A Thoughtful Take on RFRA from Hollywood? ‘The Good Wife’ Does it

CBS drama touches hot-button issues once again.

Overwhelmed by the shrill hysteria of the left and most media over Indiana’s RFRA controversy? Want to hear some calm, reasoned and respectful arguments, for and against religious freedom accommodations?  Check out the latest episode of CBS’ drama The Good Wife. Really. 

A subplot to the April 5 episode of CBS’ The Good Wife featured two characters, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and Reese Dipple (Oliver Platt) as they argued over legal cases of Christians who refused wedding services to gay couples. Dipple, a conservative client, asked Lockhart, who heads a law firm, to weigh in with a “liberal viewpoint” on certain cases – cases he wanted to fund because “it’s the right thing to do.” 

Dipple, the “fourth richest man in America,” befriended a very liberal Lockhart after a hunting trip where they discussed abortion. 

In the episode, Dipple first asked Lockhart to play “devil’s advocate” and offer “a liberal viewpoint” on a California case in which a baker refused a wedding cake to a gay couple because of religious objections. 

“No, obviously,” Lockhart said when Dipple asked her if he should fund the case. “Well, it’s not because I’m a liberal, it’s because you won’t win.” 

When Dipple’s conservative lawyer friends cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as a defense, Lockhart responded that with California law, “It doesn’t matter. The baker is refusing to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple for who they are.” She added, “That is the heart of discrimination.” 

The argument continued with impressive jabs at both sides. 

Max Gaul (Darren Pettie), arguing for the religious freedom aspect of the case, asked, “[I]f a Christian walks into the cake shop and orders a cake that says ‘God sends gays to hell.’ Does the baker have to write that on the wedding cake…?”

“No,” Diane said. “Because the baker is not objecting to a religion but a point of view.” 

On Gaul’s side, attorney Justin Partridge (Michael Zegen) followed-up, “But the purchaser finds it essential to his or her faith. I mean, isn't the Christian a protected class, with the same protection as gays?” 


While Dipple decided not to fund the baker’s appeal, he chose to fund Ms. Dahl, a Christian Idaho wedding planner who refused service to a gay couple. 

(While not pleased, Lockhart had admitted earlier to Dipple: “Yes, you would arguably have a better case with a wedding planner because of the burden on her -- her time commitment, her level of creativity, the list of her personal contacts.”) 

“I'm-I'm helping two people seal their commitment to one another before the world and before God,” Ms. Dahl argued in a mock trial. “I can't do that if I don't believe in it.” 

Lockhart countered Ms. Dahl by pointing out a “selective” religious objection: Ms. Dahl bakes for weddings of couples getting married after divorce – a union condemned by the Bible. 

When the (mock) judge later sided with Lockhart, Dipple criticized Lockhart’s decision to cast his gay nephew as the plaintiff —the “lover” – in the pretend trial. 

“The law is supposed to be fair, not impersonal,” Lockhart argued. “In fact, I would argue that the law is always personal, it has to see the human side too. Or else it’s meaningless.” 

Getting in the last word, Dipple explained his side. “Three years ago, Barack Obama was against gay marriage. So was Bill Clinton, so was Hillary. Basically every Democratic icon was lined up against gay marriage,” he began. “Now they're not. Because it's politically expedient for them not to be. Who knows what they're gonna be for or against in another three years, right?”

He then presented the crux of his argument: “I like people who stand by their opinions, I like people who stand by their beliefs. And I think religious accommodation must be made for people who do that. It's the right thing to do.” 

For this particular episode, The Good Wife co-creator and writer Robert King said he tried to present an environment where, “you didn’t know where the writers were coming down.” “[I]t’s mean[t] to be an entertaining way of looking at issues,” he said, “[b]ut we don’t want to improve anybody. We don’t want to change anybody.” 

 What a change from the other agenda-fied TV shows – and prejudiced late-night comedians.

— Katie Yoder is Staff Writer, Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture and Media at the Media Research Center. Follow Katie Yoder on Twitter.