and I can’t take the arguments of my fellow Christians seriously when they portray themselves as an oppressed group.

This truly is a topic where I think I could forcefully argue one opposing side or the other on a different day to a different person and still only marginally give a crap who wins.  It is otherwise a great debate though, in spite of the really low stakes for me personally.

2 comments

  1. The court is almost forced to rule this way because of how civil rights were fought in the “separate but equal” court battles. You unravel those decisions because of this one instance and we get refusals for service on any number of grounds; because you’re Muslim, gay, you’ve been divorced, whatever.

    It pains me to say it (because I was raised Christian and can understand the heartfelt belief that some values can’t be tread on), but I find it hard for me to understand where the New Testament requires christians to stage political coups as often as they do. My understanding of Jesus teachings were apolitical in nature, and when confronted about the “roman” question the famous quote is “render unto Caesar that which is ceasar’s.”

    I get your point that it sucks the Supreme Court and the judicial branch has increasingly become the battleground for the law of the land, and might truly be the one branch that is unchecked in power. However, if we truly allow states almost complete sovereignty we’d end up with an EU type system. Unfavorable to say the least. In addition, without a federally level playing field, all these fancy “sanctuary cities” would be impervious to federal mandate.

    States rights is only fun when they let you smoke weed. All the other aspects are a drag, depending on your side of the aisle.

  2. See, I have the opposite view on where you mention the EU. The problem with the EU is that you have an elite, unaccountable body that dictates the rules over various, diverse people with their own traditions, mores, and habits and applies a one-size fits all approach. To me, the Supreme Court is the same thing.

    These Culture War issues drag on without resolution because the people aren’t allowed to decide for themselves and consequently, society doesn’t get to finally decide how it should be. Instead, issues are dictated by the Court without regard for the concept that what is acceptable to the people of Alabama is an atrocity to people in San Francisco and vice versa. Worse, these issues don’t get resolved. There’s always a fear by one side or another that the next change in the Court after one of these 5-4 rulings will be completely undone.

    It’s far better, although it takes much longer, to let reform and just movements work through the states or through the amendment process.

    What I would like to see is a Constitutional amendment requiring that any SCOTUS decision which strikes down a state law must be unanimous. That really isn’t unreasonable, since Brown v Board of Education met that standard.

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