Thursday, February 13, 2014

Kentucky and religious freedom

A federal judge in Kentucky (a stalwart Republican judge, one might add) has decided that that state cannot continue to refuse to recognize legally performed marriages from other states.

Writing in Religion Dispatches, Sarah Posner highlights the relevant parts of the decision:
In his opinion in Bourke v. Beshear, Judge Heyburn anticipated and rejected the idea that one person's religious belief should mean restrictions on the constitutional rights of others. "Many Kentuckians believe in 'traditional marriage,'" he wrote, and "many believe what their ministers and scriptures tell them: that a marriage is a sacrament instituted between God and a man and a woman for society’s benefit." Recognizing that they might be "confused" or "even angry" about a decision that questions their view, Heyburn set out to answer those concerns:
The beauty of our Constitution is that it accommodates our individual faith's definition of marriage while preventing the government from unlawfully treating us differently. This is hardly surprising since it was written by people who came to America to find both freedom of religion and freedom from it.
"No one has offered any evidence that recognizing same-sex marriages will harm opposite-sex marriages, individually or collectively," he noted, and "[o]ne’s belief to the contrary,however sincerely held, cannot alone justify denying a selected group their constitutional rights." (emphasis mine)
This is important, because it shoots across the bow of the current "my religious freedom made me do it!" argument of those opposed.

Also in Religion Dispatches, Eric Miller highlights some of the effects of the proposed bills (such as the "Marriage and Religious Freedom Act") to "protect" people from Teh Gay:
Although the gay threat is routinely cited in the public remarks of conservative advocates...gays do not actually feature in the text of the legislation. Instead, the bills indicate that there only two relevant parties in the struggle—Christians, who hope to practice their faith openly in the face of oppression, and the federal government, which assumes the tried-and-true posture of a vast and faceless oppressor. Dodging overt demonization of the LGBT community, the authors of these bills won’t even condescend to acknowledge its existence. Their argument is thus an exercise in erasure.  
Freedom is the key term in American life, and religious freedoms are as deserving of protection as any other variety. But these bills image a sort of freedom to discriminate that outpaces its justification. You can believe that same-sex marriage is a sin and still sell flowers to gay people. You can also sell flowers to adulterers and alcoholics and greedy people and people who dance on weekends, all without violating your conscience—anecdotal evidence proves it. To pretend otherwise is to endorse an end-around oppression disguised as freedom. Unfortunately for its proponents, the disguise fits poorly.
While the federal version of the law may not have a chance, the rabid right in the states have  more success.  In Kansas, a hate bill will probably be signed by the governor.
In addition to barring all anti-discrimination lawsuits against private employers, the new law permits government employees to deny service to gays in the name of “religious liberty.” This is nothing new, but the sweep of Kansas’ statute is breathtaking. Any government employee is given explicit permission to discriminate against gay couples—not just county clerks and DMV employees, but literally anyone who works for the state of Kansas. If a gay couple calls the police, an officer may refuse to help them if interacting with a gay couple violates his religious principles. State hospitals can turn away gay couples at the door and deny them treatment with impunity. Gay couples can be banned from public parks, public pools, anything that operates under the aegis of the Kansas state government.
There's a tendency to think "we've won!"  but we haven't.  And the backlash may be very dangerous.


JCF said...

That Kansas bill is SO blatantly unconstitutional, I predict it will be tossed within days, if not HOURS, after---when/if the (dumb*ss) Governor signs it.

Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

And exactly what sort of religious restriction would a policeman or fireman cite when refusing to help a member of the LGBT community?

IT said...

Well, apparently all you ahve to do is say that you don't approve, on religious grounds, of a gay couple and you can do whatever you want.

But even if we ignorethat...Say a gay couple shows up at a hotelto claim their reservation. Ooops, they're gay! "We don't serve your kind."



It's gay apartheid.

IT said...

Oh, and here's news of similar laws in Idaho and Tennessee. The Idaho one specifically allows anyone licensed by the state to discriminate.

IT said...


IT said...

Episcopal Bishops in Kansas speak out