Will 2017 be the year of “religious freedom” laws?
As Republicans prepare to wreak havoc on all three branches of federal government, human rights activists and lawyers are bracing themselves for what they expect to be an all out assault on LGBTQ rights.
In 2016, more than 200 discriminatory “religious freedom” bills were introduced by conservative lawmakers across the country, and lawyers at the ACLU say that was likely just a warm up act for 2017.
“We expect the volume to continue to rise in 2017,”ACLU Advocacy and Policy Counsel Eunice Rho recently told CNN, “both because we have more conservative state governments than in the past, and also since our side defeated an overwhelming majority of bills in 2016.”
Rho expects trans rights to be the hardest hit.
“In addition to these bills, we also anticipate an increase in volume of bills targeting transgender people,” she said.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which operates as the public policy arm for the Southern Baptist Convention, said that, yeah, Rho is absolutely right, he and his henchman are planning to do everything in their power to promote as many religious freedom bills as possible.
“2017 probably will result in many religious liberty bills,” he confirmed to CNN. “That’s because of the erosion of religious freedom protections in recent years. Without adequate protection, freedom of conscience is left up courts they are often hostile to the most basic protections of the First Amendment.”
Moore insisted, however, that the bills aren’t intended to discriminate against LGBTQ people, but rather to save religious freedom from the “tremendous stress” it’s currently under (caused, of course, by LGBTQ people).
But before you start freaking out too much, James Esseks, director of the ACLU LGBT Project, says to take a take deep breath.
“It’s clear that Mike Pence as VP will be able to push for greater religious exemption measures at the federal level, following up on his pro-exemption and anti-LGBT, anti-woman record in Indiana,” he said, “but there’s no reason to think that the public, business leaders, performers, or sports leagues will be any more receptive to anti-LGBT measures in 2017 than they have been in the past.”
He cautioned: “Vice President-elect Pence should think long and hard before he tries to nationalize this discriminatory, divisive strategy.”