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.