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Good People Sometimes Back Bad Laws

Memo Pad Politics

Good People Sometimes Back Bad Laws


A law in Indiana and a bill in Arkansas making life harder for their gay neighbors have lost their wheels in a surprising smashup. Business interests, usually associated with the conservative cause, lowered the boom on “religious freedom” legislation supported by social conservatives.

But we are not here to discuss the Republican rift between economic and religious conservatives. Today’s mission is to narrow the far wider gap between liberals and social conservatives. It’s to urge liberals holding the fervent belief in the right to same-sex marriage to give the other side a little space to evolve.

Condemning these traditionalists as base bigots is unproductive. Liberals might borrow the sentiment religious conservatives have often applied to homosexuality: Hate the sin, but love the sinner.

Such laws are indeed discriminatory, and nastiness may propel some of their supporters. But many of the backers, though they regard homosexuality as immoral, are not especially hostile toward gay people. Some have been genuinely shocked to hear that they would be considered unkind, unfriendly, and bigoted.

There’s a tendency in our culture to cluster in communities of like-minded people and throw lightning bolts of disapproval over the walls into other like-minded communities. But where possible, persuasion beats condemnation every time.

The train to legalized gay marriage is unstoppable, so let it continue rolling at a comfortable pace. When Massachusetts first permitted same-sex marriage in 2004, pollsters asked that state’s residents whether they defined marriage as something between a man and a woman. A majority said yes.

Most of the respondents’ answers in 2004 reflected not an animosity toward gay people but rather a traditional view of marriage. A poll asking the same question today would undoubtedly find a majority in Massachusetts saying “not necessarily.”

To my gay friends who regard the ability to marry another of the same sex as a basic human right, I hear you. But you must concede that the path for widespread legalization of same-sex marriage — starting in liberal places, such as Massachusetts, and then expanding one state at a time as more Americans became comfortable with the idea — has been quite effective.

To my liberal friends of whatever sexual orientation, you and social conservatives share a few areas of common interest. This is territory you can meet on if you don’t employ a scorched-earth policy every time you disagree.

The environment is one example. The Christian Coalition of America has fought efforts by fossil fuel interests and utilities to slap taxes on solar panels. In explaining its position, the coalition’s president wrote, “We recognize the Biblical mandate to care for God’s creation and protect our children’s future.” Whatever the hearer’s spiritual bent, those words are among the most beautiful statements of the environmentalist creed ever made.

White evangelicals may be more conservative on other issues than the population at large, but 64 percent told pollsters for LifeWay Research that they favor comprehensive immigration reform. Some of their church leaders have been among the most vocal proponents of a humanitarian approach to fixing the immigration laws.

The battle against casinos seems a lost cause, but Christian conservatives have led the good fight. Gambling as a means to raise government revenues is immoral, they say, and one reason is that it fleeces the most economically vulnerable members of the community.

What liberals and religious conservatives share is a belief that many of our most important values can’t be measured in dollars. One can’t paper over these groups’ divergent worldviews. But while their advocates might not expect to embrace very often, they should preserve enough common ground to hold hands once in a while.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo: Beacon Hill in Boston, moments after the Massachusetts Legislature voted to reject a constitutional amendment which would have prohibited same-sex marriage, 2007. (Tim Pierce via Flickr)

Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop’s nationally syndicated column appears in over 150 newspapers. Media Matters ranks her column 20th nationally in total readership and 14th in large newspaper concentration. Harrop has been a guest on PBS, MSNBC, Fox News and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is a frequent voice on NPR and talk radio stations in every time zone as well.

A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary in 2004 and again in 2011, Harrop was also a Scripps Howard Award finalist for commentary in 2010. She has been honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the New England Associated Press News Executives Association has given her five awards.

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  1. Dominick Vila April 7, 2015

    A more appropriate name for the legislation that is being passed in some backwards states would be “Religious Intolerance or Cultural Intolerance” legislation. Discriminating against those who do not share your beliefs or values has absolutely nothing to do with freedom. It is, in fact, the anti-thesis of freedom.

    1. FireBaron April 7, 2015

      Waitiminit, Dominick! You mean we aren’t all hedonistic atheists? Or, at least that is what some Conservatives would have America believe of us Liberals. As I keep saying to my fellow Christians, please point out to me in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John where Jesus condemns homosexuality or homosexuals. I don’t care what it says in Leviticus, or the Letters of Paul. Just the big four that are supposed to be Jesus’ teachings. In going through about 10 different versions, including Vulgate Latin, I could not find a single condemnation in any of those four.
      That being said, I am proud to be a Christian. I am proud to be pro-choice – because I do not have the right to tell someone else what choice they should make. I am proud to be pro-gay-marriage – because I believe two people who love each other should be able to express that love regardless of their gender. I also am pro-adoption, pro-public education, pro-defense and pro-death penalty (as there are certain crimes and certain criminals who may deserve it – regardless of what Texas says, Jaywalking should not be one of them).

