In its latest effort to undermine marriage equality, Breitbart.com hopes to drive a wedge between the gay rights movement and African-Americans. It's a strategy the anti-equality movement has attempted before and ignores increasing African-American support for marriage equality.
On February 25, Breitbart published two articles hyping an effort by a conservative coalition of black pastors to impeach Attorney General Eric Holder for "attempting to impose same-sex 'marriage' throughout the nation." Holder encountered withering right-wing criticism after telling state attorneys general on February 24 that they were not obligated to defend their states' marriage equality bans if they deemed them unconstitutional. However, Holder told the attorneys general that their decisions on the matter should be based on legal analysis, not policy preferences.
Breitbart's Taheshah Moise amplified Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP) President Bill Owens' declaration that the gay rights movement is "not a civil rights movement; it's a civil wrongs movement":
Owens said the idea to start the [Holder impeachment] petition began after Obama's 2011 decision to stop defending DOMA, which eventually was overruled. The pastors of the CAAP believe Obama's decision to champion the gay rights movement as a civil rights movement is a gross misapplication.
"They are trying to stand on the backs of real civil rights characters that stood up for what they believe regardless of who they were dealing with. I detest [the Obama administration for] calling it a civil rights movement. It's not a civil rights movement; it's a civil wrongs movement," Owens said.
Owens' organization is a front group for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a group that explicitly worked to foment animosity between "gays and blacks." Internal NOM documents leaked in 2012 uncovered a concerted strategy geared toward stoking African-American opposition to marriage equality. "The strategic goal of this project," a 2009 document stated, "is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks - two key Democratic constituencies."
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes effusively praised hate group spokesman Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (AFA) as "one of the most intelligent talk show hosts in the country." Fischer is notorious for making rabidly homophobic statements, including the claim that gay men caused the Holocaust.
During a February 24 appearance on American Family Radio's Focal Point with Bryan Fischer, Starnes and Fischer discussed a halted Federal Communications Commission (FCC) study that would have examined how well newsrooms are meeting the public's "critical information needs" on key public policy issues. Right-wing media hyped the study as an invasive survey that could lead to the federal government dictating news coverage.
While the FCC has backed off the study following public comment, Fischer said it "sounded" like the FCC is "reloading" and will proceed with the study anyway. In his discussion of the study, Fischer accused the Obama administration of trying to censor anti-gay views. Starnes agreed, suggesting that the Bible could soon be censored or outlawed. The Fox commentator praised Fischer's analysis of the FCC study as emblematic of why Fischer is "one of the most intelligent talk show hosts in the country":
Fox News has spent the last several months championing anti-gay business owners who refuse to serve gay customers - depicting efforts to prevent discrimination as threats to religious liberty. Now, with several states debating bills that would legalize homophobic discrimination in business and employment, Fox News is now defending the extreme, anti-gay segregation policies it helped to create.
The push to legalize anti-gay discrimination first came to public attention on February 12, when the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing individuals and businesses to refuse any services "related to, or related to the celebration of" any union - effectively allowing blanket protection for the denial of services to gay couples. After a storm of negative publicity, the State Senate has shelved the bill.
Similar bills have recently died in Idaho, South Dakota, and Tennessee, but the Arizona legislature has sent its own license to discriminate measure to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's desk.
The wave of anti-gay segregation measures is the culmination of a concerted right-wing strategy, bolstered by Fox News, to cast anti-gay discrimination as an integral part of religious freedom.
Long before the public outcry over Kansas' license to discriminate bill, Fox threw its weight behind businesses whose owners refuse, ostensibly on religious grounds, to serve gay and lesbian couples - precisely the form of discrimination that conservative state legislators have sought to legalize.
As part of Fox's continued conflation of homophobia and Christianity, the network has repeatedly defended discrimination by anti-gay business owners as an essential part of religious liberty.
On December 10, Fox & Friends hosted Colorado baker Jack Phillips and his extremist Alliance Defending Freedom-affiliated attorney to discuss a court ruling that Phillips had violated the state's anti-discrimination law by refusing to serve a same-sex couple. The segment featured a graphic proclaiming "The Death Of Free Enterprise," while co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Phillips why he thought he shouldn't have to discard his "personal religious beliefs just to make a buck."
The editorial board of the National Review ripped into "organized homosexuality" for opposing a measure passed by the Arizona legislature that would allow businesses and individuals to deny services to gay couples on religious grounds, defending the bill as part of the "live-and-let-live" credo.
