Presumptive presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (R) has a long history of opposing LGBT equality, and he proved Sunday morning that his basic understanding of what it means to be gay has not evolved. When Dana Bash asked him on CNN’s State of the Union if being gay is a choice, he deflected the question, but proceeded to compare that “lifestyle” to drinking alcohol, using profanity, and enjoying classical music or ballet.
Defending the claim in his new book that he has gay friends, Huckabee explained, “People can be my friends who have lifestyles that are not necessarily my lifestyle. I don’t shut people out of my circle or out of my life because they have a different point of view. I don’t drink alcohol, but gosh — a lot of my friends, maybe most of them, do. You know, I don’t use profanity, but believe me, I’ve got a lot of friends who do. Some people really like classical music and ballet and opera — it’s not my cup of tea.”
But then Huckabee shifted to the idea of Christians being forced to accept and recognize people who are gay, seeming to allude to the many wedding vendors who have lost discrimination complaints after refusing to serve same-sex couples. “I’d like to think that there’s room in America for people who have different points of view without screaming and shouting and wanting to shut their businesses down,” he said, suggesting that “they,” as in LGBT activists, want to put Christian businesses “really in an economic position of disenfranchisement.”
Later in the conversation, clarifying his opposition to same-sex marriage, Huckabee offered some bizarre comparisons for when Christians are asked to accept marriage equality. “It’s like asking someone who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli,” he said. “We don’t want to do that — I mean, we’re not going to do that. Or like asking a Muslim to serve up something that is offensive to him, or to have dogs in his backyard.”
These comparisons conflate the product served with the customer served. Jewish delis, per Huckabee’s example, are free to set their own menu; they can choose to sell pastrami but not bacon-wrapped shrimp, or umbrellas, or cat food. Nondiscrimination protections protect who the business serves; the Jewish deli cannot pick and choose who is allowed to buy that pastrami based on customers’ identities, like refusing to sell to Christians, for example. Same-sex couples have filed complaints against wedding vendors like bakeries, florists, photographers, and venues because they were refused the same product or service that is offered to different-sex couples. Unlike Huckabee’s claim, these complaints are playing out not because vendors are being asked to provide a product they don’t already offer, but because they’re refusing to serve gay customers equally.
Huckabee stopped short of suggesting that it should be okay to refuse service to people for drinking alcohol, swearing, or watching PBS.