A prominent LGBT activist who has donated more than anyone else to LGBT causes has said that "wicked" people who advocate for laws protecting the religious freedom of conservative Christians to act in accordance with their views on marriage and sexuality need to be "punished."
The Rolling Stone recently published a lengthy profile piece examining the contributions of Tim Gill, a software entrepreneur who has quietly been at the forefront of the push for same-sex marriage and LGBT rights in the United States over the past several decades.
The article explained how Gill, who is gay, has spent over $422 million to advance the LGBT cause and explained the impact that his associated organizations such as the Gill Foundation, Gill Action, and OutGiving have made on LGBT advocacy in America.
"Gill's fingerprints are on nearly every major victory in the march to marriage, from the 2003 Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health case, which made Massachusetts the first state to allow same-sex marriage, to the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision two decades later that legalized it in all 50," Andy Kroll explained for Rolling Stone. "'Without a doubt,' says Mary Bonauto, the attorney who argued the Obergefell case, 'we would not be where we are without Tim Gill and the Gill Foundation.'"
But now that same-sex marriage has been legalized nationally by the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling, Gill, has continued to push forward in his effort to ensure that LGBT people are not discriminated against, even if that means opposing political efforts in states to grant religious exemptions to business owners or government employees who feel it violates their faith to participate in a same-sex wedding.
According to Rolling Stone, Gill and his allies have set their eyes on the "new front of the movement," calling it a campaign that "pits LGBTQ advocates against a religious right that responded to marriage equality by redoubling its efforts."
More specifically, Gill's efforts are now focused on southern states, where according to the American Civil Liberties Union, one-third of LGBT people in America live. Many of those states have few or no legal discrimination protections for LGBT people.
The Rolling Stone piece asserts that the election of President Donald Trump, who has filled his administration with social conservative proponents of traditional marriage, has "only emboldened those looking to erase the gains of the past decade."
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"We're going into the hardest states in the country," the Rolling Stone article quoted Gill as saying. "We're going to punish the wicked."
Gill and his allies have worked to oppose state ordinances, such as North Carolina's House Bill 2. H.B. 2, which has since been repealed and replaced under the state's new Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper, effectively made it so no local government could enact an ordinance forcing businesses to allow transgender men and women to access showers, locker rooms and restrooms that are not consistent with their biological sex.
As the Rolling Stone piece explained that Gill, 63, looks to spend "every last dollar in the foundation's coffers" in pursuit of LGBT equality before he dies, he contended in the interview that the need for LGBT advocacy will never go away.
"You have to educate every single generation about this and make sure it doesn't creep back into our society," Gill is quoted as saying. "There's no sense in which the job is ever done."
During a question-and-answer session at Yale University in 2012, Gill was explicitly asked by a student about the need to engage in dialogue with Republicans and opponents of gay marriage in order to advance social change.
"Go back to the 50's, no one was on our side. ... no one was on our side and everyone was our enemy. You have to engage somewhere. The problem is there are enough people on the side of gay people now that you could become very comfortable and say, 'I will only deal with liberals or Democrats or whatever,'" he said. "There are five percent of people who are irrefutably forever our enemy and everybody else is our future friend. The question is what trajectory are we on to change them from being our enemy to becoming our friend."
Gill's comments about punishing the "wicked" come at a time in which conservative Christian business owners have suffered the consequences of standing up for their religious beliefs on marriage and sexuality.
Most recently, Stephen Tennes, the Christian owner of a farm in Michigan, sued the city of East Lansing, alleging that his family was banned from selling produce at a local farmer's market last August simply because the family explained that it could not in good conscience host a same-sex wedding on its own family farm. The family posted the explanation on its Facebook page when asked by a user on its Facebook page about hosting a same-sex wedding.
"This isn't just about our ability to sell at the farmer's market. It's really about every American's right to be able to make a living and not have to worry about the fear of being punished by the government," Tennes said in a recent video interview with the Daily Signal.
"We gave an honest answer to a very complex question," Tennes added.
Kate Anderson, a lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom who is representing the Tennes family, told the Daily Signal that within two days of Tennes' response on Facebook, officials with the city contacted the Tennes family and told them, "Do not come to the market because of what you said on Facebook."
While the Tennes family is no longer able to sell produce at the East Lansing farmer's market, other Christian business owners have had to pay a very hefty price for their refusal to participate in same-sex weddings.
In 2015, the Christian owners of a bakery in Oregon were fined over $135,000 by the state for their refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. The state's Bureau of Labor and Industries considered their actions to be a violation of the state's nondiscrimination laws.
In Washington, a Christian grandma florist named Barronelle Stutzman was sued by the state's attorney general for her refusal to provide floral arrangements for a gay couple's wedding on the grounds that it would violate her religious beliefs.
She was fined $1,001 and held liable to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Earlier this year, the Washington Supreme Court dealt another blow to Stutzman, ruling that she had violated the law.
"Our nation has a long history of protecting the right to dissent, but simply because Barronelle disagrees with the state about marriage, the government and ACLU have put at risk everything she owns," ADF lawyer Kristen Waggoner said in a statement after the court's ruling. "This includes not only her business, but also her family's savings, retirement funds, and home."
It was reported earlier this week that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Colorado baker who was punished for refusing to bake a customized cake to celebrate a same-sex union.
Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Inc refused to bake the cake in 2012 and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission found him guilty of discrimination in 2014 and ordered him to undergo sensitivity training. The next year, the Colorado Court of Appeals sided with the commission. Last April, the Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Phillips' case was appealed to the Supreme Court last July.
According to a report released this week by the social conservative nonprofit Family Research Council, violations of religious freedom in America have increased by over 76 percent in less than three years.