It's generally agreed that religious rightists went too far when they starting pushing refusal-of-service laws. Salon's Brian Beutler:
The effort to apply the ... religious freedom argument to anti-gay measures in states across the country has encountered tremendous resistance, not just from liberals but from business leaders, statewide Republican elected officials, and GOP celebrities who, for different reasons, seem to get that stomping away from a growing majority of the population with a middle finger hoisted overhead isn't a smart thing to do.The New York Times adds:
The decision by members of the Republican establishment to join gay activists in opposing the bill reflected the alarm the Arizona battle stirred among party leaders, who worried about identifying their party with polarizing social issues at a time when Republicans see the prospect of big gains in Congressional elections on economic issues.So this effort is dead, right?
I doubt it. When do right-wingers ever concede defeat? They just keep relitigating fights forever, adjusting tactics as needed. Did they give up on fighting abortion when the Supreme Court reaffirmed abortion rights in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, just around the time anti-abortion extremists were alienating most of America with acts of violence? No. They just shifted gears, put the violent protesters at arms' length, and began trying to kill Roe with a thousand cuts rather than all at once.
I'm not saying they're going to win. They're highly unlikely to be as successful in fighting gay marriage as they are in fighting abortion, because heartland America now seems far less squeamish about homosexuality than about abortion. But they will keep fighting, because the right never lets anything go. They may never be more than a minor nuisance on this. But they will continue to be a nuisance.
From The Washington Post:
Conservative activists said Thursday that they will continue to press for additional legal protections for private businesses that deny service to gay men and lesbians, saying that a defeat in Arizona this week is only a minor setback and that religious-liberty legislation is the best way to stave off a rapid shift in favor of gay rights....I know, I know -- it's just bluster. The GOP mainstream wants to step away from this fight. Right?
"The fight has to be over what the First Amendment is," said John C. Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, adding that his side needs to convince the public that conservatives are not trying to deny the rights of other Americans. "This is not somebody adhering to old Jim Crow lunch-counter discrimination. This is a fundamental dispute about what marriage means, and why it's important for society."
Except that, as the Times notes, this fight can't possibly go away:
Nelson Warfield, a conservative consultant ... said laws like the one vetoed in Arizona would certainly be embraced by some Republican presidential candidates in 2016 during the primaries, but would be toxic for a Republican candidate in a general election.One or more candidates from the Cruz/Santorum/Huckabee wing of the party will make it impossible for mainstream candidates to shrug this issue off.
"You can bet your last dollar somebody will run on it for the nomination next time," he said, referring to the Republican presidential battle of 2016.
Oh, and even so-called establishment types have the vapors about so-called religious liberty issues. Here's Peggy Noonan:
The political-media complex is bravely coming down on florists with unfashionable views. On Twitter Thursday the freedom-fighter who tweets as @FriedrichHayek asked: "Can the government compel a Jewish baker to deliver a wedding cake on a Saturday? If not why not." Why not indeed. Because the truly tolerant give each other a little space? On an optimistic note, the Little Sisters of the Poor haven't been put out of business and patiently await their day in court.That last reference is too Peggy's plucky heroines in the fight against the contraceptive mandate.
So right-wingers will find some way to press on with this. They'll probably go the court route on behalf of some baker allegedly crushed by the gay jackboot. We may defeat them, but they're never going to admit defeat.