Coming Out as Conservative Evangelical Harder Now Than Being Gay, Ryan Anderson Says

Ryan Anderson
Ryan Anderson talks with The Atlantic's Mary Louise Kelly at The Atlantic's "Unfinished Business" LGBT Summit in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 10, 2015. |

Conservative author and traditional marriage advocate Ryan Anderson says that conservative Evangelicals have a harder time coming out against same-sex marriage today than gays, lesbians and transgenders have in coming out about their sexual preference or identity.

Anderson, a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and author of Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, spoke on the topic of civil liberties at a pro-LGBT summit in Washington D.C. Thursday that was organized by The Atlantic.

In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in June to nationally legalize same-sex marriage, Anderson was interviewed by The Atlantic's Mary Louise Kelly on how America should straddle the fine line between granting the LGBT community its protections under the law while not infringing upon the religious liberties of those who oppose same-sex marriage.

Anderson explained that he believes the federal government doesn't need to pass a national non-discrimination act that would force businesses — even religious wedding vendors — to serve same-sex couples and their weddings.

Anderson asserted that in a free society, florists, bakers and photographers have the right to run their businesses in accordance with their belief that marriage should only be between one man and one woman.

He contended that because so many other businesses are already willing to serve same-sex weddings, the marketplace serves as its own viable form of equality protection.

"What I would suggest, the protections here would be market competition," Anderson stressed. "Already 89 percent of Fortune 500 companies have voluntarily enacted non-discrimination statutes on the basis of sexual orientation. This is working its way out on a voluntary basis."

Kelley responded to Anderson's assertion by suggesting that market competition doesn't work because it didn't "integrate the lunch counters" during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Anderson detested the analogy and argued that it is wrong to suggest that the struggles faced by African- Americans in the 1960s are comparable to the issues facing the LGBT community today.

"I think that analogy is historically inaccurate. I think it is offensive to many black people. I don't think the situation of a gay or a lesbian in the United States today is remotely similar," Anderson said. "My point is that what you need to do to justify government intervention is to say that it is not working its way up. Being African-American in the South in the 1960s is radically different than being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender in the United States today."

"The day of the Obergefell decision, the White House was lit up in rainbow colors. Every prominent member of the Democratic Party is in favor of LGBT legislation. Most prominent, 89 percent of the Fortune 500 countries, voluntarily have enacted these protections," Anderson continued. "I don't think you can make an argument to say that is the same situation that African-Americans found themselves in in the '60s. That's what justified the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which says that the government needs to step in to fix a problem that is not being solved on a voluntary basis."

While many in the LGBT community may feel as though they are discriminated against or that their lifestyle is not accepted in society, Anderson asserted that being gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender is more accepted in many prominent circles in American society today than it is to oppose such lifestyles.

"What I see here is that if you are a conservative Evangelical at a major law firm or at an Ivy League university, you have a much harder time coming out of the closet as a conservative Evangelical than you do coming out as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender," Anderson, an Ivy League graduate, explained. "That's an empirical question but my experience at Princeton, and that was a decade ago, that it was much more of a contentious subject to say that you were opposed to same-sex marriage than to say that you were in favor of it."

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