In an editorial published online on February 24, the conservative publication's editors defended the bill as "necessary," criticizing the "oppression envy" shown by LGBT activists who have opposed the law and rejecting comparisons of the legislation to Jim Crow laws (emphasis added):
It is perhaps unfortunate that it has come to this, but organized homosexuality, a phenomenon that is more about progressive pieties than gay rights per se, remains on the permanent offensive in the culture wars. Live-and-let-live is a creed that the gay lobby specifically rejects: The owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado was threatened with a year in jail for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. New Mexico photographer Elaine Huguenin was similarly threatened for declining to photograph a same-sex wedding. It is worth noting that neither the baker nor the photographer categorically refuses services to homosexuals; birthday cakes and portrait photography were both on the menu. The business owners specifically objected to participating in a civic/religious ceremony that violated their own consciences.
Gay Americans, like many members of minority groups, are poorly served by their self-styled leadership. Like feminists and union bosses, the leaders of the nation's gay organizations suffer from oppression envy, likening their situation to that of black Americans -- as though having to find a gay-friendly wedding planner (pro tip: try swinging a dead cat) were the moral equivalent of having spent centuries in slavery and systematic oppression under Jim Crow. Their goal is not toleration or even equal rights but official victim-group status under law and in civil society, allowing them to use the courts and other means of official coercion to impose their own values upon those who hold different values.
Which is to say, what is regrettable here is not Arizona's law but the machinations that have made it necessary. It seems unlikely that those religious bakers and photographers were chosen at random, or that their antagonists will stop until such diversity of opinion as exists about the subject of gay marriage has been put under legal discipline.
The editors' assertion that the measure only targets services related to same-sex marriage has been debunked by experts. As constitutional law professor Kenji Yoshino of New York University has noted, the measure is written broadly enough that any individual or business owner would be allowed to refuse service to any gay person on the grounds that doing business with a gay person imposed a substantial burden on his or her religious beliefs.
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo highlighted the extreme anti-LGBT history of the legal organization that helped write an Arizona bill that would allow individuals and businesses to refuse to serve gay people on religious grounds, noting the group's record of opposing LGBT equality under the guise of protecting religious liberty.
As the Religion News Service noted on February 21, the principal drafters of the Arizona anti-gay segregation measure were the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy and the Scottsdale-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Spokespersons from both organizations have commented publicly on the bill, but media coverage has featured scant attention to the strident anti-LGBT positions taken by ADF in particular.
But in an interview with ADF attorney Kellie Fiedorek on the February 24 edition of New Day, Cuomo refused to let ADF escape scrutiny. Like other supporters of the measure, Fiedorek dodged uncomfortable questions about whether the bill would allow businesses to discriminate against gay customers.
But when Fiedorek compared requiring businesses to serve gay customers to asking a Muslim to participate in a burning of the Koran or an African-American to photograph a KKK rally, Cuomo pushed back, noting the ADF's record of defending anti-gay discrimination:
Continuing his defense of draconian state legislation to allow individuals and businesses to refuse services to gay people on religious grounds, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson suggested that businesses serving gay couples were "aiding and abetting sin."
Erickson continued his criticism of his Fox News colleague Kirsten Powers' recent USA Today column, in which Powers criticized "homosexual Jim Crow laws" currently being debated in several state legislatures. Those laws would allow businesses to refuse service to gay customers for religious reasons.
In her column, Powers, an evangelical Christian herself, argued that Christians shouldn't refuse services to people simply because they disagreed with them, noting that many "Christians serve unrepentant murders through prison ministry." Erickson responded by asserting that, unlike prison ministers, businesses that serve gay couples would be "aiding and abetting" sin:
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers and Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes continued their feud over Kansas' anti-gay segregation bill, with Powers calling Starnes out for "lying" in his criticism of her opposition to the measure.
The feud between Starnes and Powers began on February 19 with a USA Today column in which Powers challenged supporters of a Kansas bill which would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gay and lesbian couples on religious grounds. "Christians backing this bill," Powers charged, "are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws." Powers' Fox colleagues Starnes and Erick Erickson swiftly criticized the column and defended the Kansas bill as an effort to protect religious liberty.
Starnes reignited the feud with a February 20 tweet alleging that Powers - an evangelical Christian who quoted religious opponents of the Kansas bill in her column -- showed an ignorance of Christianity:
Powers pushed back, accusing Starnes of lying:
Starnes continued to take umbrage at the comparison between Jim Crow laws and "license to discriminate" legislation, charging Powers with "smearing people" who supported the legislation and accusing his critics of "playing the race card":
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers condemned a legislative push in Kansas to legalize religiously-motivated anti-gay business and employment discrimination, contradicting Fox News' pattern of defending anti-gay discrimination and sparking criticism from Powers' Fox News colleagues.
In a column for USA Today published on February 19, Powers blasted a Kansas bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples based on the owner's religious views. Since its passage by the state House of Representatives on February 12, the bill has been shelved by the Kansas Senate. Powers took issue with supporters of "homosexual Jim Crow laws" using Christianity to justify anti-gay bigotry - a common practice at Fox News (emphasis added):
Whether Christians have the legal right to discriminate should be a moot point because Christianity doesn't prohibit serving a gay couple getting married. Jesus calls his followers to be servants to all. Nor does the Bible call service to another an affirmation.
