Daily Beast’s Kirsten Powers Misleads On ‘The Anti-Gay Law Blizzard of Lies’

Liberal columnist and Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers had a field day in her March 3 “Daily Beast” piece where she went on a lengthy rant distorting and attacking supporters of Arizona bill SB 1062. Powers, a pro-life evangelical who is a rarity among liberals for her Christian values, seemed to jump the ship in her outright mischaracterization of a the motives of proponents of the now-vetoed bill.  

Powers began her piece by arguing that conservatives “sadly” chose to “distort the contents of the bill and attack anyone who disagreed with them as a legal Luddite and hysteric” before grousing that there was "no need for the law" since "the Arizona legal system isn’t quite the anti-gay free-for-all they [SB 1062 proponents] describe.” Maybe so, but that has never stopped a liberal judge from trying to effect "social change" from the bench, and Powers has to know that.

The Fox News contributor continued her tirade against the bill by downplaying the bipartisan collection of constitutional lawyers who have explained why the law doesn’t give a blank check to discriminate:

Conservative groups circulated a letter from a group of law professors who support SB 1062 that was supposed to prove that the Arizona law just made some piddling tweaks to the existing state Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Backers of the bill pretended that these were the only legal experts in America who have a view on the law. Anyone who disagreed with their interpretation was- in the words of these professors- “egregiously misrepresenting the law.”…

So what exactly did the professors say? They wrote, “SB 1062 does not say that businesses can discriminate for religious reasons. The proposed amendments provided a defense for a business owner or allowed a business owner to file a lawsuit to enforce RFRA protection.

So by their own account, the bill gives a business owner who has discriminated against someone based on religious belief a legal defense that they previously did not have. This is exactly what critics of the bills are protesting. (The professors also expressed disapproval of the Kansas right-to-discriminate bill, but conservatives seem to believe these professors are only the last word on the Arizona law. Not so for Kansas.)

Powers, who herself is a self-identified evangelical Christian, is also staunchly pro-life, but on the issue of religious freedom she seems to have no problem slandering her fellow evangelicals as anti-gay:

What’s jarring is to hear the editor of the National Review call people who are accurately describing the law liars. The Arizona bill is very much about gayness. But don’t take my word for it: Let’s look at how supporters of the bill have characterized it.

The Center for Arizona Policy, a pro-(heterosexual)-family organization that lobbied for the bill, has a fact sheet on their website that says: “The critical need for [SB 1062] came to light in a case recently ruled on by the New Mexico Supreme Court… Elane Photography v. Willock.” This is the case in which a Christian wedding photographer was sued for refusing to serve a same-sex wedding. Guess who gets married in same-sex weddings? Gay people.

But the proprietors of Elane Photography do NOT have a problem with rendering photographic services for gay persons, just with photographing activities which they consider sinful and offensive to the conscience, including nude photo shoots. From a Heritage Foundation legal issue brief from January:

Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin are Christians.[5] According to Elane Photography, “The Huguenins will not create images that tell stories or convey messages contrary to their religious beliefs. For this reason, they have declined requests for nude maternity pictures and photographs portraying violence.”[6]

Elane Photography explains that the Huguenins have a “sincere religious belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”[7] According to Elane Photography, the Huguenins “believe that if they were to communicate a contrary message about marriage—by, for example, telling the story of a polygamous wedding ceremony—they would be disobeying God.”[8]

The Huguenins Decline to Photograph a Same-Sex Commitment Ceremony. In 2006, Vanessa Willock inquired whether Elane Photography would be willing to photograph her same-sex commitment ceremony.[9] (The law has since changed, but at the time same-sex individuals were not permitted to marry in New Mexico.[10])

According to Elane Photography, the Huguenins declined the request because “they did not want to create images expressing messages about marriage that conflict with their religious beliefs.”[11]Elane Photography has explained that it “does not refuse customers because of their sexual orientation”[12] and the Huguenins will “gladly serve gays and lesbians—by, for example, providing them with portrait photography—whenever doing so would not require them to create expression conveying messages that conflict with their religious beliefs.”[13]

Powers may be unaware of those facts, but she should educate herself on the issue and not SLANDER her fellow evangelical Christians for their sincere religious beliefs.

Powers furthered her attack on evangelical Christians by peddling the idea that:

Finally—and this is a big one—nobody is asking their wedding vendor to celebrate their wedding… In fact, the only people who are demanding affirmation are the conservatives who believe a business owner should be able to segregate public services because they think their religion mandates it. They are demanding that the rest of us affirm their bad theology and codify it in the law.

Powers provided no evidence that SB 1062 would result in a wave of anti-discrimination in Arizona, and there is no evidence that the law would authorize discrimination. It’s highly unlikely we would have seen a wave of discrimination because businesses could get sued and deal with the subsequent legal costs. Would many small businesses want, or be able to afford, such costs associated with a lawsuit simply to “discriminate” against gay people? Yes, under SB 1062, they could recover court costs in the event of winning the case, but the court hassle to get there is not worth it for most folks.

Instead of providing any examples of this doomsday scenario Powers chose to paint, she continued her hypothetical attacks the bill’s supporters, mainly Christian conservatives. Powers concluded her rant by proclaiming that:

Since when does ordering a cake or a flower arrangement give someone the right to intrude into a customer’s life in the way these Christian vendors want to? They seem to think because a same-sex couple had the misfortune of walking into the wrong bakery that they are compelled to accept without complaint being on the receiving end of judgment, humiliation, and discrimination. 

It’s unfortunate that Powers, who in the past has criticized abortion activists, so willingly dismissed her Christian allies as seeking a license to discriminate rather than taking the high ground and not scare her readers over SB 1062.

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.