January 23, 2014

Conservatives want to legalize discrimination

The GOP’s Birth-Control Trojan Horse

The right wants to use religion as an excuse to legally discriminate against gays and unmarried women—and, ultimately, anyone who doesn’t share their Christian faith.

By Amanda Marcotte
While stoking right-wing resentment over other people’s sex lives is a great way to sell the attacks on Obamacare to the masses, the real question is about whether employers have a right to discriminate if they claim to have religious reasons for doing so. Should employers be able to take away earned benefits from employees because they disapprove of the employee’s private decisions? Or does an employee’s right to religious liberty mean a boss can’t use compensation packages to try to force compliance with religious dictates?

The answer to the question is about way more than contraception. Indeed, there’s strong reason to believe that the battle over the contraception mandate is just part of a nascent conservative legal strategy to give business owners broad rights to discriminate against people—both customers and employees—on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender. The right’s hope is to create a legal structure where business owners can cite religious objections to weasel out of a variety of legal obligations, from the obligation to pay employees what the law says they’re due to the obligation to treat all customers fairly. The attempt to sidestep a federal law stipulating that female employees get basic insurance benefits, including contraception, in exchange for the work they do is just part of this larger movement.

In fact, attacks on the right of gay customers to be served without being subject to abuse or discrimination is just as big a fight as the one against the contraception mandate. In many states, the battle over gay marriage is morphing into a battle over what conservatives say is a “right” to discriminate based on sexual orientation, so long as you claim Jesus is your reason for doing so. Across the country, right-wing Christian business owners are testing anti-discrimination laws by claiming that they have religious objections to doing things like baking wedding cakes or performing wedding photography for gay couples getting married.

So far, the pro-discrimination forces have been losing out as judges find that laws barring businesses from discrimination are not suspended just because of religious reasons. However, if the Supreme Court eventually finds that businesses such as Hobby Lobby can discriminate against their employees by refusing to offer federally-mandated health benefits because they disapprove of non-procreative sex, that could dramatically change the legal landscape. After all, it’s going to be hard to say that a business can’t refuse customers on the basis of disapproval of their sexual choices when the same business is allowed to deprive an employee of part of her earned compensation package because they disapprove of her private sexual choices.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Excerpts from Dog Whistle Politics and Satanic Statue Shows Conservative Hypocrisy.

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