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Saturday, December 10, 2016

“Discrimination,” he said, “is horrible. It’s hurtful. It has no place in civilized society…”

You would think that statement, delivered recently in the Kansas legislature, a noble sentiment no right-thinking person could argue with. But we are gathered here today to argue with it.

Because it turns out that when Republican legislator Charles Macheers said “discrimination,” he didn’t mean, well … discrimination. Macheers sponsored a bill — passed overwhelmingly by the Kansas House but killed last week by the Senate in an attack of common sense — that sought to exempt any business or government employee from providing “any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges” related to any “marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement” if doing so would conflict with the employee’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

In other words, if the customer seeking these services, et cetera, were gay.

You see, Macheers’ idea of fighting discrimination is to protect the right of alleged “Christians” to discriminate against gay men and lesbians. Apparently, Jim Crow is alive and well and serving in the Kansas legislature.

The comparison is not an idle one. Macheers’ babblespeak, his brazen attempt to paint the oppressors as the oppressed, is straight out of the white supremacist playbook of the 1960s, when opponents of the Civil Rights Act bewailed it as an incursion upon their sacred rights — by which they meant their sacred rights to discriminate. Moreover, a state governed by Macheers’ law, a state where you could be denied a haircut, a wedding cake, hotel accommodations or police services based on sexual orientation, would out of necessity have to erect the kinds of signs this country has not seen for over two generations:

“We Don’t Serve Homosexuals.”

“Straight Only.”

“No Gays Allowed.”

This was a hateful piece of legislation (there are rumblings it may be reintroduced) but there was also something starkly ridiculous about it, some sense of the garage door being locked after the car has been stolen, the fence fixed after the cows have wandered off, some sense of fighting a battle already lost. Consider:

The bulk of the country now supports gay rights.

Most young conservatives now support gay rights.

The federal courts now support gay rights — as seen in a recent string of decisions approving same-sex marriage.