      1. highpckts April 7, 2015


      2. jmprint April 7, 2015


    2. itsfun April 7, 2015

      Such a delicate situation. One side says if you force me to do something against my religious beliefs it is discrimination against me and my religion. One side says if you don’t go against your beliefs and give me what I want, then you are discriminating against me and my lifestyle. Either way its discrimination. I guess it all depends on whose ox is getting gored.

      1. Dominick Vila April 7, 2015

        I rely on the Constitution, which is unambiguous on this issue.

      2. 788eddie April 8, 2015

        itsfun, please see Grannysmovin’ comment above.

        Would we be any more comfortable if a muslim-owned business cited sharia law to discriminate against Jews or Christians?

        1. itsfun April 8, 2015

          I still have the same comment. Are you asking if a man made law is more important then a persons religious law to the religious person??

  2. Eleanore Whitaker April 7, 2015

    The bottom line is that no American state can dare to segregate, intimidate or pass laws that discriminate against taxpayers. The minute these backward red states dare to do that, they get cut off from federal taxes all Americans of diverse ages, races, creeds and sexual orientations pay. Sorry…can’t have it both way…collect taxes from gay people and then deny them rights. That goes right back to how these idiot states treated minorities. This isn’t the Roman Empire where taxing people according to their race is the rule of the day.

    1. 788eddie April 8, 2015

      Eleanor, I agree with you, but can we change “taxpayers” to “citizens?”

  3. Anna April 7, 2015

    Homosexuality has deliberately been framed as a ‘lifestyle choice’ by the religious in order to demonize it. If and when people allow themselves to accept scientific information, they will know that homosexuality is a biological variation of nature, much like left handedness. Then, and only then, will gay people be treated equally. Can you imagine that happening? I can. One hundred years ago left handed people were demonized by these same willfully ignorant religionistas. They were made to write with their right hand against their natural inclination to be lefties. Why? To avoid being ‘evil’. It sounds preposterous to us now……and in another hundred years the same acceptance of homosexuality will exist. And people will look back on this time and say, “What were they thinking?!”

  4. Grannysmovin April 7, 2015

    “You can practice all the “religious freedom” you want in your private life and no one has the right to interfere”. However, if you operate a business that serves the general public than you must abide by laws that apply to businesses, including serving all customers equally.

  5. FT66 April 7, 2015

    Prejudice and being bigot is what is killing us all. Why should anyone prejudge anyone without knowing the ins and out of a person? Each of us can stick on their religious beliefs and still remember this country was not made basing on religious laws. No where in the Constitution you can find such a thing.

    1. Daniel Jones April 7, 2015

      Humans are prone to snap judgement, especially when we feel threatened.
      This is how the Bush League got us all following their lead after 9/11, by keeping us feeling threatened and reacting to their message instead of thinking things through.
      The religious minded would say the reason for the original settlement of America was to exercise freedom of religion, before the War of Independence was even dreamt of.
      All this is beside the point. The point is, once you have an opinion, it takes a genuine effort of will to stop, look around, and rethink your position. So let’s do just that–all of us.

  6. m s 57 April 7, 2015

    One of the enduring virtues of western “liberal” thought is pluralism, and the ensuing demand for tolerance. Anyone who spends any time at RCP or The Hill — or just about anywhere else you want to go where you will find “social conservatives” (whatever that means — liberals and progressives will be greeted with the most vile personal attacks and anger and, yes, ignorance. This is illiberalism and intolerance; too often they will claim to be Christian when their statements repudiate the teachings of Jesus. And all too often their intolerance is met with a liberal’s growing intolerance. There is no question that laws in Indiana, Arkansas and elsewhere are designed precisely to provide legal cover for them to discriminate against gays. But I agree with the author: Tolerance is a virtue in a pluralistic society; the irrational must be met with reason, not personal insults lobbed back at them. Give them room to evolve — without wavering at all on the injustice of discrimination.

    1. highpckts April 7, 2015

      For God’s sake, how long will it take to evolve?? This has been going on forever! Why can’t we just live and let live??

      1. johninPCFL April 7, 2015

        It took over 100 years from the first overt actions freeing black Americans from slavery for the first recognition by the highest court that they were truly Americans. Those cases, and the accompanying civil rights laws, were emplaced over a decade from the 1950s through the 1960s. In the 50 years since, how much progress has been made in creating a fully integrated and accepting populace? Social conservatism has a very long memory.

        Same-sex civil rights cases have just now come to the courts’ attention. Anti-gay laws, like their anti-miscegenation cousins from the last century are being overturned each time they are challenged. In a decade, they will begin their 50-year odyssey into the “acceptance” phase of their journey.

        1. jmprint April 7, 2015

          Oh no, I hope not, mean while people in love are discriminated against.

