Conor Friedersdorf has a column explaining to gay people that just because a business refuses to service gays doesn't mean that its owners are homophobic. If they're motivated by religion, he argues, then they're pious, and pious bigotry cannot be counted as bigotry. Further, if homophobes are not spewing bile in a state of constant anger, then gay people who are refused service are "misperceiving" (his word) people's attitudes.
There's a lot wrong with the column, starting with Friedersdorf's insistence that People Who Think Homosexuality Is Sin But Are Not Homophobic (PWTHISBARNHs) can't be hateful because they are nice to him, a straight man; and going to his complete confusion on the meaning of the word homophobia, which apparently does not include discrimination against gay people.
But others have responded to that already. I wanted to focus on the implication that homophobes' explanation of their actions, their claims that they don't feel any antipathy towards gays, should be accepted as the truth and any evidence to the contrary should be ignored. Frankly, these folks haven't earned that level of trust.
When a photographer says that she won't take pictures of a lesbian wedding because of her Christianity, she may be mistaken. People have little trouble convincing themselves that their motives are good even when they're acting on baser instincts. We want to be good people, and it's far easier to convince ourselves that we're good as we are than it is to change who we are to fit our ideals. (In many cases, I would agree that that's the best way to go, especially since the line between ideals and ideology is often blurry.)
Or perhaps the photographer is lying. Who knows.
Take the dictionary entry for the n-word, for example. I looked it up a few years ago after a woman who was selling anti-Obama paraphernalia with that word on it claimed, in an interview with Forbes, that she had no idea that the word could refer to African Americans. Look it up in the dictionary, she said.
So I did. The dictionary doesn't agree with her, but in the comments there were hundreds of white people arguing that they're surprised that the n-word has any racial connotation at all. The dictionary used to say that it just referred to a mean person. Why, the culture must have changed so much since their youth that the dictionary doesn't even list the original meaning! Of course, it must be the rap music that added a slang meaning to the word....
Now, there are several ways to resolve her stated confidence in what the dictionary would say with my belief that everyone in the U.S. knows what that word means. The simplest is bullshit. She was bullshitting, with "bullshit" being not exactly lying, but just saying whatever you think will advance your interests. She and those white commenters must have known what that word means, but thought they could pretend otherwise so that people wouldn't think that they were racist, but just speaking a dialect of English that the dictionary doesn't respect.
Of course they could just stop using that word, but that would require: A.) admitting that their past actions were racist, B.) admitting that they harbor racist attitudes, and C.) coming to the same conclusions about the people around them. That's a lot of heart-work for people who really want to believe that they're fundamentally nice and fair and probably don't care all that much for self-examination.
Anyway, after seeing that, I have no qualms in stating that it's entirely possible that that photographer's refusal to photograph a lesbian ceremony may not have been motivated by religion. That many other Christians have come to the opposite conclusion would imply that the rules of her religion are at least open to interpretation, and interpretation requires prior beliefs that may include an bigotry towards gays and lesbians.
"Bigotry" doesn't only imply screaming homophobic slurs with spittle shooting from one's mouth as one's face turns red, as Friedersdorf appears to believe. It can be a cool belief that who you are is better than what others are, so certain rules need to be implemented to reflect and maintain that superiority. Interacting or being polite with the object of bigotry may be permitted by those rules.
As a caveat, when it comes to the law all this mind-reading isn't appropriate. A photographer may want to discriminate against a class of people, but she shouldn't be allowed to, no matter her motivation.
But this photographer put her motivation front and center when she said that her faith requires her to be homophobic. It was an affirmative defense - yes, I'm homophobic, but I have a good reason.
The rest of us aren't required to accept it at face value.