On Religious Freedom
Of course the fundies are bleating about religious freedoms. What else have they got? They desperately wanted the postal survey, because they’d hoped they could whip up enough fervour among the true believers to overwhelm what they thought would be the natural apathy of the heathens: and even if they didn’t, at least same-sex marriage would be pushed back, made a lot more difficult and painful, and they could spend the whole campaign playing crusader to their adoring flock.
But now the survey has come and gone, and they’ve lost. The true believers’ fervour wasn’t as fervent as they’d thought, the other side was a lot more committed and united than they’d expected, and the delay they’d delighted in causing feels like it was over way too quickly. They’re the ones who wanted the survey, so they can hardly now claim it was illegitimate (well, they could — it’s not like they have a sterling record of intellectual honesty so far — but mostly they won’t, because even they have a limit when it comes to placing undue stress on the self-awareness gland). But what they can do is now say, as loudly and as often and as gratingly as possible, that fine, yes, the people have spoken on same-sex marriage…but that doesn’t mean you can take away our freedoms.
This is one of those occasions when shameless bigots try to take advantage of the fact that reasonable people feel a certain sense of embarrassment when forced to state the bleeding obvious or the painfully unoriginal. Donald Trump benefits from this a lot: he’s so blatantly deranged that saying, “Donald Trump is deranged” makes a person feel like a complete idiot. It’s like, duh, yeah he’s deranged, what else is new, Captain Cliche? When something is blindingly clear to all, it can feel pretty awkward actually saying out loud.
So it’s distinctly uncomfortable to sit here and say, “there are no religious freedoms being threatened”, because…duh. We all know that, right? Do we even need to say it?
Sadly we do, because we don’t all know that. I don’t mean because some people are saying that religious freedoms are threatened — those people know as well as we do that they’re lying. But there are plenty of people, of varying intellect and morality, who aren’t exactly fully engaged with the discourse. They dip in and out of the news like a driver trying to find a radio station while travelling through the country. And if we don’t say what’s obvious, all those people will hear when they dip in is “religious freedoms must be protected!” and they’ll assume that if that’s so, it must be because there’s something to protect them from. Especially because so many news outlets seem determined to report the fundies’ “concerns” without fact-checking them.
So here it is: the passage of same-sex marriage into law will not threaten any religious freedoms. Everything everyone was free to do before, they’ll still be free to do. Everything everyone was not free to do before — besides, you know, marry someone of the same sex — they’ll still not be free to do.
In other words, you want to argue against religious freedom provisions in the wake of SSM, you’ll have to argue against religious freedom provisions that are already there.
Because here’s the thing: if you run a business, you’re not allowed to discriminate on the basis of a person’s sexuality. That’s how it is now. Not how it’s going to be after Malcolm Turnbull decides it’s safe to go back to work and passes a same-sex marriage bill: now.
If you’re a baker, you can’t refuse to make a cake for someone because they’re gay. If you own a function hall, you can’t refuse to hire it to someone because they’re gay.
Oh, oh, oh! The fundies squeak. But we’re talking about gay marriages. Not being allowed to discriminate against gays isn’t the same as not being allowed to discriminate against gay weddings.
Yeah, but…it is, isn’t it? Because although right now a marriage between two people of the same sex is not officially recognised by our government, there is nothing stopping anyone having a gay wedding. In fact, people do. It’s always been possible to put on a wedding, say vows, have a big party afterward — the lack of the government’s rubber stamp didn’t make that illegal.
And guess what? If two people want to throw themselves a wedding, and they want a cake for that wedding, and you sell wedding cakes, and you hate gay people, and you want to say you won’t sell them a wedding cake because your wedding cakes aren’t for gays…
That is already against the law. The upcoming same-sex marriage bill will not prevent you from denying service to gays — because you already can’t, you idiot.
I mean all this legalistic talk leaves aside the question of why the fundies think gay people will be flocking to homophobes to beg for their services. Or why some small business operators are apparently desperate to deny themselves any part of a lucrative market — and to further ruin themselves by making it known that they have a literal or figurative “No Gays” sign in the window. But anyway.
The other side of the equation is of course the religious freedoms you already have, that aren’t going to go away. Like, for example: currently, you’re allowed to believe in whatever god you choose, and believe in whatever prejudices that god endorses. So if your god hates the gays, you’re free to agree with him/her/it. You’re free to say so. You’re free to hold prayer meetings with your friends where you all condemn the gays to hell. You’re even allowed to tell your children that being gay is wrong, because being a bad parent isn’t illegal any more than being a nasty dickhole is.
You’re allowed to do all that now, and you’re going to be allowed to do that after the law passes, too. Who do you really think is going to stop you? Grow up.
And hey, if you’re a minister of religion, you get to carry on as usual too — because nothing is going to require you to conduct gay weddings. No, there doesn’t need to be a special provision in the law for this: nothing requires you now to conduct any wedding you don’t want to. Did you think it did? You silly priest!
So just to run through the checklist, after same sex marriage passes:
- you can believe whatever you want
- you can worship however you want
- you can hold whatever prejudices and commit to whatever bigotries you want
- you can discriminate against exactly the same number of people as you always could
I guess what I’m saying, fundies, is: cut the crap. You’re talking bullshit because you’ve been beaten and you’re looking to save face. You’re just making yourselves looking even stupider than you did before. So shut your damn mouths and let the grown-ups get on with life.
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