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Protestors Alex Corona (C) and David Milligan (R), partners who say they wish to get married if the Defense of Marriage Act is overturned, rally in support of gay marriage in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, March 27, 2013. For the second day run
Allowing businesses to refuse to serve gay customers for religious reasons appears to be the latest Republican legislative craze, sweeping the states. Kansas and Arizona have made the most headlines, but they're far from alone: Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have all seen similar bills introduced in recent weeks. The good news is that, just as Kansas Republicans pulled back on their bill and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer seems poised to veto after public outcry, the bills have been dead on arrival in several of the other states.

But even if public pressure is forcing Republicans to shelve the discrimination bills, you don't get similar bills being introduced in this many states if it's not a for-serious part of the Republican agenda. And it's backed by the usual network of far-right think tanks and advocacy groups, as Dana Liebelson reports:

According to the Wichita Eagle, the American Religious Freedom Program (ARFP)—which is part of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative organization founded in 1976—crafted the language for the Kansas bill. Brian Walsh, executive director of the ARFP, which supports religious freedom measures,acknowledges that his group consulted with the legislators on the bill, but he says that lots of other groups did as well: "We gave them suggestions and they took some of them." Walsh says that ARFP was contacted by legislators who wrote the Tennessee bill and that the group frequently talked to legislators in South Dakota about "religious freedom" but not the state's specific bill. Julie Lynde, executive director of Cornerstone Family Council in Idaho, one of many state groups that are part of Citizen Link, a branch of Focus on the Family, told Al Jazeera America, "We've been involved in working on the language" of the Idaho bill. Another member of Citizen Link, the Arizona Policy Center, has been active in supporting the Arizona bill. And the Oregon ballot initiative was proposed by Friends of Religious Freedom, a conservative Oregon nonprofit.
The good news is that bigots are losing. They're mostly losing on these bills now, and they're definitely losing in the long run. But they're not going without a fight, and even one state passing a law that allows businesses to say "I won't serve you because you're gay" is a moral horror:
"This seems to be a concerted Hail Mary campaign to carve out special rights for religious conservatives so that they don't have to play by the same rules as everyone else does," says Hurst, from Truth Wins Out. "In this new up-is-down world, anti-gay religious folks are 'practicing their faith' when they're baking cakes or renting out hotel rooms to travelers. On the ground, [these bills] hurt real, live LGBT people."
As Liebelson points out, we're talking about an effort to put new Jim Crow-style laws into effect. In 2014. With marriage equality steadily gaining ground in public opinion, in the courts, and in the laws of the states, Republicans are trying to claw us back in time and write the right to discriminate into law. Even if they fail everywhere, remember that this was what they wanted badly enough to brave public outrage over their efforts to pass it.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 10:31 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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