Sunday, June 21, 2015

Draw the line

Today's edition of the Detroit Free Press has a substantial cover story saying our battle for our rights will not end when the Supremes require same-sex marriage across the country (which we hope they will do within ten days). A big part of the fight will be because many states, including Michigan, don't include sexual minorities in their civil rights laws. Can a landlord refuse to rent to a married gay couple – and does that fall outside the civil rights laws because they are gay or fall within those laws because they are married? Marital status is listed in Michigan's law.

As I've noted in the last few days several states, including Michigan, are trying to carve out religious exemptions to recognizing same-sex couples. These new laws, if they pass, will likely have to churn through the courts. More than 100 existing Michigan laws mention "married," "husband," "wife," "father," or "mother." Perhaps revisions to every one of these will go through the courts. So the legal fight will likely be a long one.

Peter Montgomery, writing for Towleroad, expands on this idea. He mentions some of the defiant statements from the recent past, such as the Manhattan Manifesto from 2009. The Chicken Little claim that a favorable (to us) ruling by the Supremes would "unleash religious persecution" is being repeated (in various ways) by lots of Fundies.

Montgomery reminds us these Fundies are seeking to oppose more than same-sex marriage. Their demands go much further than that and their globe-trotting has made life hell for our brothers and sisters in other countries, such as Uganda.

Next Montgomery considers the attempts at drawing the line on who may refuse service to gay people using religious objections. An example from the parallel abortion debate: When Roe v. Wade was decided laws were quickly passed to allow doctors to refuse to do abortions. Most of America thought such laws were appropriate. But what about the nurse assigned to care for a woman after the procedure? What about the pharmacist presented with a prescription for a morning-after pill? What about the bus driver who suspects a woman is on his bus to go to an abortion clinic? Where is the line? How far from the central event do we honor complicity-based conscience claims?

Back to the realm of same-sex weddings, most of us agree that it is appropriate for clergy who disapprove of us to be allowed to refuse to perform our weddings. But what about the florist? Because that question isn't completely answered in American minds the Fundies base their arguments around it.

Where to draw the line – how far from the central event will we allow claims of conscience – will occupy America and its legal system for quite a while. The Hobby Lobby case, which allows a corporation to "exercise religion," has meant the location of that line is up for debate. And Fundies will continue to push that line as long and as hard as they can. The good news is most of the recent bills intending to legalize discrimination have failed. Alas, that isn't true in Michigan and a few other states.

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