Happy Pride Month, everyone. If you’re LGBTQ et alia, rest assured that even though your rights remain under attack — as a recent Supreme Court decision showed — conservatives are still terrified of you, and have gotten no better at explaining why anyone else should be.
The week kicked off with a finding for the plaintiff in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, reversing the commission’s finding that Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips had violated a gay couple’s rights by refusing to make and sell them a wedding cake.
News outlets explained that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion focused on the nature of the commission’s decision — specifically that it “disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable” and thus treated him unfairly — and was not comprehensive of all anti-gay discrimination cases. In this sense the ruling, they reported, was “narrow,” to which many conservatives on Twitter — including Donald Trump Jr. and Republican senator John Cornyn — replied, Whattaya mean narrow, the vote was 7-2! and attributed the characterization to, natch, #MediaBias.
Libertarians were expectedly sour about the narrowness of the ruling. Without an obvious First Amendment ruling in favor of bakers who refuse to make gay wedding cakes, groused Jacob Sullum at Reason, “bakers with religious objections to gay weddings will have no constitutional defense against demands that they nevertheless supply cakes for them, as long as the officials enforcing that expectation keep their prejudices under wraps.” But can liberals suppress their hatred of Christ convincingly enough to advance their gay agenda? It’ll be an effort, surely!
But generally conservatives were happy that Phillips and Masterpiece didn’t have to make a wedding cake for the gays, and some expressed hope that someday anyone could say, “We don’t serve your kind here,” and get away with it.
National Review’s David French — longtime hardcore religious-right opponent not only of the gay marriage–legalizing Obergefell v. Hodges, but also of the birth control–legalizing Griswold v. Connecticut — said the ruling “strikes a blow for the dignity of the faithful,” and cheered that, though the court “essentially punted on the question” of Phillips’s First Amendment rights, it still found “Colorado was motivated by anti-religious animus” and, thus, “any ruling the commission imposes will have to apply on the same basis to different litigants, regardless of faith and regardless of the subjective ‘offensiveness’ of the message.… The Court not only prohibited favoritism, it imposed a high cost on censorship.”
If you’re wondering why that’s so exciting to French — whose obvious interest is not stopping censorship, but reversing gay rights — consider that the decision clears a path for other non–gay marriage cake-message court cases, any one of which could reopen the Masterpiece argument and perhaps win broader discrimination rights for anti–gay marriage businesses.
And maybe not just anti-gay businesses: Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire and, according to the New York Times, right-wing dreamboat, was pissed the decision didn’t address the “freedom of association” aspect of the case: “The Constitution was long understood to guarantee people the right to do business with whomever they chose,” Shapiro wrote. “That right has been abrogated in recent decades by anti-discrimination law — well-intentioned, but burdensome.”
If you’re wondering if Shapiro knows what this implies about the Civil Rights Act and public accommodation, I regret to tell you he does: “I think it’s idiotic not to bake a cake for a gay person, a black person, a Jew, or whomever,” Shapiro went on. “But I also think that’s an issue the government has no role policing, since I have no right to anyone else’s services at the outset. Capitalism does a rather fantastic job of policing such discrimination, given that other shopkeepers can cater to everyone…”
Well, at least he’s not trying to sugarcoat it. Nor was South Dakota state representative Michael Clark, who celebrated the Masterpiece decision by posting on Facebook, “If [a businessman] wants to turn away people of color, then that [sic] his choice.” (Clark, unlike Shapiro, later apologized.)
The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher — every bit as anti–gay rights as French, and then some — announced himself “stunned” and “grateful” at the decision, but also worried: “How would this ruling have gone if the Colorado commissioners had not been so blatantly bigoted in their comments about the Masterpiece case?… Masking your bigotry in that way is not hard to do, you know.” (If that’s the case, I wonder why Dreher doesn’t put more effort into it.)
Despite their SCOTUS victory, conservatives, being the drama queens they are, portrayed themselves as victims of an oppressive regime bent on forcing them to treat gay people like everyone else rather than pariahs as their religions demand.
When another court ruled against calligraphers who refused to do gay wedding invitations, Rod Dreher cried, “Thus is another Christian business severely damaged by gay bullies out to punish the wicked…gays and their allies are going to seek to destroy the livelihoods of all Christians who fail to give them what they want,” etc.
“Only an ignorant person could fail to see that over the last half-dozen years it is the opponents of sexual liberation who have become the outcasts,” cried R.R. Reno at First Things. “The rich and powerful have adopted the LGBT agenda as their most beloved cause. Corporate America lends its wealth and power. Higher education does as well. Just days before the Supreme Court handed down its decision, the FBI and CIA announced June 2018 as ‘LGBT Pride Month.’ ” The FBI! What would J. Edgar Hoover think?
Also, the gay couple in Masterpiece “do not belong to a vulnerable class of Americans,” scoffed Reno: “IRS data show that male-male married couples filing jointly have dramatically higher family incomes than other married couples, to say nothing of the disintegrating working-class families who don’t enjoy the benefits of marriage.” Rich homosexuals sneering out the window of their luxury cars at straight, salt-of-the-earth “working-class families” clustered in America’s creek bottoms: I predict that’ll be the next big Jon McNaughton painting.
Later, when a CrossFit franchise in Indianapolis collapsed because employees and members quit in protest of the cancellation of a Gay Pride event — and CrossFit executive Russell Berger, who supported the cancellation, tweeted that “celebrating ‘pride’ is a sin” and denounced the “intolerance of the LGBTQ ideology,” and got fired for it — conservatives reacted as you might expect.
“If [CrossFit] are proud of you ‘no matter’ who you love, then why were they singling out their gay clients for a special workout?” asked RedState’s Alex Parker. “Sadly, CF’s respectful diversity does not apply to the only type that actually matters — diversity of thought.” Which is crucial to any exercise business. Parker also complained about “the crackdown of cultural Marxism — so-called ‘political correctness’ — onto what has become an intellectual police state,” whatever that means.
“Gay activists and their supporters among the gym’s employees destroyed this Christian’s business,” declared, you guessed it, Rod Dreher, who compared the situation to Czechoslovakia under Soviet tyranny. (“Those who ‘live within a lie,’ says [Vaclav] Havel, collaborate with the system and compromise their full humanity,” Dreher quoted from his own book The Benedict Option.)
Later Dreher carried a report, allegedly from one of his readers, that Tulsa, Oklahoma, had “renamed four blocks of a street in the city ‘Pride Street’ in honor of the LGBTQ community there,” and said he’d heard from “an old liberal friend” that “gay couples are now going to prom together” even in counties carried by Trump. “Questions to readers living in Red America,” he asked: “How certain are you that you see what’s happening right under your nose, among the young people in your kids’ school?”
Still later, in a post called “Coming Next: Woke Pederasty,” Dreher lamented, “Now, normalizing drag queens for children is the big woke thing. We’ve had Drag Queen Story Hours in libraries nationwide. Now Netflix is turning drag queens into animated superheroes, and RuPaul’s streaming service is turning drag queens into child superheroes.… Can’t you see what’s happening?… Law and politics cannot possibly be enough to keep sanity alive as Weimar America descends further into decadence.… Yeah, I know, ha-ha, the right-wing Christian is freaking out again. Fine, laugh. Doesn’t bother me…”
Now, these aren’t great days for tolerance in general, and it’s true that in the Age of Trump we can’t be sure that dumb, overheated rhetoric against any minority won’t catch fire with enough citizens to do real damage. But at this point and in this case, at least, we can take some comfort that the dumb, overheated rhetoric is coming from people who couldn’t lead flies to a hog lot.