The Republican candidate for an open House seat in North Carolina likened his efforts to undermine LGBTQ rights via religious exemptions to the work of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
State Sen. Dan Bishop, the Republican nominee in the Sept. 10 do-over election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, made the remarks in email communications with conservative activist leaders in March 2017. The emails were obtained through a public records request by the liberal news site Real Facts NC, which published them online at the end of June.
In the exchange, Bishop and the conservative activists discussed how to minimize the partial repeal of H.B. 2, the state’s so-called bathroom bill. Among other things, the overturned bill had barred localities from enacting anti-LGBTQ discrimination rules, including rules allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of their choice. It had also prohibited public schools from doing so.
Bishop had floated language for a religious exemption, or “conscience clause,” that he hoped the Republican legislature could negotiate with newly elected Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. The provision aimed to override any local bans on discrimination against LGBTQ people in cases where such a ban “burdens an individual’s pursuit of the dictates of conscience concerning religion in connection with an act of expressive creativity.”
Such an exemption would have applied to conservative bakers unwilling to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples and other people involved in an “act of expressive creativity.” In the past, people in creative fields have had grounds to argue in court that being forced to bake ― or forge another creative product ― for same-sex couples violates their freedom of speech.
But the activists with whom Bishop was communicating worried that the exemption would be too narrow. “Whom are we attempting to protect here?” asked Kellie Fiedorek, legal counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designates an anti-LGBT hate group. “Just creative professionals?”
“As Oscar Schindler said, as many as we can,” Bishop replied, comparing his wish to see the maximum number of people exempted from local anti-discrimination laws to Schindler’s professed desire to hire, and therefore save, as many endangered European Jews as possible during World War II.
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