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A very successful strategy for opposing LGBT equality in the '90s was to claim that sexual orientation and gender identity-inclusive protections constituted "special rights", as in claiming that LGBT people would end up privileged over everyone else. This was the main reason that Colorado passed Amendment 2 in 1992. After the slavery and segregation laws, it is, in my opinion, literally the most disgusting law ever passed in this country. It banned the state and any of its political subdivisions from banning discrimination against people for being gay or bisexual but not straight. Gay? Bi? No protections for you. Straight? You get protections. It is one of the most blatant violations of the Equal Protection Clause ever, even more than marriage discrimination laws.

Eventually, the LGBT equality movement overcame the catchphrase "special rights". (The reason that it's an inaccurate argument is that sexual orientation and gender identity-inclusive protections include protections for being straight and cisgender.) It is, however, still used to some extent today. In Houston, for example, the group attempting to repeal the city's non-discrimination ordinance calls itself "No Unequal Rights. (They've failed, by the way.) But today I've noticed a pattern of conservatives wanting special rights. Every time they ask for religious exemptions, they ask for special rights. If they want religious people and groups to be exempt from laws that apply to everyone else, then I think it's safe to say that they want special rights.

Michigan bullying law

In November of 2011, the Republican-controlled Senate of Michigan's state legislature amended an anti-bullying bill they were considering. The amendment basically made it a pro-bullying bill. They decided to exempt from regulation:

a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian.
This got support from NOM:
Gay Rights Groups Protest Religious Viewpoint Protection in Michigan Anti-Bullying Bill

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act will ban workplace discrimination the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for all businesses with over 15 employees. The religious exemption allows for groups that are allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to ignore the law. But this still isn't enough more many religious conservatives.

From the USCCB:

Because ENDA, if enacted, could be used to punish as discrimination what the Catholic Church teaches, the USCCB has always sought as comprehensive a religious exemption as is achievable, in order to protect the religious freedom of the Church, and of all others who hold similar views. One partial solution to this problem is to apply Title VII’s prohibition on religious discrimination, which is already incorporated in the current version of the bill. But this is insufficient alone, as the Title VII protection covers only a subset of religious employers, and recent experience shows that even covered employers may face government retaliation for relying on such exemptions. Without such additional protection, ENDA would be applied to jeopardize our religious freedom to live our faith and moral tenets in today’s society.
From NOM:
Consider this: even the weak religious exemptions which are included in ENDA — which NOM, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Family Research Council, Heritage Action, and many others all consider to be entirely insufficient — are themselves being attacked by some gay activists as too large a concession!
From FRC:
ENDA’s “religious exemption” is inadequate to protect people of faith. ENDA contains an exemption for certain “religious organizations,” such as houses of worship or religious schools. However, the exemption fails to protect individual Christians, Jews, Muslims and others who have objections to certain sexual behaviors from making employment decisions consistent with their faith. In fact, it is questionable whether any profit-making corporations would qualify for the exemption, meaning that Christian bookstores, religious publishing houses, and religious television and radio stations could all be forced to compromise their principles in mandated hiring practices.
Marriage and Religious Freedom Act

This law, HR 3133, would protect allow anyone to not treat same-sex couples as married, even if it meant discriminating against them. It reads:

The Federal Government shall not take an adverse action against a person, on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
Of course, the religious right loves it. From NOM:
Today the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) endorsed the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act.” Introduced by Congressman Raul Labrador of Idaho, along with 60 co-sponsors, the proposed legislation protects organizations who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman from having their tax-exempt status stripped by the IRS.

“This is a critical piece of legislation to protect religious liberty as a cornerstone of our country and deserves our full support,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president. “Efforts to redefine marriage pose a direct threat to the free exercise of religion. This legislation would protect the right of organizations to communicate their views about marriage without threat that the tax code will be used to punish them. We applaud Congressman Labrador and his colleagues for their leadership on this important issue.”

