South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivered the GOP response to President Obama’s final State of the Union address Wednesday night. While Donald Trump and the trumpians took offense at her call for “welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries,” it was her other remarks on religion that riled up social conservatives and won her few friends among LGBT progressives.
Haley said of the GOP, “We would respect differences in modern families, but we would also insist on respect for religious liberty as a cornerstone of our democracy.”
For many of a libertarian-leaning disposition, and among a wide swath of political moderates, those remarks seem like common sense. But the response from other quarters was blistering. “Even the terminology ‘modern families’ evokes the ABC sitcom featuring a homosexual couple raising a child,” huffed Lifesite.com, while religious far right radio host Bryan Fischer ripped Haley for embracing “sodomy-based marriage and the entire homosexual agenda,” Right-Wing Watch relates.
But LGBT progressives aren’t likely to be won over. Right-Wing Watch, for instance, has complained that “framing opposition to LGBT equality, abortion and contraception as religious liberty issues is a core strategy of right-wing culture.”
Gay Republicans welcomed Haley’s remarks. “I was far more impressed by Gov. Nikki Haley and her call to ‘respect differences in modern families’ while at the same time balancing that respect with a concern for religious liberty—a position Log Cabin Republicans has long advocated,” said national Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory Angelo, quoted by PrideSource.com. “It was refreshing to see a Republican explicitly acknowledge that on a major national stage,” he added.
It’s not easy to defend religious liberty for private individuals, however, when religious conservatives insist on making the issue about government civil servants. As was widely reported, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis attended the State of the Union address as a guest of Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan. Davis spent a few nights behind bars for refusing to let anyone in the Rowan County clerk’s office issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing her Christian beliefs.
As I’ve noted before, government officials are responsible for following the law of the land, even when doing so is at odds with their own religious beliefs. They are public servants, not private, self-employed service providers.
The religious right remains committed to government discrimination against gay people in general, and married same-sex couples in particular. The progressive left remains committed to using government to force independent business owners with faith-based objections to provide services to same-sex weddings, as no religious dissent against government coercion of the citizenry is tolerable. Authoritarians of left and right feed off each other in a symbiotic relationship that keeps the culture war roiling.