    2. Allan Richardson April 7, 2015

      I remember one of our past presidents who, while running as a candidate in the Democratic party, and supporting “legal liberalism” for the law, was quite open about his PERSONAL values being traditional Southern Baptist. Most liberals were mildly amused about these parts of his personality, but loved him for his honesty and his restraint in advocating for EVERYONE’S freedom. But the “real” social and economic conservatives found every excuse to vilify him, thwart his programs, blame him for economic ills caused by the actions of some foreign nations during his predecessor’s (Republican) administration, and finally, to give their already as good as elected movie actor an extra edge, sabotage hostage negotiations to ensure that THEIR guy, not the incumbent, got the credit for freeing them. So yes, there are some social conservatives, namely those who do not wish “dominion” over other viewpoints, whom I respect and admire, despite our differences over specific issues. Unfortunately, most of the vocal spokespersons for their philosophy behave in a sociopathic manner in order to advance their agenda, which makes them poor examples of Christian love, or even justice.

  7. pajamas April 7, 2015

    Love this article. Well done and good ideas. I know I don’t always support the ideas this memo puts it in its articles but I only have positive thoughts when I look at this one. Good use of the phrase hate the sin love the sinner.

  8. Whatmeworry April 7, 2015

    Its a shame that more libs haven’t ever read the constitution otherwise they would realize that the owners actions are protected

    1. ralphkr April 7, 2015

      An even greater shame, Whatmeworry, is that the Conservatives do read the Constitution and the Bible and do not understand either one. A prime example is not understanding the Second Amendment of the Constitution. Conservatives mistakenly think the intent is to arm citizens to be able to protect themselves from the government BUT the true intent was exhibited by a guy named George Washington (You may not have hear of him but he was our first President and, before that, was a general commanding the Revolutionary army). President Washington used the 2nd Amendment to organize a militia to put down a group of American citizens refusing to obey a federal law and pay a Whiskey Tax. It is plain to see that the real reason for arming citizens is to PROTECT the federal government from unruly citizens.

      1. Whatmeworry April 7, 2015

        Sorry ralph, guns should only be in the hands of law enforcement and our troops, not militias or private citizens. Conservatives no more read our constitution than the libs

        1. ralphkr April 7, 2015

          I suggest that you actually read the Second Amendment sometime, Whatmeworry. Quote: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” That is the entire Second Amendment. Nowhere does it state that only LEOs & armed forces have the right to bear arms. When that was written Washington and many others did NOT want a standing army since they had seen first hand the abuses committed upon citizens by a standing army and wished to depend upon national defense by armed CIVILIANS.

          1. Whatmeworry April 8, 2015

            Blah Blah, a well regulated militia results in nutting butt domestic terrorism, and protecting freeloaders from paying taxes like that yahoo rancher in NEV

          2. ralphkr April 8, 2015

            Hey, Whatmeworry, get your head out of where the sun doesn’t shine. Those organizations you are complaining about definitely do not fit the constitutional definition of militia but a perfect example of the stupidity of conservatives and their illegitimate seditious interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. When I was a LEO 5 decades ago and if those organizations had been around then they would have been given the choice of jail time or my bullet.

          3. 788eddie April 8, 2015

            Would someone please explain what is meant by “LEO.”

          4. ralphkr April 8, 2015

            LEO= Law Enforcement Officer.5 decades ago you were a deputy, trooper, marshal, agent, or a peace officer depending upon your agency now the common term is LEO. I was a deputy in the Midwest for a few years until I got tired of the below -30 winter and above +115 summer days (no AC in cars then) and moved to Alaska for the milder climate.

      2. Whatmeworry April 8, 2015

        Hmmm so Jefferson comment that the tree of freedom shouldn’t be watered with blood was about protectingg govt?

        1. Hmmm so desk clerk Dan M Ketter NEVER actually served in the military, and was a Joe College draft dodger during the Vietnam War. Dan & Bill Clinton have something in common!

          Hmmmm, why does he pretend to be a retired Air Force Colonel and conservative on one of his facebook pages. LIAR!!

        2. Staci Kittern Disbrow April 8, 2015

          You mean george jefferson? Moving on up…

        3. Staci Kittern Disbrow August 19, 2015

          I’m as beautiful as Linda Ketter, and I think Jefferson was a fine president.

        4. Staci K Whatmeworry December 26, 2015

          Bwhahaha! Dannnyboy! LOL! Please keep paying your post retirement federal taxes so I can keep earning my CRS pen$ion! It’s GREAT retiring at 51, and $pending dan ketters hard earned money from Ford Motors all those 30 years. Its WONDERFUL living on dan ketter$ dole!! Free Money….Free Money. From Dan Ketters wallet to Mine! Thank You Taxpayer$….HaHaHaHa

      3. Whatmeworry April 8, 2015

        Hmmm so Nixon comment that the tree of freedom shouldn’t be watered with blood was about protectingg govt?

        1. ralphkr April 9, 2015

          Sorry, Whatmeworry, but Nixon was not involved in writing the Constitution.

          1. Whatmeworry April 9, 2015

            It was rewritten in 1972 after watergate

  9. 788eddie April 8, 2015

    Thank you, Froma. You’re piece was thought-provoking.


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