Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gay discrimination sponsors change message in face of backlash to bigotry

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 7:25 AM

CHANGES TUNE: Rep. Bob Ballinger insists people misunderstand his gay discrimination legislation. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • CHANGES TUNE: Rep. Bob Ballinger insists people misunderstand his gay discrimination legislation.

I don't know why reporters let Rep. Bob Ballinger get away with lying about his anti-gay HB 1228.

It failed to clear committee yesterday. And Ballinger's spin began about criticism of its discriminatory purpose. According to Stephens Media:

“Some of it seemed kind of, frankly, degrading,” he said. “Some people are completely missing the mark, either analyzing the bill incorrectly or just saying whatever they want to make it seem like something it’s not.”

Ballinger said some are trying to link HB 1228 with Senate Bill 202, now Act 137 of 2015, which prohibits cities and counties from issuing ordinances to prohibit discrimination toward anyone who is not already protected under federal or state law.

“I think a lot of people got stirred up on 202 and so now they’re using this bill,” he said. “The reality is it should be uncontroversial, that people should have the right to believe what they believe and if the government is going to burden it they ought to have a good reason.”

The Internet tells more of the story. Here's what Stephens Media reported Feb. 15, when Sen. Bart Hester's companion bill SB 202, to tie local governments' hands on civil rights measures,  bill passed the House:

Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, presented SB 202 on the Senate floor. He said the bill would prevent ordinances like one the Fayetteville City Council approved in August that included prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment and public services. Fayetteville voters repealed the ordinance in December.

This was also the occasion when a weepy Rep. Mary Bentley declaimed about the evils of being forced to engage in commerce with queer folk — taking care to spit out the words "lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender" with the distaste she believed they deserved, as opposed to an innocuous acronym, LGBT.

 “I don’t think … a baker that loves the word of God, that’s bringing her children up to honor God and to worship God, should have her business destroyed because she doesn’t want to bake a cake for somebody that’s a transgender trying to marry somebody else.” 

Is this really different from what Ballinger intends with his HB 1228. No. Here's the Stephens account from Feb. 13.

Ballinger said after the vote that HB 1228 would apply in the case of a baker who refused to make a cake for a gay or transgender person, although he said that “it doesn’t mean you automatically win.”

Ballinger also said he believes that gay rights and civil rights for blacks are different issues because people are born into their race but sexual orientation is “a choice.”

Got it? Black people get civil rights. Gay people don't. Discrimination is legal, particularly if you claim a religious pretext.

In other interviews, Ballinger has made clear he viewed the bill as an antidote to the  Fayetteville ordinance that extended civil rights protections to LGBT people.

It would appear today  there's a bit of discomfort with being seen nationally as bigots. The lead LGBT hater in Arkansas, Jerry Cox, is also distributing disingenuous talking points that this bill isn't about what critics say iit is. He hammers the "religious freedom [to discriminate]" message  incessantly — without the parenthetical accurate context.

The Ballinger bill and the Bart Hester bill that Gov. Asa Hutchinson waved into the statute books are intended to protect legal discrimination against gay people — in employment, housing and commercial services.  In some quarters, including most Fortune 500 companies, this presents a damaging (if true) image of Arkansas. So let's talk about religion — solid gold in Arkansas legislative debates — not about discrimination.

To "good Arkansas Christians" religious faith requires discrimination against gay people. Other sinners are granted exemptions when they want to buy a cake. 

PS — It is true this bill is not ONLY about discriminating against gay people, though that's the immediate motive force. It is dangerous particularly because, as witnesses yesterday noted, it offers up a religious defense to all sorts of things that we take for granted — from medical services to city zoning. It is dangerous legislation.

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