October 11, 2017
Why do some people recklessly repeat statements ad nauseam which are, in the end, simply not true? Because for many, the means justify the ends. Some people will believe anything if it is repeated enough, allowing proponents of claims such as those made about Mississippi's HB 1523 to see them increasingly accepted as true. Unfortunately, this does not help our increasingly fractured society get along, but only cements intolerance toward many well-meaning Christians -- who themselves would never act in such bad faith toward those who disagree with biblical truth.
Since HB 1523's challengers lost before the 5th Circuit after they were not able to show how the law injured them, they have now appealed to the Supreme Court -- and have recklessly mischaracterized the circumstances surrounding this law in doing so.
Their petition opens by absurdly arguing that the religious exemptions in HB 1523 "demean" and "stigmatize" same-sex couples and deny them equal treatment under the law (ostensibly, because such exemptions allow some to withhold their approval of such conduct). In the petitioners' view, "[t]hat is precisely the harm that Obergefell sought to rectify."
This line of reasoning misleadingly implies that HB 1523 somehow was designed to undercut Obergefell. It wasn't. The law simply provides exemptions for those whose consciences are implicated by Obergefell -- which can be followed consistent with HB 1523; same-sex marriages are still fully treated the same by the state of Mississippi as other marriages. Just as objections to military service and abortion have long been protected in law despite fitting the petitioners' notion of a "particular" religion (notably, the petition never really addresses these areas), the law can provide conscience exemptions in other areas too.
Nevertheless, the petitioners continue to try to condition the reader to the "goodness" of Obergefell and the nefarious nature of any religious objections to it (notwithstanding the Supreme Court's own recognition to the contrary) -- the warm sounding yet nebulous "promise" of Obergefell is discussed, HB 1523 is alleged to "repudiate central aspects of petitioners' lives, families, and identities," and the law is an "attempt to use religious exemptions to undermine rights to equality and dignity of LGBT people." Even the Masterpiece case is subtly equated with "state attempts to limit Obergefell by creating unprecedented religious exemptions."
Christians are trying to live with Obergefell, and just protect their own conscience by not being forced under penalty of law to celebrate something that is clearly contrary to scripture. Yet instead of trying to find a reasonable middle ground, opponents of HB 1523 are forging ahead and asking the Supreme Court to take this case with the help of none other than former Obama Solicitor General Donald Verilli -- who famously admitted at oral argument in Obergefell that religious institutions that disagree with same-sex marriage could lose their tax-exempt status.
Those supporting HB 1523 and similar legislation might disagree with Obergefell, but they are not trying to change the ruling -- they are just trying to protect themselves in the face of it. If only those who support Obergefell and disagree with HB 1523 would do the same.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.