Dana Rohrabacher is one of the Republican Party’s most vulnerable incumbents. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Rohrabacher’s Orange County congressional district. The area’s voters are (almost certainly) more progressive on issues of LGBT rights than those in the median congressional district.
Nevertheless, Rohrabacher has decided to take a controversial stand against California’s decades-old prohibition on denying housing to people because they are gay. “Every homeowner should be able to make a decision not to sell their home to someone [if] they don’t agree with their lifestyle,” Rohrabacher told the Orange County Association of Realtors last week.
This led the National Association of Realtors (NAR) — a powerful lobby, especially in California — to rescind its endorsement of Rohrabacher (the NAR’s code of ethics prohibits the kind of discrimination the congressman endorsed).
Still, Rohrabacher has refused to back down from his principled commitment to making it harder for gays and lesbians to find places to live. “We’ve drawn a line on racism, but I don’t think we should extend that line,” the congressman told the Orange County Register Thursday. “A homeowner should not be required to be in business with someone they think is doing something that is immoral.”
Rohrabacher insisted that he was personally, vehemently opposed to such discrimination against gay people. But, he said, “there are some fundamentalist Christians who do not approve of their lifestyle … I support their rights.”
This makes a lot of sense. It is totally realistic and reasonable for a fundamentalist Christian homeowner to demand to know that the people he sells his home to will never get divorced, or have adulterous relations — or engage in any sex act that violates his conception of a moral lifestyle. If a Christian cannot be certain that the only kind of sex happening in his old house is missionary-style, heterosexual intercourse between married people who are trying to have a child, then can we really say that freedom of religion is alive and well in the United States?
It’s not like this hypothetical Christian would just be arbitrarily discriminating against gays as a class (because he would have no basis for assuming that any heterosexual couple he sells to would share his faith’s many rules about sexual conduct) and, in so doing, be perpetuating a significant structural injustice in the housing market.
So, kudos to Dana Rohrabacher for bravely defending the rights of a minority group, and not, in any way, allowing bigots to use their religious affiliation as a pretense for discrimination.