It’s been clear to observers over the last year that opponents of LGBT equality have cynically shifted their rhetoric from attacking same-sex marriage to promoting “religious liberty” as an excuse to discriminate. Now the website Five Thirty Eight details this shift.
Five Thirty Eight notes that the use of “gay marriage” in Republican presidential debates is down significantly this year from 2008 and 2012:
In contrast, Republicans are using “religious liberty” and similar phrases more in debate discussions about the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples:
This shouldn’t be surprising. The change in rhetoric comes as the American public has become more supportive of the freedom to marry and equality in general for LGBT people and their families. So religious-righters are turning more to a familiar strategy: using religion as a weapon to divide Americans and promote a harmful political agenda.
In this case they’re cynically rebranding calls for discrimination as simply support for “religious liberty.” That radical redefinition of religious liberty suggests that businesses and individuals — even government employees — should be able to discriminate against anyone who offends their personal religious beliefs.
So the harmful agenda is the same. It’s just the rhetoric that’s changing. And many Texas politicians — including Gov. Greg Abbot, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton — have all bought in with the strategy.