In a time when laws and constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage are falling almost daily – Utah, Nevada, Virginia (especially poignant); and Michigan will probably be next – to federal court decisions resting on United States v. Windsor we see a flurry of new laws in entirely predictable states – Kansas, Arizona, Tennessee - trying to exempt people with religious scruples from having to comply with non-discrimination laws, although they fully expect the protection of those laws themselves.
The smell of desperation is thick in the air, and the spasms are coming ever faster and harder. The ploy here is to claim that religious freedom is under attack because religious people are more and more being penalized for discriminating against gay and lesbian people.
This takes a page out of Sun Zi’s book:
兵者，詭道也。故能而示之不能，用而示之不用，近而示之遠，遠而 示之近。利而誘之，亂而取之，實而備之，強而避之，怒而撓之，卑 而驕之，佚而勞之，親而離之，攻其不備，出其不意。此兵家之勝，不可先傳也。
All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive. When we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder and crush him; if he is secure at all points, be prepared for him; if he is in superior strength, evade him; if your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him; pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant; if he is taking his ease, give him no rest; if his forces are united, separate them; attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.
These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.
The beauty and power of this advice is that you do not have to consciously follow it for it to be effectual. It operates with or without intention. Whether or not there is a covert gay agenda, whether or not some queer cabal is orchestrating all this, the war is playing out exactly as Sun Zi said it will.
Kansas, Arizona, Tennessee
A bill in Kansas would protect people discriminating against gay and lesbian people from legal action on the pretext of protecting their religious freedom.
“House Bill 2453 explicitly protects religious individuals, groups and businesses that refuse services to same-sex couples, particularly those looking to tie the knot.”
The obvious flaw in the argument is that one person’s rights stop where another person’s right begins. That seems not to trouble the sponsors and backers of the bill, or perhaps they just don’t believe gays and lesbians have any rights in this area.
And then in Arizona there is SB 1062, which would allow businesses to discriminate if the owners’ religious beliefs promoted that discrimination. Since Arizona has a typical Sun Belt religious landscape – lots of Evangelicals and Fundamentalist – the groups this puts at risk are Mormons, gays and maybe Wiccans. But problems are rearing their head and some of the very people who voted for this Senate bill are having serious second thoughts:
“Three state Republicans who voted for the measure have also expressed buyer’s remorse, telling the Arizona Republic that the fallout from the measure is causing the state “immeasurable harm.”
Read the rest of Katie McDonough’s article to see how well proponents of the law can articulate the threat to religious freedom this law supposedly addresses. (She deserves the click, though she hardly needs it.)
”On February 5, Republicans introduced legislation in both chambers of the Tennessee Legislature allowing a person or company to refuse to provide services such as food, accommodation, counseling, adoption, or employment to people in civil unions or same-sex marriages, or transgender individuals, “if doing so would violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the person.”
The most efficient and effective way to destroy this last ditch defense of bigotry is to excite it to excessive and convulsive action, to destroy its credibility so that the public sees it for what it is and rejects it; to destroy its mask of respectability and expose it as the hate movement it is and thereby demolish any chance of success it may have.
As Sun Zi tells us:
Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.
This is not the first episode of this backlash. The first episode came in the form of anti-SSM laws in states and amendments to state constitutions. Now that federal court decisions are knocking those down like ducks in a shooting gallery, a new backlash, more desperate, more incoherent and ridiculous, is shaping up. And almost certainly this one will fail before it even looks like having any success. The cycle has just gotten that much shorter.
So as public opinion shifts further and further and furhter away form the old homophobic tropes and becomes less and less toelratant of homophobia, these people are scrambling to brand themselves as homophobes. Remember the old story of the two scorpions in a botle who hated each other so much that they sat there stinging each other until both died? These religious homophobes are managing to do the same thing with only one scorpion in the bottle.
So all in all, these frantic attempts are a hopeful sign. But the enemy is not dead yet and its defeat here has prompted even more desperate attempts elsewhere – such as in and Russia. That is where the next battle is.