Pro-gay marriage professor under fire from gay marriage speech police

It’s clear by now that if you publicly oppose gay marriage or give money to those who oppose it, the gay speech police will try to ruin you (and may succeed). But it turns out that even supporting gay marriage isn’t enough to protect you from attack if you make statements on collateral matters that gay marriage proponents find harmful to their cause.

Take the case of Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia and a leading expert on religious liberty. Laycock supports gay marriage. At the same time, and quite consistently if one is an old-fashioned liberal, he is sympathetic to the right of those with religious objections to gay marriage to be exempt (within reason) from state laws conferring certain gay rights.

Laycock expressed this position in a letter (signed by other religious liberty scholars, as well) to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. The letter refuted claims that Arizona S.B. 1062 — which clarified ambiguous terms in the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act — would subject gays to a regime of discrimination.

As a result, Laycock is now under fire from the gay speech police. An outfit called GetEQUAL (led by its co-director Heather Cronk) has launched a national e-mail campaign attacking Laycock for his role in shoring up the legal arguments of those who support what it calls “religious bigotry.”

GetEQUAL has also recruited a University of Virginia law student (Greg Lewis) and an alum (Stephanie Montenegro) to send an open letter to Laycock asking him to consider the “real-world consequences that [his] work is having.” And they have submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking e-mails between Laycock and various conservative and religious liberty groups.

Lewis claims that he and Montenegro aren’t trying to smear Laycock or to undermine academic freedom; they just want a dialogue.

Nonsense. You don’t start a dialogue with a professor by circulating nationally a letter of denunciation and issuing a FOIA request.

Laycock presumably has office hours. And he has said he’s happy to talk to the students.

But GetEQUAL isn’t interested in a dialogue. It’s goal is intimidation followed by reeducation. Here’s how Lewis puts it:

I think it would be really constructive for him to hear how his work is being used to hurt the LGBTQ community. I don’t think he has any ill intent. I think he’s very thoughtful and moderate, and willing to hear both sides. But I think that everyone really has a lot to learn.

Can you detect the authoritarianism in these words? No longer will scholarly discourse and legal positions be judged on the merits. From now on they will be judged on whether they are “used to hurt the LGBTQ community.” Thoughtfulness and moderation is no defense. Leading scholars must be educated by their gay activist students.

The gay activism of groups like GetEQUAL is despicable. It’s becoming difficult to factor out their repulsive tactics when considering their sometimes meritorious positions on substantive issues.

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