Ryan T. Anderson
Ryan T. Anderson

Ryan T. Anderson doesn’t seem capable of advancing an intellectually honest argument. The ultra-orthodox Catholic (and possible Opus Dei numerary) has seemingly (if not grudgingly) accepted the fact that marriage equality is going to be a fact of life regardless of his, or his Church’s, disapproval. So now we’re on to the next phase — campaigning for license to discriminate ordinances. Not for all, of course. Just for gay people.

Anderson’s latest piece on the Heritage Foundation’s blog (Daily Signal) is titled Sexual Liberty and Religious Liberty Can Coexist. Here’s How. Anderson goes through the usual litany of professional victims, often taking license with the facts. They include, among others, Phil Robertson, Catholic Charities, florists, bakers and photograph makers. After most of the poor us, Anderson makes the following plea, primarily in regard to that New Mexico photographer:

But it isn’t clear that forcing every photographer and every baker and
every florist to help celebrate same-sex weddings is advancing a
compelling state interest in the least-restrictive way possible. It’s
not as if in New Mexico, where Elaine Huguenin resides, conservative
evangelicals have a monopoly on the photography business. There are
other photographers in New Mexico who support same-sex marriage and who
are interested in making money and who are more than happy to do the
wedding photography for same-sex wedding ceremonies. So it’s not clear
why we need to have the government penalize Elaine.

First off, Anderson is disingenuously trying to tie this into same-sex marriage; something that wasn’t recognized in New Mexico until very recently and this controversy (which finally ended) had been going on for six years. Then there is the notion that businesses help celebrate something by providing service. They are paid to provide a service that is peripheral to the actual event. After all they are vendors and not invited guests.  They are also public accommodations which means that they are obligated to comply with anti-discrimination laws.

Let us be clear here. These vendors are not victims. They have not been persecuted. The gay couples who face the indignity of being denied service are the real victims here. They are the ones who are being persecuted. Trying to characterize the oppressors as the oppressed is a tactic that has been used for centuries. It is not only disingenuous but indecent.

The religious convictions of these people may lead to their disapproval of mixed race marriages, Jewish marriages, bar mitzvas, marriages of previously divorced people, Islamic ceremonies and so on. That is the very reason that we have laws affecting public accommodations. Businesses that serve the general public should not make judgments about who they will, or will not, serve.

Anderson asks why the gay couples don’t just go elsewhere. So they should have to shop around before someone doesn’t say “we don’t serve your kind here.” Of course what Anderson really believes is that anti-discrimination laws should not include LGBT Americans. His Church says that we are “objectively disordered” and Anderson simply accepts anything that is spouted by ambitious prelates who, by the way, are theologians. They are not sociologists. Nor are they engaged in science. They are slavishly devoted to ancient texts that were written by men who thought that the sun revolved around the earth.

Then Anderson asks why the state needs to penalize the photographer. The simple answer is that we do penalize people who break the law. This would be indisputable to Anderson if a person discriminated against his religion. But the gay? Well obviously that’s different. Anderson explains:

There really is persecution going on in the world, and we shouldn’t
trivialize it. In many parts of the world you can be killed simply for
believing that Jesus is Lord. I don’t want to suggest that anything
that’s taking place in the United States even comes close to that.

In many parts of the world, gay people can be imprisoned, tortured and murdered simply for being gay. People like Anderson, and his Church, bear some measure of responsibility because they advance untruths about gay people; likening sexual orientation to a bad habit like drugs or alcohol in direct opposition to the overwhelming consensus of credible science. Superstition kills. According to Anderson:

But what happens in the United States still matters. And as citizens of a
self-governing republic, we should be engaged in trying to pass good
public policy, to pass laws that serve the common good. We should be
engaged in the political process to have our laws respect religious
liberty rights for all Americans—not just for our co-religionists, not
just for those people who hold the religious beliefs that we hold or who
engage in religious activities that we approve of.

So anti-discrimination laws don’t serve the common good? Or is it just LGBT anti-discrimination laws that don’t serve the common good? I think that we know the answer. Finally, in conclusion (and I have just quoted a few excerpts of this long-winded treatise):

If we’re going to disagree over the nature and purpose of marriage,
then protecting the religious liberty rights to dissent, to speak that
dissent and to act on that dissent is central. And those religious
liberty rights will be respected, both in law and in culture, if it’s
clear that we’re coming at this from a perspective of love.

Non-discrimination laws are not quelling dissent. There are plenty of means to demonstrate one’s disapproval without humiliating people by denying them service. Since most of the dissent over marriage equality comes from the Catholic Church suppose I open some form of public accommodation and refuse to serve Catholics? Then watch Mr. Anderson howl.

Anderson has no stake in same-sex marriage. He never did. It is something that doesn’t affect him in any way whatsoever.  He is perfectly free to not enter into a same-sex marriage. He is free to voice his disapproval of same-sex marriage on behalf of his religion. He is free not to attend a same-sex marriage if someone were to invite him. He can even save some money on a gift. However, if he runs a public accommodation in an area that includes sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination laws, then he has an obligation to service gay customers, no questions asked.

By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.