Last week, a Manhattan judge ruled that a New York City bar was within its right to kick out a patron for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. This, according to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (FRC), is proof that wedding vendors should be allowed to discriminate against gay people.
Writing in FRC’s “Washington Update” on Monday, Perkins said he agreed with the bar owners’ decision because “we support the owners’ right to operate how they see fit.” But then, in a whiplash-inducing pivot, he explained, “But it should also be a choice that Christians are allowed to make when it comes to things like same-sex weddings.”
Defending wedding vendors like baker Jack Phillips — whose case is before the Supreme Court — and florist Barronelle Stutzman, Perkins insisted that by refusing to sell same-sex couples the exact same products they sell different-sex couples, these vendors were just operating their shops the same as the bar. “They didn’t deny anyone service; they simply asked not to participate in a ceremony they morally oppose,” he falsely claimed.
“The Left cannot continue to light a same-sex unity candle with the match it’s taking to the First Amendment. Tolerance is for everyone — or it isn’t tolerance at all.”
Perkins’ logic fails on its face, and it’s notable what details he omits from his description of the case of the bar. The New York City Human Rights Law protects numerous categories from discrimination including sexual orientation and gender identity, but also race and religion. It does not protect people on the basis of their political views.
That’s why, when Greg Piatek sued The Happiest Hour after it kicked him out for his “MAGA” hat, he actually tried to claim his support for President Trump was religious. “The purpose of the hat is that he wore it because he was visiting the 9/11 Memorial,” his attorney, Paul Liggieri argued in court. “He was paying spiritual tribute to the victims of 9/11. The ‘Make American Great Again’ hat was part of his spiritual belief.”
Judge David Cohen was incredulous. “How many members are in this spiritual program that your client is engaged in?” he asked. Liggieri responded, “Your honor, we don’t allege the amount of individuals,” admitting that it was “a creed of one.” Cohen tossed the case.
Trump worship might be real, but the idea that supporting Trump is a religion is absurd. The reality is that if Piatek had been kicked out for actual religious beliefs — say, for wearing a cross around his neck — Perkins would be singing a different tune. That, he would surely claim, was anti-Christian persecution. And despite Perkins’s past connections to white supremacist groups, he stops short of the obvious conclusion that his faulty logic would also justify racial discrimination.
Inherent in the debate over discrimination by wedding vendors is the old canard that one’s sexual orientation is a choice. That’s why anti-LGBTQ hate groups like FRC defend such discrimination by drawing comparisons between sexuality and things like political beliefs, while rejecting comparisons to identities like race. By dismissing the accusation that these anti-gay vendors are refusing to serve customers because of who they are, Perkins and others are actually dog-whistling that gay people shouldn’t be defined by their identity any more than a Trump supporter in a MAGA hat.