These three laws have subtle differences; NC's law seems to focus sharply on transgender individuals and bathroom usage; GA's law would have focused largely on marriage; and MI's law shoots squarely at the heads of all LGBT individuals. But they, and all recent "religious protection" laws passed in the last several months (such as Indiana, Arkansas, the list goes on), have the same goal: Protect good Christians from ... from what, exactly?
While there are nut jobs who blame LGBT people for everything from the attacks on September 11 to the war in Iraq to Hurricane Katrina, they alone are not responsible for the current desperation evident in these absurd legislative efforts. There is a knee-jerk, "gut" terror gripping individuals who think they need protection. And when fear takes over, reason flies out the window.
So what are these gut-level fears? And how would reason mitigate them?
As a Christian pastor who knows the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, I'm terrified that I'll be forced to marry a same-sex couple!
Fear not. The U.S. Constitution says the government is not allowed to establish any religion, and that all citizens are allowed to practice (or not) the religion of their choice. If you want protection, here it is: both government and religion are protected from each other.
Here's how it plays out.
Two Buddhists walk into St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. To the priest in charge, they say, "We love this space! So beautiful. And we think the Catholic mass is wonderful and mysterious and intense. We want you to marry us here."
"So I take it," responds the priest, "that you will first convert to Catholicism, be baptized and confirmed, accept communion, go through pre-cana..."
"Oh, no!" the Buddhists laugh, "We think your god is a ridiculous figure. We aren't leaving Buddhism, we just want to be married here. In Latin. More mysterious that way."
"Sorry. We don't do Latin mass any more. And the U.S. Constitution guarantees that I don't have to perform religious services for anyone who doesn't adhere to the doctrine of the Catholic church. But I do hope you'll consider converting..."
See? Protected. One hundred percent.
I don't want to have to [photograph] [provide flowers for] [make a cake for] a gay wedding!
In the U.S., anyone who runs a business open to the public is not allowed to discriminate against a customer based on race, color, religion or national origin. So a black baker whose grandparents were lynched by members of a local church cannot legally turn away parishioners of that church, even if one of them was party to the actual lynching. In this case, fear is a reasonable emotion for the baker, but there's no legal protection from serving the murderer. (And, by the way, that church member's business cannot turn away the baker.)
What does a contemporary baker have to fear from serving a gay couple? Is their God going to rain down hellfire and brimstone onto the bakery if they bake that "gay" cake? Are they afraid that being gay is contagious? False fears, both; otherwise, there'd be a lot of mysteriously fire-bombed bakeries and a lot more gay people.
Massachusetts declared gay couple's marriages legal in 2003. The state is doing just fine, thank you; no hellfire, no bits of falling sky, nothing but a happier citizenry in which marriage is marriage for everyone.
I'm terrified that a man dressed as a woman is going to attack me in a public bathroom!
Oh, come on. First of all, if a man is going to attack you in a restroom, he's not going to take the trouble to dress up first. Second, a man who attacks women anywhere is a man who (on some level) hates women; a man like that is never going to make himself look like what he hates. Third, the "man" (transwoman) in question is not a man, she's a woman; her brain structure is female, regardless of what her birth certificate says. And would you rather have a transman (who, to your eyes, dresses and acts like a man but whose birth certificate says "female") in there with you? How would you know he wasn't a "real" man, there to attack you?
I could go on, but I think I've made the point. These frantic reactions are coming from a place of fear that leaves no room for thinking. And while the paranoid will always be with us, I see both blame and credit in the current mass hysteria.
Blame goes to the Cheney/Rove administration (W was just a puppet), which forced a lever into every event after September 11th, 2001 that promised even the tiniest fragment of fear. They dragged the fragments into the light, added lies and half-truths and out-of context facts, fanned the spark, and set fire after blazing fire to anything that could be made to look different from the average, white, straight, cisgender, Christian voter. I know this, because when the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated bans on interracial marriage, only about a third of U.S. citizens were in favor of the decision. Today, more than two-thirds of citizens have no problem with same-sex couples marrying and having children, and we see the Supreme Court deciding with them. The panic we see today is spawning frantic attempts to "protect" the fearful at levels far out of proportion with reality.
Credit? Well, that goes to the same people who are desperate to protect themselves from the phantom danger of "the gay" and "the trans." Because even though their desperation is ridiculous, they're demonstrating that there has been so much progress in LGBT rights that as fearful, non-thinking bigots, they feel so cornered that they're taking these drastic, ultimately hopeless steps.
Hopeless. That's next after fear. After that? When the sky doesn't fall, and the bakers who send confections to the weddings of any paying customer are doing just fine, maybe the people who've allowed themselves to be ruled by fear will realize how absurd they've been. But in any event, on this issue, they will go the way of the dinosaurs.