Conservatives have been flailing this month to recover control of their “religious liberty” talking points after the country turned on Arizona for its “license to discriminate” bill, leading up to Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto Wednesday afternoon. Groups like the Heritage Foundation, the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council, the Cato Institute, and Focus on the Family all came to SB 1062’s defense, arguing in various fashions that it would do nothing to promote discrimination against LGBT people. At the forefront of this media effort was the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which not only helped draft Arizona’s bill, but provides legal counsel to individuals who engage in such discrimination.
By doubling down in response to the backlash, these groups have sent a clear signal that the fight over “religious liberty” is far from over, even if Arizona proves to have been a turning point. Here’s a look at the rhetoric they’ve used over the past two weeks to suggest that “religious freedom” somehow requires the privilege to refuse service to the LGBT community — in particular, marrying same-sex couples — and why it doesn’t hold up.
What Is “Discrimination”?
At the core of this discussion is a fundamental disagreement about what “discrimination” is and what “discrimination” is not. It’s no secret that stories of bakers, florists, and photographers being punished for refusing service to marrying same-sex couples is what motivates these bills; proponents admit as much. But they don’t actually think of that refusal of service as discrimination.