Refusing even to take “yes” for an answer, several anti-gay groups are attacking Judge Sotomayor for her decision in a case brought by an anti-gay pastor — even though Sotomayor ruled in the pastor’s favor.
In 2000, a right-wing pastor named Kristopher Okwedy paid to display this anti-gay billboard in a gay-friendly Staten Island neighborhood:
A few days after the billboard went up, Staten Island’s Borough President faxed a letter to the billboard company stating that “[a]s Borough President of Staten Island I want to inform you that this message conveys an atmosphere of intolerance which is not welcome in our Borough.” The company took the billboard down almost immediately, and Okwedy promptly sued the Borough President, claiming that his First Amendment rights were violated.
Although a trial judge tossed the case out at the earliest stage of litigation, Sotomayor joined an opinion reinstating the case because she believed that the Borough President’s letter may have violated Okwedy’s free speech rights. Sotomayor recognized that even hate speech is protected by the First Amendment.
Instead of praising Sotomayor for ruling in their favor, however, anti-gay groups are now whining because she didn’t rule in their favor in exactly the way they would have liked best:
Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council (FRC), slammed the appeals court’s opinion.
“The case raises troubling issues,” he said in a statement. “[T]he church was posting a purely religious message with no statements regarding public policy. The opinion suggests that Sotomayor may view the First Amendment through the lenses of political correctness.”
“Would a billboard proclaiming ‘gay pride month,’ which is offensive to many Christians, have been similarly treated?” Perkins said. “Sotomayor should be asked.”
Perkins is complaining that Sotomayor did not agree with Okwedy that his First Amendment rights were violated because the Borough President’s letter “demonstrates the City’s ‘official position of hostility toward the biblical viewpoint of homosexual practice and Okwedy’s religious beliefs.’” Essentially, Okwedy claimed that the city cannot enact a policy which is contrary to his own religious beliefs.
But nothing in the Constitution says that people don’t have to comply with the law simply because they have a religious disagreement with it. Indeed, if Sotomayor’s court had adopted Okwedy’s theory of religious liberty, it would be unconstitutional to prosecute murders who kill out of a religious belief that God wants them to.
Tony Perkins should learn to take his court victories and enjoy them, rather than throwing a tantrum whenever judges refuse to write his own personal religious beliefs into the law.