Christians backing this bill are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws.
Christians serve unrepentant murderers through prison ministry. So why can't they provide a service for a same-sex marriage?
Some claim it's because marriage is so sacred. But double standards abound. Christian bakers don't interrogate wedding clients to make sure their behavior comports with the Bible. If they did, they'd be out of business. [Evangelical pastor Andy] Stanley said, "Jesus taught that if a person is divorced and gets remarried, it's adultery. So if (Christians) don't have a problem doing business with people getting remarried, why refuse to do business with gays and lesbians."
Maybe they should just ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?" I think he'd bake the cake.
Powers' Fox colleague Erick Erickson made clear that he wasn't a fan of her column, tweeting a link to a blog post that criticized her position and called the right to refuse service essential to "the common good." Erickson called the post "your must read of the day":
Nationally syndicated columnist and National Review Online (NRO) contributor Dennis Prager declared that the "radical and extreme" notion of marriage equality leaves "no plausible argument" against polygamy or marriages between brothers and sisters or parents and children.
In his February 18 syndicated column, Prager assailed a spate of recent judicial decisions opposing state bans on same-sex marriage or, in the case of Kentucky, calling on state officials to recognize same-sex unions performed in other states.
Challenging the court rulings, Prager cited the margins by which state voters have approved bans on marriage equality - a standard by which bans on interracial marriage would also have been valid; in 1958, 94 percent of Americans opposed such unions. But Prager assured readers that same-sex and interracial unions are in no ways analogous (emphasis added):
For [marriage equality supporters], it is identical to ruling that laws that banned interracial marriages were unconstitutional. But that argument is utterly flawed. First, the analogy is false because there is no difference between black people and white people, while there are enormous differences between males and females.Second, no great moral tradition or thinking ever forbade interracial marriages (inter-religious marriages were sometimes forbidden). Moses, for example, married a black woman, and neither the Bible nor God hinted that it was wrong.
In other words: God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. And because gay people have been historically disenfranchised, there's no reason to start granting them equal rights.
Prager proceeded to predict the consequences of allowing marriage equality to take root (emphasis added):
Proponents of same-sex marriage regularly label opponents "radical" and "extremist." However, given that no society in thousands of years has allowed same-sex marriage, it is, by definition, the proponents of same-sex marriage whose position is radical and extreme. You cannot re-define marriage in a more radical way than allowing members of the same sex to marry. You can argue that is the moral thing to do. But you cannot argue that is it not radical.
This is another example of the lack of serious thought -- as opposed to serious passion -- that underlies the movement to redefine marriage. If American society has [in the words of Judge Vaughn Walker, who ruled against California's Proposition 8] a "constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis," then there is no plausible argument for denying polygamous relationships, or brothers and sisters, or parents and adult children, the right to marry.
Conservative media outlets are lauding a legislative effort to enact what experts are calling an attempt to reincarnate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the core provision of which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down last summer.
On February 12, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Senate version of the State Marriage Defense Act, a bill introduced in the House by Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) in January. The bill would require the federal government to yield to state definitions of marriage, meaning that same-sex spouses would lose the federal benefits and protections of marriage if they moved to states that prohibit same-sex marriage. Accordingly, ThinkProgress has dubbed the bill the "'You're Not Married Anymore' Bill."
The bill - which stands an infinitesimal chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate - would push back on the Supreme Court's June 2013 ruling against Section 3 of DOMA, which barred the federal government from recognizing validly performed same-sex marriages. Section 2 of DOMA, which wasn't considered in the Supreme Court case, allows states to define marriage, but there's a strong argument - increasingly supported by the courts - that the logical end-point of the Supreme Court's ruling is the demise of state-sanctioned discrimination against same-sex couples.
Since the Court issued its ruling, five federal courts have overturned state marriage equality bans, citing Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion that DOMA served no legitimate purpose. The most recent such ruling came on February 13 when U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen struck down Virginia's marriage equality ban.
Right-wing media, however, won't let DOMA die without waging a fight for anti-gay discrimination.
Breitbart.com championed Cruz and Lee's bill as a defense of state's rights, reprising the argument advanced by anti-civil rights figures who supported placing racial minorities' constitutional rights at the whim of state authorities. The website's William Bigelow asserted that the bill "protects the states from having the federal government encroach" on their ability to deny equal rights to same-sex couples.
Following the same narrative, The Daily Caller touted the bill as an effort "to prevent the federal government from imposing conflicting definitions of marriage on the states," promoting Cruz's claim that President Obama "should not be trying to force gay marriage on all 50 states." PJ Media also acted as stenographer for the bill's sponsors, extensively quoting the bill in addition to Cruz and lee. The bill, PJ Media's headline read, tells the federal government to "mind states' rights on same-sex marriage."