Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Two Takes on "Religious Freedom" Debate about "Right" of Florists and Bakers to Discriminate: Nathaniel Frank and Matt Bruenig

Nathaniel Frank on the absurdity of the argument that opposing gay marriage is rational, while it's irrational to oppose interracial marriage:

The obvious hypocrisy of the religious freedom argument has for years prompted social conservatives to tie themselves in knots seeking a secular argument for blocking gay marriage, one that appears to be a rational concern about social harms rather than an article of religious faith. Their strongest arguments are still bunk. Yet though he disagrees with them, [William] Saletan [of Slate] accepts as “rational” and “defensible” arguments by the virulently anti-gay conservative Catholic professor Robert George that, in Saletan’s paraphrase, “sex is a much brighter line than fertility or intention to bear children.” The “bright line” argument says that since what gender you are is literally easier to see than deeper and more important things like love, commitment, and responsibility, it’s a reasonable basis for doling out or withholding marriage rights. George actually argues that “an infertile man and woman can together still form a true marriage” while a gay couple can’t because “the behavioral part” of a straight sex act remains “ordered to reproduction even when nonbehavioral factors” like infertility don’t. Slate’s Mark Stern deftly dispatched this argument thusly: “In other words, you should copulate with your opposite-sex spouse not to make a baby, but to behave in a way that would make a baby if you were fertile. Coitus is sacred not as a means, but as a performance.”

Then Frank concludes:

There comes a time when there’s only one morally correct answer, and the space for having the wrong answer has dried up. I’d argue that time has come.

And that's very much where I myself have ended up in my own thinking--and why I'm not in the least patient with proposals to "debate" what is now beyond debate, in moral terms, for people with very much moral acumen at all.

And here's Matt Bruenig on why conservatives (and the "reasonable" and "important" centrist commentariat that always enables the right while trying to slap the left down) want to have this "debate," when they don't want to debate the religiously based "right" of Westboro Baptist church to picket funerals:

Here, conservatives can eject gallons of spittle from their mouths when it comes to discriminating business-owners because they sympathize with those owners. They can imagine either themselves, people they know, or people in their political tribe wanting to run a business without having to service gay people or gay weddings. And it makes them feel bad that those people won’t be able to carry on like that, that those people will either have to find another way to make an income or reluctantly comply with anti-discrimination rules. Because they find such people with those particular beliefs and commitments sympathetic (beliefs they also hold, or once held, or that are held by people they know), they mobilize any number of largely disingenuous abstract appeals to content-neutral religious liberty in support of those people.

He concludes,

The religious objections to racial integration no longer carry enough sympathy for pretend arguments about procedural liberty to gain that much currency among conservatives. The same will be true of anti-gay bigotry soon enough, and the hand-waving about procedural justice (which is not even violated in the case of anti-discrimination for reasons explained above) will fall away. 

And he's right, too. 

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