strawmanOver at the Hayride, supposedly Louisiana’s premier conservative political commentary site, they’ve got a new article against the opponents of HB 707.

If you wanted a classic example of a straw man argument (a logic fallacy involving the purposeful misrepresentation of an argument in order to strike it down), this would be the one article to read.

Let’s start with the problem of comparing states with non-discrimination laws that protect LGBTQ people to Louisiana, which most emphatically does not. If you do not live in Shreveport or New Orleans (and, even there small businesses are exempted), there is nothing to protect you from discrimination in employment, housing or the big kicker, public accommodations. So, those bigoted bakers are safe while the LGBTQ community is not.

Now, let’s take the bill itself: current draft of LA House Bill 707.

Line 15 of the bill:

A. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, this state shall not take any adverse action against a person, wholly or partially, on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction about the institution of marriage.

Doesn’t that just send chills down your spine? It reads to me like the government is giving carte blanche to the bigots of the state. Or is it just queer folk that can see real world applications like, say an airport security agent delaying the travel of a same sex couple because both the moms weren’t on the birth certificate, a pharmacist refusing to fill prescription drugs like the morning after pill to single women because sex should only happen within marriage, or a justice of the peace denying an inter-racial couple a marriage license at all because he doesn’t believe in mixing the races.

Guess what? All of the above mentioned have already happened in the great state of Louisiana. My friends at Forum for Equality have done up a lovely graphic on some of the other implications from this bill:

More than cupcakesThe intent of the bill and its author notwithstanding, it is  the implementation of the bill which concerns us. There is real agreement from the business, more than 50 faith leaders and progressive communities that passage of this bill would allow for businesses and individuals to discriminate based on their belief of what marriage should be.

So, having set up their straw man, here is the big question from our intrepid defenders of the downtrodden and marginalized: Does Equality Louisiana condone the fining of private business owners by the state because they refuse to service gay nuptials?

Now, I do not work for, speak on behalf of or represent EQLA in any way, shape or fashion and my views are my own but here is my answer to Mr. Binder:

First of all, religious liberty is already protected by the United States and Louisiana constitutions. No pastor/priest/rabbi/minister/etc will ever be forced to officiate in a ceremony which violates the precepts of their faith.

Second, other than the folks listed above, who actually services the nuptials? Does anyone who has tied the knot consider the reception as servicing their ceremony? In my opinion, it is the people standing up for the couple and the minister who are the ones that serviced the wedding.

The cake is served at the reception. At that point, the ceremony is over and the celebration has begun. If that is still servicing the nuptials, then what is to stop these business owners from taking the next step and denying service for the next phases of the same-sex couples lives — birth or adoption/their kids achievements/their work successes/personal milestones –all of which were made possible by the ceremony?

Thirdly, have we’ve really forgotten the reasons behind the civil rights sit-in protests? In the 1960’s, many Southern whites had beliefs and convictions (backed up by Jim Crow laws) against the mixing of the races in restaurants, on busses, in restrooms, in schools and at the drinking fountain despite the Supreme Court ruling that separate was not equal. It took sit-ins, Freedom Rides and all sorts of other actions to get passage of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination by privately owned places of public accommodation (including hotels, restaurants, theaters, banks, health clubs and stores) on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin.

Fourthly, when business owners hang up open signs, they have a responsibility to treat all customers equally under the law. This was echoed in the recent case that came out of New Mexico when Justice Richard C. Bosson wrote in the decision against New Mexican photographers Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin:

The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead. The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more. But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life.

In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people.

Finally, if Michael Johnson and his ilk really want us to believe they aren’t just blowing a dog whistle for bigotry, they should support all inclusive, non discrimination acts like the Louisiana Non-discrimination Act (HB 612). In fact, Georgia defeated their RFRA by exposing the real reason behind these bills (so these so-called Christians will be free to discriminate against anyone they disapprove of).

Michael Johnson wants to just get along? Then he should stop with divisive bills like this one, especially during fiscal legislative sessions where the order of business should be tackling the budget deficit and the massive hospital, education and infrastructure issues facing the state.

Please join the fight against this harmful bill and for the passage of HB 612 by supporting the Forum for Equality with your donation or membership today.

Thank you!