The ever-increasing hostility that has become the hallmark of cable news programming was ramped up this week by the undisputed heavyweight champion of rancorous hyperbole, Fox News.
The debate over Indiana’s new “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” set the scene for a bruising battle that ultimately escalated to a point that most partisans would regard as out of bounds. The legislation allows businesses to openly engage in bigotry against gays or any other party not afforded protected status under the law. Under federal law those parties include race, color, religion, creed, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, military or veteran status, age and disability (See clarification in comments below). The reasons these groups are included is that they have been victims of systemic discrimination, which the law endeavors to remedy.
However, the state of Indiana’s list of groups protected from discrimination is not as comprehensive and notably does not include sexual orientation. Consequently, it opens the door to legal prejudice. A battle royale on this subject took place Friday on Fox’s Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, where right-wing radio talker Mike Gallagher went for the knockout punch by asking “Would we force a Jewish sign maker to make swastikas?”
So Fox News is now comparing gays to Nazis. And who would ever object to a business owner wanting to be able to deny service to a such a reprehensible piece of human scum. The Nazi, that is. But the takeaway from the comparison is that a proprietor would be within his rights to have the same view of doing business with a gay patron.
This is wrong on so many levels. Let’s set aside the unfortunate fact that many bigots actually do hate gays and want no part of their business. It’s the legal aspect of this argument that is absurd. Gays are protected from discrimination in federal law, and businesses have obligations when they are licensed to provide services to the public. This debate should have been settled decades ago when it was decided that bigots could not refuse to let customers in a restaurant sit at their counters.
Nazis, on the other hand, have no such protection under the law and thus, no Jewish (or any other) establishment would be required to provide services to them. So the comparison is not only offensive, it is legally without merit. It is only raised by weasels who cannot form coherent arguments to support their advocacy of prejudice. Alan Colmes made a valiant effort to rebut Gallagher’s pro-hate tirade, but Fox makes the rules on their network so Carlson gets to tamp down reason with lies about there being other similar laws already on the record. (They are not similar and not nearly as broad).
This is just another example of how low conservatives will sink to protect what they regard as their right to be bigots. They shamelessly exploit emotionally unsettling scenarios that have no actual relevance to the subject. This not only taints the debate at hand, it insults and trivializes those who were victimized by the Nazis and are still being targeted by their modern day descendants. And leave it to Fox News to bring it all to us in heap of vitriolic acrimony while leaving out any relevant context.
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