Did Arizona just destroy any chance for religious exemptions?

  • News alert (1) that you’ve already heard:  The Arizona legislature passed SB 1062 which would allow private businesses to discriminate, for religious reasons, against customers.

  • News alert (2) that you’ve already heard:  This created a HUGE backlash throughout the country.  Huge.  And bipartisan.  John McCain and Mitt Romney opposed the bill.
  • News alert (3) that you’ve already heard:  Republican Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill.

Now, the question that comes out of this is:  Did this Arizona fiasco ruin any future attempt at religious exemptions from gay marriage?  The bill created such a strong, nation-wide reaction, that the country will probably be on heightened alert for similar measures and will automatically associate them with this spectacularly unsuccessful Arizona effort.  As readers of this blog know, I’m a proponent of religious exemptions, and, as such, quite disappointed by this turn of events.

So where did Arizona go wrong?  How did we go from “Rasmussen Reports study found that ‘85% Think Christian Photographer Has Right to Turn Down Same-Sex Wedding Job,'” to this huge outcry that Arizona is bigoted.

A few thoughts:

  1. This should have been introduced WITH GAY MARRIAGE.  Done alone, SB 1062 seems a one-sided, bigoted effort to secure rights to discriminate against gays.  If added alongside the passage of gay marriage, it seems like a compromise that expands gay rights while protecting religious rights.  And it shows that Republicans are good-faith players who don’t just have some deep-seated animus against gay people; rather, it’s truly about protecting freedom of conscious.
  2. Alliance Defending Freedom should not come within 1,000 feet of these laws.  As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes did nice job showing, the group is associated with every anti-gay measure in the book.  You can still buy copies of “The Homosexual Agenda” on ADF’s website.  And ADF founder James Dobson has a bevy of really absurd gay comments in his past.  Rather, groups like the Cato Institute should lead; Cato has credibility on both sides of this issue (see recent articles on this topic by Cato’s Walter Olson and Ilya Shapiro, and see the truly awesome job Ilya Shapiro did on MSNBC tonight with Chris Hayes)
  3. The one thing the Arizona bill did right was that it didn’t single out gays as the only class against which people could make religious objections to.  This was a “pro-religious-discrimination” bill.  Not a “free rein to discriminate against gays” bill.

More later.  But this could sink all the work that Professors Thomas C. Berg, Robin Fretwell Wilson, Douglas Laycock, etc. have been doing to try to carefully work in broader religious exemptions in gay marriage bills.

** NOTE:  I mention only Arizona because its bill happened to be the one that blew up in the media.  But other states trying out small RFRA laws include: TN, UT, KS, NV, ID, MS, HI, OH, SD, CO, OK.


2 thoughts on “Did Arizona just destroy any chance for religious exemptions?

  1. Walter Olson

    I think a key factor here was the overreach a week or two earlier in Kansas, where social conservatives got a seriously bad bill passed in the lower house of the legislature, one whose provisions were enough to repel moderates, libertarians and many other groups. That gave momentum to opponents and led to a widespread assumption that the measures in states like Arizona would probably be shown to be equally bad if looked at closely.

  2. Chris L.

    Nice article and I agree with your conclusion regarding the likely impact on efforts to obtain legitimate religious exemptions. But, this is not the first time that the virulent anti-gay groups end up destroying their purported goals. Many of these groups seem more interested in building a stage for political theater, fundraising, and claims of “persecution” than in achieving any legitimate solution for their alleged concerns.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s