From The Heritage Foundation:
Bipartisan legislation was introduced today in the House of Representatives that would prevent the federal government from discriminating against citizens and organizations who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act (H.R. 3133) was introduced by Representative Raul Labrador (R–ID) and over 60 other original co-sponsors from both political parties.

The bill is an important step for conscience protection. Government policy should respect those who stand for marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Even in jurisdictions that have redefined marriage, those who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman should be free to live in accord with their moral and religious convictions.

From the USCCB:
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, gave their strong support for the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act (H.R. 3133) introduced yesterday in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Raúl Labrador.

“This non-discrimination bill is significant, indeed, very important,” said Archbishop Cordileone. “It would prevent the federal government from discriminating against religious believers who hold to the principle that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This is of fundamental importance, as increasingly such individuals and organizations are being targeted for discrimination by state governments – this must not spread to the federal government.”

From FRC:
Family Research Council (FRC) today urged Members of Congress in the U.S. House of Representatives to support H.R.3133, the "Marriage and Religious Freedom Act" introduced by Congressman Raúl Labrador (R-ID) on September 19.

David Christensen, vice president for government affairs at FRC, made the following comments:

"This bill affirms that a person's religious belief in the importance of natural marriage should be treated with tolerance and respect by the federal government. The Windsor ruling urges respect for federalism and the sovereignty of state decisions on marriage law, including laws that define marriage between a man and a woman.  This bill merely states that the federal government cannot target or harm a person for their religious views in support of natural marriage.

Kansas House Bill 2453

This was one of the many infamous license to discriminate laws that popped up from all around the country in February. Like the others, it guaranteed protections from discrimination only if it was religiously motivated.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender:

(a) Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement;

(b) solemnize any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement; or

(c) treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid.

Again, it enjoys lots of RWNJ support. From NOM:
Wherever marriage is redefined, the story is the same: florists, photographers, bakers, caterers, social hall owners — anyone who runs a business that caters to the celebration of nuptials — these individuals are forced to choose between their deeply held beliefs about marriage and the prospect of being forced out of business by onerous lawsuits claiming 'discrimination.'

So I'm asking you to take action today to support two state-level pieces of legislation which aim to protect individuals and their businesses from legal reprisals for declining to participate in same-sex 'marriages.' The bills are pending in Arizona and Kansas.

From the Kansas Catholic Conference:
Marriage involves unique religious convictions that are rooted in the deepest aspects of faith, personal identity and conscience. And because the redefinition of marriage threatens to compel people by law to participate in, or otherwise support, relationships and celebrations to which they object in conscience, legal protection is required.

We thus commend the efforts of members of both parties to try to ensure that, if same-sex marriage becomes law in Kansas, existing religious civil rights and liberties of Kansans will be protected. We consider the House bill to be a good-faith effort to incorporate thinking from numerous faith communities and religious freedom experts, with a focus on ensuring that a future court decision does not diminish religious liberty in Kansas.

Oregon Initiative

This year, the Oregon Family Council began an initiated state statute to try to provide a religious exemption from the state's anti-discrimination law to the extent of the law banning sexual orientation discrimination. They dropped it after the Oregon Supreme Court approved this language for the ballot:

“Religious belief” exceptions to anti-discrimination laws for refusing services, other, for same-sex ceremonies, “arrangements”
That's exactly accurate. That's what they wanted. They dropped it after they accepted that no reasonable person could support religious exemptions to those laws.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

Who could forget this sh*tstorm of a SCOTUS decision? Not much recapping is required here. The Supreme Court decided that closely-held corporations can have freedom of religion and can exempt themselves from the contraception provision of the Affordable Care Act. This decision was an application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires strict scrutiny for the federal government to justify burdening freedom of religion, even if the law applies to everyone. I should note that there is bipartisan support of the law, but the application of the law in the Hobby Lobby case is restricted to one party.

