Years before many Americans were able to witness examples of the clash and clearly understand the competing interests of sexual freedom and religious liberty, EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum rightly acknowledged this battle, though taking up arms on the wrong side. Commissioner Feldblum once said, “There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner." Now, in our post-gay marriage society, we watch the battle play out all around us and just as in every battle, there are villains and heroes, martyrs and imbeciles. In today’s editorial in the Richmond Times Dispatch, staff attempts to draw distinctions between the rightness of the civilly disobedient Rosa Parks and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and the wrongness of Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis—the difference between the heroes and the villian. They opine, “Davis differs from Parks and Newsom in this crucial respect: While they expanded the liberty interest of individuals, she is restricting it. And liberty is the fundamental issue at stake here[.]”
Long before 2006 when Virginia passed its marriage amendment, I have been lamenting that this is a zero sum game. Society cannot easily expand sexual freedom and simultaneously retain our nation’s First Freedom with its rich heritage right here in our Commonwealth. What I never anticipated was that some, in this case the editorialists of the RTD, would ever fail to even acknowledge that such a thing as religious liberty even ever existed – or be worthy of protecting. Might be time for the staff to take a field trip a few blocks east and visit the historic site where Jefferson penned the Statute of Religious Freedom.