I’ll start by saying that as issue go, gay-marriage/gay-rights is not one of my majors. It’s not that I support the left’s position on this one – I don’t – it’s just that in the scheme of things that are happening right now (the diminishing of our superpower status abroad, the wholesale swindling of the taxpayer to fund ‘green energy’ scams & high-density ‘smart’ development at home, liberals ‘figuring out’ federalism & building a regulatory empire at the municipal level, Obamacare, etc) I put a higher priority on those…
However, the recent hysteria (most of it from hard-left locales such as San Fran & Seattle) over Indiana’s religious freedom legislation has brought a few things to mind:
The original push for ‘religeous-freedom-restoration’ legislation came in the early 90s. It had nothing at all to do with gay rights (At that time, ‘gay rights’ was something that was on no-one’s radar but that of gay people. It was a non-issue.)
The federal law was passed in response to a Supreme Court decision that stated, in effect, that the 1st Ammendment’s free-exercise clause did not exempt Native Americans from state/federal antidrug laws (under which peyote is a controlled substance). Despite the fact that this dealt with an abjectly non-Christian religion, many Christians saw the writing-on-the-wall & pushed for legislation to restate the 1st Amendment & protect all religious people from government overreach. Ergo, the 1993 RFRA, passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote and signed by Bill Clinton.
The majority of the state laws (they exist in about 19 or so states, so not-quite-a-majority) were passed in response to another Supreme Court decision, in 1997, that refused to allow the federal law to be applied against the states/local-govt – in this case, refusing to allow it to override historic-preservation legislation in Texas.
None of this has to do with homosexuality, abortion, or what-have-you.
In both cases, the laws were passed in response to relatively petty ‘nanny-government’ infringements (And yes, telling a Priest he can’t expand his church because it’s a ‘hitoric building’ is petty) upon the religious practices of private individuals.
2) Present controversy:
Since the events noted in (1), much has changed. We’ve seen the gay rights movement gain popular support & we’ve also seen a rise of ‘Localist Liberalisim’, whereby radically-blue local governments try to set national policy through local ordnance & litigation.
One need look no further than the reaction to the Indiana law, with SF & Seattle having public temper-tantrums over the fact that a state halfway across the country doesn’t follow their governing orthodoxy, to see this in action.
We have seen Catholic pharmacists sued for refusing to sell birth control. We’ve seen bakers & photographers sued for turning down business related to gay weddings. And of course, we’ve had the biggest federal RFRA case in years, vs-a-vs Hobby Lobby.
It’s local government power (and in one case, Hobby Lobby, federal power) being used to push a national agenda & to enable Left-wing anti-Christian bigotry: Real-Life Trolling of anyone who objects to the left-wing agenda on religious grounds.
What we have not had, is massive RFRA-enabled bigotry. It just has not happened, despite a large number of states having the law on-the-books since 97.
Keeping in mind that none of this was on the radar in 93 or 97 – the expected reaction to a pharmacy not carrying birth control or a photographer not wanting to serve your event was to take your business elsewhere – we are now in a situation where the Left is literally making up fictional discrimination scenarios and claiming RFRA is bigoted because it ‘might allow’ these fictional scenarios to come true.
It’s not because of a passion for gay rights…
It’s because reducing the crushing power of LOCAL government – even if just for religious organizations & closely-held businesses – harshes their buzz… The Left has been gradually working to implement their agenda through a combination of municipal government power (no US Constitution, or Congressional conservatives to get in the way there, outside incorporated rights) & economics…
Most of what the Left can’t get through at the Federal level, CAN be forced upon you by the concerted action of liberal mayors & city councils, combined with the high cost of building separate products, separate utilities, and so on for blue vs red America…
And an RFRA creates a crack in that power base… Not just in terms of the ‘conform or be cast out’ social issues, but in other places too… After all, the state-level RFRAs got their birth from a case about ZONING & BUILDING PERMITS, not social issues….