Mitch McConnell said:

The Obama administration cannot trample on the religious freedoms that Americans hold dear.
John Boehner said:
The mandate overturned today would have required for-profit companies to choose between violating their constitutionally-protected faith or paying crippling fines, which would have forced them to lay off employees or close their doors.
Ted Cruz said:
Today's victory in the Hobby Lobby case is terrific news—but now is no time to rest. We cannot rely on the courts alone to defend our religious liberty.
Orrin Hatch said:
I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to protect the religious freedom of all Americans, both individually and collectively. The notion that religious freedom belongs only to some, and even then only in private, defies our nation's traditions, our laws, and our Constitution. And as the Supreme Court rightfully said today, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act could not have been clearer in saying religious liberty of all Americans must be equally protected and not unnecessarily burdened.
Michele Bachmann said:
I am extremely encouraged by today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the religious liberty rights of the Green family of Hobby Lobby.
The USCCB said:
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties means “justice has prevailed,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. The Court ruled that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “preventive services” mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as applied to these employers to the extent that it would have forced them to provide insurance coverage for drugs and devices that violate their religious convictions on respect for human life. The statement follows:

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to recognize that Americans can continue to follow their faith when they run a family business. In this case, justice has prevailed, with the Court respecting the rights of the Green and Hahn families to continue to abide by their faith in how they seek their livelihood, without facing devastating fines. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build a culture that fully respects religious freedom.

From the Alliance Defending Freedom:
The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed Monday that two family-run businesses, Conestoga Wood Specialties and Hobby Lobby Stores, do not have to surrender their religious freedom in order to remain in business. The court determined that federal law protects the two families from being forced to act contrary to their beliefs by the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate.

The Department of Health and Human Services mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy financial penalties through the IRS. But in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the Supreme Court said the families running the two businesses have federally protected religious freedoms that the government must respect.

“Americans don’t surrender their freedom by opening a family business,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel David Cortman. “In its decision today, the Supreme Court affirmed that all Americans, including family business owners, must be free to live and work according to their beliefs without fear of government punishment. In a free and diverse society, we respect the freedom to live out our convictions. For the Hahns and the Greens, that means not being forced to participate in distributing potentially life-terminating drugs and devices.”

From the Family Research Council:
Family Research Council (FRC) praised today's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding religious liberty and protecting the conscience rights of family businesses who object to being forced to pay for the coverage of sterilizations, contraception and drugs that have the potential to destroy an unborn child.

FRC President Tony Perkins learned of the ruling this morning as he met with the Hahn family, founders and owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, which were represented by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys in this lawsuit challenging the Obama administration mandate.

Perkins made the following comments:

"The Supreme Court has delivered one of the most significant victories for religious freedom in our generation. We are thankful the Supreme Court agreed that the government went too far by mandating that family businesses owners must violate their consciences under threat of crippling fines.

"All Americans can be thankful that the Court reaffirmed that freedom of conscience is a long-held American tradition and that the government cannot impose a law on American men and women that forces them to violate their beliefs in order to hold a job, own a business, or purchase health insurance.

"The unfair HHS mandate gave family businesses two non-choices: either violate your deeply held moral beliefs and comply by paying for drugs and services to which you object, or pay crippling fines of up to $100 per day, per employee, for non-compliance. This mandate threatened the jobs, livelihood and healthcare of millions of Americans and forced those who stood up for their conscience, like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, to either comply or be punished.

"Thankfully, the threat the HHS mandate imposed on Americans has been deemed unlawful today as a violation of core religious freedom rights.  While we celebrate this landmark decision, it is our hope that lower courts will follow the Supreme Court's lead and protect non-profits like Little Sisters of the Poor, Priests for Life, and Wheaton College from the unfair HHS Mandate," concluded Perkins.

From The Heritage Foundation:
Today’s ruling is certainly a victory for religious freedom.
President Obama's LGBT Executive Order

Last month, President Obama signed an executive order banning companies that contract with the federal government from discriminating on the basis on sexual orientation and gender identity, and added gender identity protections to federal employees.

