Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (2013)

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (2013) Wikimedia Commons

Part of me would like Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to surprise everybody and sign SB 1062, aka the Religious Freedom to Discriminate Against Gays Restoration Act. That way, a gay or lesbian in Flagstaff, Phoenix, or Tucson — the only jurisdictions in the state that currently bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation — could go to court and get a ruling that Arizonans’ religious freedom no more allows such discrimination in business than it allows discrimination on the basis of race or gender or religion itself.

What SB 1062 would do is require the plaintiff to show that there’s a compelling state interest in preventing discrimination against gays and lesbians, whether or not a “person” (defined in the bill to include any individual, association, partnership, or corporation) demonstrates that his or her or its exercise of religion is substantially burdened by having to not discriminate. And when judges in Utah, Oklahoma, and Kentucky (update: and today, Texas) find those red states’ Defense of Marriage Acts to be unconstitutional, I’ll bet that an Arizona judge would find that the cities’ ordinances do manifest a compelling state interest.

If judges follow the election returns, they also follow the survey data. A new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute shows what whereas in 2003 Americans opposed same-sex marriage by 59 percent to 32 percent, today they support it, 53 percent to 41 percent. Among major religious groups, that shift includes white and Hispanic Catholics as well as white mainline Protestants. Black Protestant support has risen from 23 percent to 35 percent while white evangelical support has more than doubled, from 12 to 27 percent.

The point is that full equality for gays and lesbians is rapidly becoming the American norm, and there’s not going to be much tolerance for efforts to use the right of religious free exercise to violate that norm outside religion’s own precincts. And even within those precincts, the tolerance is fading fast. The Arizona Catholic Conference should take note.

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Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life.

7 Comments

    • Frank, Based on the link provided in this article, “…Hispanic Protestants are divided; 46% favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry and 49% oppose. By contrast, nearly 7-in-10 (69%) white evangelical Protestants and nearly 6-in-10 (59%) black Protestants oppose same-sex marriage. Only 27% of white evangelical Protestants and 35% of black Protestants support same-sex marriage.”

      Because these percentages have increased, and have done so quickly, believers are drifting closer and closer to what they believe is the will of God.

  1. Sez you in this blog post. Legislatures in several Red States say differently and are legislating hatred and homophobic behavior to make it the norm. So, while the study might say one thing these Christian lunatics say another and they hold the majority in these state legislatures thanks to people staying home to not vote in 2010. Capitalism has failed us and now democracy itself is failing, if only because we are failing it! All hail the Christian States of `Merica that is coming soon to a nation near you. Worship at the altar of hate and be told that is Christian love!

  2. Mark, a key Supreme Court Case which is often cited for shooting laws like this down is Romer v. Evans (1996)
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/94-1039.ZO.html

    The Court found that the state did not even pass muster on a rational basis (the lowest form of scrutiny). Colorado was trying to pass a law to prevent gays from being included in anti-discrimination laws. The court was rather unmerciful towards it. They essentially found the laws so purely hateful, so blatantly discriminatory that there was no possible state interest in it.

    “It is a fair, if not necessary, inference from the broad language of the amendment that it deprives gays and lesbians even of the protection of general laws and policies that prohibit arbitrary discrimination in governmental and private settings….The state court did not decide whether the amendment has this effect, however, and neither need we.”

    “the amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects; it lacks a rational relationship to legitimate state interests”

    The proposed state laws are so clearly and unambiguously discriminatory that every Federal Court will just cite Romer as a reflex action.

  3. Earold Gunter

    When will the religious stop trying to discriminate against humans in the name of a belief that they say represents love?

    This debate is all but over in America, and although discrimination will continue, as it does in the case of race, it will cease to be supported by the laws of this great nation. The religious will see this as a sign of the end of times growing nearer, some with glee. The nonreligious will see it as society moving closer to equality, and an end to religious belief.

    Religious people, I urge you to please keep on protesting. Your zealousness only serves as a shining example to others that your beliefs have no place in a moral loving society.

    Religion is poison!

    • Earold, Here in Seattle’s religious community one will find gay ministers, rabbis, and Catholic churches where gays are welcomed and encouraged to attend. They see light at the end of the tunnel of hatred and cherry-picking our sins.

      I agree with you that many religious forces were against integration before civil rights, and that today many religious forces are uncivil toward marriage equality as they once were for equality for blacks and other minorities. Luckily, younger religious adherents seem willing to integrate gay marriage into their belief system.

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