A former Republican attorney general of Georgia has stepped forward with the simplest explanation I’ve read yet about what’s wrong with the so-called religious liberty bills that have been devised as pretexts for discrimination against gay people.
His name is Michael Bowers. He fought to defend criminal sodomy statutes as Georgia attorney general. He is no liberal. But, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution, he is prepared to deliver a ringing statement against two pieces of Georgian legislation — styled as one recently passed and another pending Arkanas bio are — to protect religious freedom. In both states, the legislation is intended to throw up a religious defense to support legal discrimination against gay people.
:Portions of Bowers’ statement have begun to leak out. This same words could apply in Arknasas. Lawyer/Gov. Asa Hutchinson, if he didn’t fear the extremists in his own party, would heed them and veto SB 202 on Monday, as Republican Jan Brewer did in Arizona.
“First, I believe if enacted into law this legislation will be an excuse to practice invidious discrimination.
“Second, if enacted, the proposed [measures] will permit everyone to become a law unto themselves in terms of deciding what laws they will or will not obey, based on whatever religious tenets they may profess or create at any given time. The potential intended and unintended consequences are alarming.”
With the evil genius that defines so much Religious Right Republican messaging, the haters have boiled the equality debate down to the wedding cake baker, whose business would be ruined if he refused to bake a wedding cake for a pair of transgender brides to be.
But it is, of course, much more invidious. It is about using religion — nominally founded on the Golden Rule — to allow anyone to invoke it to refuse to sell a tank of gas, rent an apartment, sell a hamburger, or sell so much as a stick of gum to a gay person. And when religion may be invoked for discriminate against other human beings, what else may be it invoked to protect?
Dangerous business. Veto this discrimination, Gov. Hutchinson.
Bowers’ conversion is remarkable. He once refused to hire a lawyer after learning she was gay and won the lawsuit over that decision. But he’s done more thinking. From his prepared remarks:
“It is no exaggeration that the proposed [measures] could be used to justify putting hoods back on the Ku Klux Klan. For decades, Georgia’s Anti-Mask Act has prohibited wearing masks in public.
“The law was enacted to prohibit the Ku Klux Klan from wearing hoods in public, and by extension, to discourage participation in its activities. While this statute contains exceptions for holidays, sporting events, theatrical performances, and gas masks, it does not contain a religious exercise exception – because many Klansmen used religion to justify participation in the Klan.
But the proposed [measures] would create a religious exception that was purposefully excluded. Anonymous participation in hate groups would undoubtedly rise….”
Georgia’s legislation to discriminate against gays has been slowed. It has passed through the Arkansas legislature like corn through a goose, with a similar byproduct.