A number of conservative pastors sent him a letter requesting a religious exemption. When it didn't come, the religious right was pissed.

From the USCCB:

Today’s executive order is unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.  

In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination. With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent. As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.

From NOM:
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) expressed concern over President Obama's signing today of a new executive order ostensibly aimed at preventing workplace discrimination against LGBT persons but that in reality could target Christians and other people of faith for reverse discrimination and harassing lawsuits. The executive order applies to all groups, including religious employers, who contract with the federal government.

"The fact is that non-discrimination rules like the order issued by President Obama can become a weapon used to punish and harass individuals and groups who support marriage as the union of one man and one woman," said Brian S. Brown, NOM's president. "As with the flawed ENDA (Employee Non-Discrimination Act) legislation that was rejected by Congress, President Obama's order has the great potential of putting employers in the position of standing up for their faith values or violating the new order. This will unnecessarily subject people of faith to harassing complaints and lawsuits."


Brown called on Congress to pass legislation overturning the new executive order and to revisit the issues of conscience protection and religious freedom for believers in traditional marriage.

From FRC:
President Obama has ordered employers to put aside their principles, and practices in the name of political correctness. This level of coercion is nothing less than viewpoint blackmail that bullies into silence every contractor and subcontractor who has moral objections to homosexual behavior. This order gives activists a license to challenge their employers and, expose those employers to threats of costly legal proceedings and the potential of jeopardizing future contracts.

"Religious faith is not simply a matter of intellectual affirmation but of active practice. A religious organization which is denied the power to require its employees to conduct their lives in a way consistent with the teachings of their faith is an organization which is being denied the right to exercise its religion, period. People with deeply held convictions regarding the morality of certain types of sexual behavior should not be bound by the dictates of President Obama's agenda.

Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act

At the moment, three jurisdictions plus the federal government ban companies that have contracts with the state governments from discriminating in employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity: Massachusetts, Illinois, and the District of Columbia. This law would make it more difficult for the state governments that receive child welfare funding to not work with adoption agencies that refuse to place children with same-sex couples. It would also restrict the federal government's similar actions. Basically, it requires the governments to sanction the discrimination of these companies.

But of course, conservatives love it. From NOM:

Last Week, Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act [S. 2706, H.R. 5285] which aims to protect the right of child welfare providers—including private and faith-based adoption and foster care agencies—to continue providing valuable services to families and children.

This important law would prevent the federal government and states receiving certain federal child welfare funds from discriminating against agencies simply because those agencies decline to provide services that conflict with their religious or moral convictions.

From the USCCB:
Three chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gave their strong support for the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014, which was introduced on July 30 by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) in the U.S. House of Representatives and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in the U.S. Senate.  

In separate letters of support, July 31, to Rep. Kelly and Sen. Enzi, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development said, “[O]ur first and most cherished freedom, religious liberty, is to be enjoyed by all Americans, including child welfare providers who serve the needs of our most vulnerable – children.”

Commenting on the protections in the Inclusion Act, the chairmen noted that “the Act would prohibit federal and state officials in the administration of federally funded child welfare services from excluding child welfare providers simply because of the providers’ religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

From FRC:
This important legislation sponsored by Congressman Mike Kelly in the House and Senator Mike Enzi in the Senate will ensure that the interests of children are placed ahead of political correctness. Specifically, this bill will prohibit discrimination against faith-based child welfare service providers by the federal government and by states receiving federal funds for adoption and foster care services.

The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act will prohibit such discrimination against faith-based child welfare service providers and will threaten states continuing such discrimination with a loss of federal funding. This important legislation will ensure that the maximum number of child welfare service providers can continue to advocate for children and will ensure that many adoptive families can continue to work with a provider which shares their core beliefs.

So there you have it. Conservatives always want to be able to break laws because God told them to do it.

Who really wants "special rights"?

Originally posted to Kossacks for Marriage Equality on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 01:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by LGBT Rights are Human Rights.

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