(Don’t miss part 2 of this column: Listening to conservatives about the Washington Supreme Court’s decision against the florist who denied a gay couple.)
Most accounts of gay Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’s appearance on Bill Maher’s “Real Time” HBO show last week highlighted the dynamic duo’s shared claim that they believe in free speech. Fine. I do, too, but why invite a guest whose claim to fame is spewing hate and untruths? On Maher’s show, the soft-spoken, faux-pearl-clad Brit did just that when referring to a transgender woman “as a boy that thinks he might be a girl” and when he said trans people suffer from a “psychiatric disorder.” He also claimed “women and girls should be protected from men who are confused about their sexual identities,” notably in public restrooms, because they “are vastly disproportionately involved in sex crimes.”
Well, Yiannopoulos’s uncompassionate and cruel statements are so full of errors that they require some power fact-checking. (His publisher, Simon and Schuster, released a statement Monday saying that “after careful consideration,” it is scrapping the publication of Yiannopoulos’s upcoming book “Dangerous.”)
Being transgender is a psychiatric disorder: False.
In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association updated its diagnostic language for trans people, no longer classifying them as suffering from a “mental disorder.” (Homosexuality was similarly “declassified” as a mental disorder in 1973.)
Trans people are disproportionately involved in sex crimes: False.
As victims, perhaps, but not perpetrators. Twenty-seven transgender people, mostly women of color, were killed in the United States last year simply because of their gender identity or presentation. More trans people were killed in 2016 than in any other year, according to GLAAD. As for being perpetrators, there have been no — zero — reported cases of a transgender individual involved in a restroom assault in the United States, according to multiple published sources and an in-depth report on Mic. Claims such as Yiannopoulos’s are attempts to instill fear of trans people and are often used to help pass “bathroom bills,” which prohibit transgender people from using the restroom in accordance with their gender identity.
Larry Wilmore, the former “Daily Show” correspondent and “Nightly Show” host, also was on the Maher show that night and did a remarkable job of standing up to Yiannopoulos. He told him, “You should do your homework.” I agree. And that’s a lesson that applies to all of us. Me included.
What conservatives say about the Washington Supreme Court’s decision against the florist who denied a gay couple
Love me or hate me, I read all my mail. But when people accuse me of not being open to others’ views, I’m taken a little aback. One such note came to mind as I was sitting down this weekend to write about the unanimous ruling by the Washington Supreme Court against a florist who had refused to make arrangements for a gay couple’s wedding. Make no mistake: Questions about what constitutes anti-LGBT discrimination — or is it religious freedom? — in the provision of wedding services are still front-page news these days.
The email I recalled was from Margaret Arena-Bubel, commenting on a Melania Trump column of mine titled “Why declining to dress the first lady isn’t like refusing to bake a same-sex wedding cake.” Here’s part of what she wrote:
“Maybe IF YOU LISTENED once in a while to EVERYONE’s VIEWS and RESPECTED THOSE YOU DISAGREE with, we would have FREEDOM and EQUALITY. But you on the left want me to agree and DEMAND I agree with your point of view. Even if it totally negates my religion. (Which, by the way, was supposed to be protected under the first Amendment)…. Its time you realize that sometimes even YOU must listen to other people. Respect that I may have a different point of view. You may disagree with it but I HAVE A RIGHT TO HAVE IT. Tolerance goes both ways.”
Believe me, I do listen. I regularly seek out voices and opinions that differ from mine. And I respect those with whom I disagree (unless they demean or bully others). I don’t demand that anyone agree with my perspective; my goal is to spur conversations that emit light, not fire.
Last week’s court ruling against Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers is a good case in point. It won’t surprise readers that I agreed with the decision against the florist, 59 pages in total, and its assessment that the case “is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases in the 1960s were about access to sandwiches.” The purpose of the state’s public accommodations laws, the court explained, is that “they do not simply guarantee access to goods or services. Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens.”
That’s my point of view: Fairness. Inclusion. Equal treatment. For all citizens.
I don’t mind reaching out a little extra sometimes, however. So, in the spirit of fairness, inclusion and equal treatment, here’s what a representative sampling had to say in opposition to the Washington florist ruling.
Statement from Stutzman on her own case, quoted in CBN News: The Christian Perspective:
“[N]ow the state is trying to use this case to force me to create artistic expression that violates my deepest beliefs and take away my life’s work and savings, which will also harm those who I employ…. I’m not asking for anything that our Constitution hasn’t promised me and every other American: the right to create freely, and to live out my faith without fear of government punishment or interference.”
Alliance Defending Freedom, “Washington Supreme Court Punishes Barronelle Stutzman. What Now?” (The ADF is a Christian nonprofit that says it advocates for “religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.”)
“Barronelle is a 72-year-old floral artist who owns and operates Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington. She serves everyone in her community, regardless of their race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation. But even though she serves all people, she cannot use her artistic skills to celebrate all events. In particular, because of her beliefs about marriage, she cannot design custom floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding (although she would be happy to sell premade arrangements or raw flowers to couples planning such an event).
The National Review, “Supreme Court Imposes Its Progressive Faith on a Christian Florist.”
“To understand how nonsensical and dangerous this is, one need merely apply it to other categories of expression. Is it now racial discrimination to refuse to bake a cake with Confederate flag icing, since the person asking for such a cake will almost always be white? Is it gender discrimination for fashion designers to refuse to “dress” Ivanka or Melania Trump? They’re women, after all.”
So here’s my question: What if we think about the first two statements being about African Americans? Would those who support Stutzman agree that it would be okay for her to deny service to black customers? I don’t think so — not in this day and age. If you think the analogy is hogwash, please tell me why because I agree with Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project, who previously told The Post: “[R]eligious beliefs do not give any of us a right to ignore the law or to harm others because of who they are.”
And here’s my answer to the National Review’s fashion question: If designers refused their services to either Ivanka or Melania Trump because of their sex, then I’d say that’s discrimination (as I’ve previously written) because that’s against the law.
Although I usually get the last word, this time let me leave that to you. Please comment below. And, apropos of Margaret Arena-Bubel’s appeal, let’s all listen with respect.
Follow me @StevenPetrow.
This post has been updated.