As LGBT America is in a panic over the flood of anti-gay bills that are bubbling through the state legislatures across the country, I urge you to be calm.
Calm? Am I mental?
Nope but I have found that by approaching the issue with a little composure I have a better idea of what is really going on.
First all of these bills are so flawed it's a wonder they were ever brought to a vote. The most recent one in Kansas was declared by the Senate President Susan Wage(R) as "too flawed to fix". She urged waitihg until next year to revisit the issue. So what exactly is the issue?
Well, if you take these bills at their face value, they are a license to discriminate against anyone whose behavior or lifestyle is somehow at odds with your religious belief. IN other words if you claim it's against your religion you can refuse service or housing or anything including fire protection,
medical care or whatever. Funny but I am hard pressed to find a religion or sacred text that condones that kind of behavior, but that's not my problem.
The real issue in these bills is not one of religious "freedom" and contrary to what it seems I believe it is not to reinstate the "Jim Crow" laws of the 1950's. This whole coordinated effort, (and it is coordinated make no mistake), is designed to change the framing of the issue of "equality" and bend using pretzel logic into one of "religious freedom".
Why would anyone do that?
Well just look at the latest polls. American's are more and more comfortable with full equality for LGBT citizens including marriage and job discrimination. That is a pretty good sign that the Right-Wing is losing the culture war. In other words, the world is changing and the Right-Wing is upset because they see themselves going the way of the dinosaur. As the younger generation matures, a generation who grew up on Will and Grace and Queer as Folk and Ellen, they find it natural to view LGBT folks as pretty much not only no big deal, but pretty ordinary.
So imagine you are a fundamentalist or a Republican or both. You see the change catching up with you. You see the "arc of history" bending toward a justice you want nothing to do with. You might even be having a crisis of faith since the old "it's in the Bible so it's true, word for word" is just not working anymore.
More importantly, if you are a politician, you find your "go to" tactic of holding up a boogieman to frighten the faithful and raise money and votes. You have successfully used fear to line your coffers and get elected and now that there is less to be fearful of, well you need to put the fear back into your troops. What better way than play on that crisis of faith they are already sensing and tell them they won't be able to "believe" anymore. They won't be able to "practice their principals" which include being hateful and bigoted and that will put the fear of God in them for sure.
When people, even the religious right if they believe in freedom and equality, they will say of course they do. But when you get specific, do you believe in equality for gays or immigrants or anyone who is not white? Well the answers get more sketchy.
And that is the distinction that these bills are designed to play on, in a way that is politically correct, at least to the far-right. If you called these the "right o be a bigot" bills, they would fail, but wrap it in the Bible and call it "Religious Freedom Bills" well who can be against that? It works both ways. Even progressives believe in religious freedom, it's in the constitution!
So thought these crappy laws are falling one by one we must not fall victim to the reframed issue. Don't call them "Religious Freedom Bills". If you do you are buying into their framing and that is a losing tactic. Call these what they are, Bigot Bills, Jim Crow Redeux, Discrimination Promotion Bills. That is what they really are and we must not let anyone forget it.