by: David Harris-Gershon on February 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
One might think, given the record number of anti-gay bills being proposed across the United States, that the religious right’s legislative influence – and cultural entrenchment – is growing. In fact, they are evidence that the exact opposite is the case.
What we are seeing right now are the last gasps of religious fundamentalism and its normative influence on the national stage. Just as an individual on his deathbed experiences a momentary flurry of energy and clarity before descending into his final end, we are witnessing the religious right’s final flailing on the national stage. To understand this, one doesn’t need to examine Pew studies on changing attitudes, nor the consolidation of religious fundamentalism into pockets of the Southeast and the West.
All one needs to do is look at legislation being offered right now, and the mainstream ridicule such legislation is garnering.
Take for example the extraordinary case of a bill purportedly being written by one of Washington’s most influential lobbyists, Jack Burkman, which would ban gay athletes from playing in the NFL.
Now, forget for a moment the audacity of a lobbyist openly admitting to writing a piece of legislation. Burkman claims to have “political support” for the bill, being written to prevent Michael Sam, the standout defensive lineman from Missouri and openly-gay athlete, from being drafted by an NFL team. This is how Burkman characterized the bill’s necessity:
“We are losing our decency as a nation,” Burkman said in a statement. “Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That’s a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?”
Now, given such horrors, one might expect Burkman to have legislators and the public behind him, despite its clear constitutional conflicts. However, Burkman was unable to cite the names of any specific lawmakers who are backing the bill, and the primary public responses to the bill have been pure ridicule and embarrassed shrugs, even in conservative circles.
These embarrassed shrugs are also being seen in Arizona, where even Republican legislators who voted for, and passed, the State’s anti-gay piece of legislation are now calling upon Governor Jan Brewer to veto it. Are these calls to veto the bill now being made because legislators no longer believe private businesses should be able to refuse service to gay Arizonans?
No. They are doing so because of the public embarrassment and damage the bill is causing Arizona as the nation points and either laughs, or laughs while demanding Arizona be boycotted. Take State Senator Steve Pierce, who voted for the bill based on deeply-held religious beliefs, on where he now stands:
“I don’t like the negative picture of Arizona, and I’m on board asking the governor to veto the bill … I screwed up. I’m trying to make it right.”
The religious right has lost the national battle over whether or not LGBT Americans deserve full equality, so much so that efforts to take their rights away elicit scorn and ridicule. And this loss is on the front lines of the fundamentalist war which has been waged in this country for decades. The battle over gay marriage, and equality for all, is over. And evolving public opinions on other hot-button issues, such as abortion and creationism, show that the religious right’s national political hold is over.
Sure, rural and exurban pockets of America will continue to champion religiously-motivated policies backed by fear and hatred, and those who represent such fears will continue to be elected. But those pockets, be they in Georgia or Minnesota, are being consolidated, rather than spreading.
And on a national stage, such politicians will increasingly become marginalized and ridiculed. So much so that the phenomenon of Republican lawmakers apologizing for their discriminatory votes may become a thing.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.