Phil Robertson

Phil Robertson of the A&E reality show "Duck Dynasty" shows the 1 millionth duck call assembled at his warehouse. Robertson was suspended indefinitely by A&D after making controversial remarks about gay people and black people. (Margaret Croft / The News-Star / November 7, 2013)

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The suspension of A&E "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson this week, for comments he made condemning homosexuality in a new GQ magazine profile, has managed to open another breach in the long-simmering American culture wars.

This time, the controversy involves one of the few bona-fide conservative stars on television, part of the hottest reality show on cable TV, lending the brouhaha a "Casablanca" feel: Liberals are shocked, shocked that a star from a show about life in rural America has expressed opinions still common in much of rural America. (For the uninitiated, "Duck Dynasty" centers on the lives of Robertson and his sons, who have ridden their duck-calling whistle firm to riches.)

One moment in the GQ interview featured Robertson holding forth on the varying attractiveness of different kinds of sex, expressing his preference for women: "I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

Robertson added, when asked what he thought was sinful generally, "Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."

To sum up the ensuing controversy, liberals got riled that Robertson expressed those views, A&E got riled at the publicity and suspended Robertson, and conservatives got riled that Robertson was censured for expressing a viewpoint based on his religious views.

This is, one could argue, a controversy that the show's producers had long tried to put off. In a country seemingly split over everything, "Duck Dynasty" offered something liberals and conservatives could happily, and innocuously, watch together.

"Beyond Phil's continual celebration of women who know how to cook and carry the Bible, 'Duck Dynasty' is resolutely nonpolitical," the Los Angeles Times' Mary McNamara noted in August. "We have no idea how the Robertsons feel about gay marriage or civil rights or the current presidential administration. Their heated opinions are reserved for pesky neighbors who challenge them to lawn-mower races."

Which means the show managed to elide a couple basic facts about solid-red Louisiana: At a time when support for same-sex marriage has grown dramatically acrossthe nation, a PPP poll in February showed that only 29% of Louisiana voters thought same-sex marriage should be legal.

A majority supported civil unions, but those are not allowed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage the state passed in 2004.

Sodomy, meantime, is still technically a crime in Louisiana. State law allows a punishment of up to five years in prison for perpetrating a "crime against nature," as the statute calls it. The statute isn't really supposed to be functional anymore; the Supreme Court in 2003 struck down anti-sodomy laws across the U.S.

But the state has not come along willingly. The legislature never got around to stripping the law off the books, so it still reads as graphically as some of Robertson's comments to GQ: "Crime against nature is the unnatural carnal copulation by a human being with another of the same sex. ... Emission is not necessary; and, when committed by a human being with another, the use of the genital organ of one of the offenders of whatever sex is sufficient to constitute the crime."

Some Louisiana police, too, have still been enforcing the law: A Baton Rouge Advocate investigation published in July revealed that the East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s office had arrested at least a dozen people under the anti-sodomy law since 2011.

The local prosecutor refused to pursue the cases, but the sheriff's office was not repentent.

“This is a law that is currently on the Louisiana books, and the sheriff is charged with enforcing the laws passed by our Louisiana Legislature,” a sheriff's office spokesperson told the Advocate at the time. “Whether the law is valid is something for the courts to determine, but the sheriff will enforce the laws that are enacted.”

The state's views were quite clear to its governor, Republican Bobby Jindal, in a statement released about the suspension Thursday morning.

"This is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views," Jindal said, adding that "Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the state of Louisiana."

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