On the EDge: New LGBT legislation is bad law

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OPINION – I am not a fan of compromise, never have been, never will be.

That’s why I am not happy with the Utah Legislature’s passing of a bill that guarantees certain rights to the LGBT community.

It’s not that I don’t think that housing, employment, and other rights should be extended to anybody who walks the face of this big marble. People should be allowed to live or work wherever they choose, no matter who they love or marry.

It’s not that I have objections to same-sex marriage, because I don’t.

It’s because it is bad law by allowing, within the framework of that law, ways to circumvent it.

I have heard comments from many who say, “well, it’s a lot better than it was, at least it’s something.”

Not really.

You see, the bill that bans housing and employment discrimination against members of the LGBT community also includes a provision, at the urging of leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that exempts religious institutions, organizations, associations, and their affiliates, as well as the Boy Scouts of America, from being defined as employers for these purposes.

This exemption also allows for the expression of religious beliefs and commitments within the workplace as long as those comments are “reasonable, non-disruptive, and non-harassing.

In other words, Mormon leaders still want to be able to hire and fire workers based on religious beliefs and behavior standards that require gays and lesbians to remain celibate. The church also wants legal protections for religious objectors who work in government and health care, such as a physician who refuses to perform an abortion or provide artificial insemination for a lesbian couple.

You cannot legislate religion into the law, especially a law that is supposed to guarantee individual rights.

Either you secure equal rights for all, without qualification of individual judgment, or you do not.

This bill does not.

Similar laws are being pushed by the angry Right through state legislatures across the nation. In fact, the Georgia Senate recently approved a similar law about religious exemptions.

If you examine these laws closely, they start to unravel.

For example, corporal punishment of children is accepted religious behavior in some circles. So are forms of domestic abuse. Should we allow some guy to slap around his wife and children because his religion allows it?

I don’t think so.

Extend it further.

There are churches that claim to be the one, true church. Under this law, it is not a stretch of the imagination for a business owner who is a member of one of those faiths to refuse service to somebody not of their faith. Should we allow that on such flimsy grounds as a religious exemption?

I don’t think so.

We have churches that believe in plural marriage, some going so perversely far as allowing older men to engage in so-called “spiritual marriages” with underage girls. Should we allow this as a religious exemption?

I don’t think so.

Faith is a private thing, a personal thing that one undertakes for a variety of reasons, some good, some not so good. I have seen some local business people, for example, convert to the predominant religion in Utah because they thought it would improve their business dealings.

I have also seen local politicians set up special community committees, then name the local church leader of those people chosen from the committee to guide it.

I remember moving to Utah and seeing, in the daily newspaper, rental listings with the proviso: “LDS standards required.”

That is discrimination and is not what the founding fathers had in mind when this nation was formed.

The concept of liberty, freedom, and civil rights is not negotiable. These liberties, freedoms, and rights are either total liberties, freedoms, and rights or they are not. It should not be left up to arbitrary judgment based on a person’s private, religious beliefs. You know, that business about liberty and justice for all and, of course, separation of church and state.

These are dangerous times in the United States as we see the principles of freedom erode around us as those elected, ostensibly, to represent all of us, create loopholes to perpetuate discrimination, greed, and a certain kind of hatred and disrespect, as exhibited by 47 traitorous senators who recently sent a contemptuous letter to the Iranian government urging it to reject negotiations now underway with President Obama regarding its nuclear program.

In an op-ed he wrote for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, singer and activist Elton John voiced his concerns about the pending Georgia legislation.

“Simply put, this bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” he wrote. “It promises religious freedom, but let’s be clear: No one’s religious freedom is at risk! Both the Georgia Constitution and U.S. Constitution very explicitly protect this right.

“What (Georgia) SB 129 will really do is institutionalize the hate some people hold in their hearts against other people. It will turn back the clock on the progress we have made — not only in the fight against HIV, but also in the struggle for a more equal and just society.”

John stressed that he isn’t opposed to religious freedom in any capacity.

Neither am I.

However, the Utah Legislature was dealing from the bottom of the deck with this bill, and, as a matter of fact, made it easier to discriminate on religious grounds, which is oxymoronic if you think about it. It is a theocratic, rather than democratic, piece of legislation.

That’s why this is bad law.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

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Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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23 Comments

  • anybody home March 17, 2015 at 9:48 am

    I’ve been saying this since I first read the language of the law. The exemptions kill it and allow the same old discriminatory behavior. And this is not escaping notice from other places who find this new law laughable. Utah will never change. The Mormons will never change. Get out while you can.

  • Curtis March 17, 2015 at 10:02 am

    It’s called bait and switch

  • NotSoFast March 17, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Interesting piece Ed K. (I almost stepped in it).
    News Update:
    The EPA is due to say this new law is bad for the environment and a threat to humanity. In what way you say? Uh, I’ll get back to you on that. Al Gore is currently working on a rebuttal seminar with the IRS on the subject. Reserve your seating now.

  • DirtyHippyTevas March 17, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Recipe for an Ed Kociela article:

    1- Go to HuffingtonPost.com. Do a quick search for any article that contains as many of the following words: “Mormon”, “Utah”, “Gay”, “Outrageous”, “LDS”, “LGBT”, “Discrimination”.

    2-At this point we’ll need skip the article entirely and go right to the comments section. You’ll want to find the top comment. You’ll know you’ve hit gold if at least 10 of the responding comments are a magical circle-jerk of anti-Mormon/Conservative bloviations.

    3-Now that you have 99% of your material already prepared for you, you’ll just need to cut and paste the comment into your St. George News WordPress account. It’s a good idea to spell check it at this point too.

    4- Last but not least you’ll want to spice it up with a few personal experiences of how Mormons/ Utahns have basically ruined your life in every way possible.

  • BIG GUY March 17, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Liberals see themselves as always taking the moral high ground and hence anyone with a differing view is by definition immoral and retrograde. Liberals see themselves as open to differing viewpoints and open discussion, but since they are sure their position is one of moral superiority, they are quick to ascribe “hate” to any with differing opinions. (See the Elton John quote in the essay.) Ed’s opinions exemplify this liberal mindset.

    1) No one in any organized society has “total liberty, freedom and civil rights.” Virtually every law limits one or more of these principles in the interest of the common good. Almost by definition this is true and virtually all of us agree with many of them. Laws that impinge on strongly held personal beliefs and standards need to strike a balance. Ed says he doesn’t like compromise; neither do those with opposing views. But compromise and accommodation are required in any pluralistic society.

    2) Exempting organizations from requirements that conflict with their basic tenets and purposes is part and parcel of respecting “liberty, freedom, and civil rights.” Almost all of us would agree that some limits should be imposed on organizations, e.g. forbidding illegal drug use or practicing underage marriage in the name of religion. But those limits need to be carefully balanced and will likely be unsatisfying to many involved.

    3) Joining an organization such as a church or the Boy Scouts is voluntary and those organizations do not impose their standards on outsiders. They may influence the public and hence government laws and regulations just as businesses, labor unions and environmental groups do, but they control no one outside their membership. The First Amendment ensures freedom of assembly. Government needs to tread very lightly in imposing requirements on such voluntary organizations.

    4) To quote Ed, “These are dangerous times in the United States as we see the principles of freedom erode around us as those elected, ostensibly, to represent all of us, create loopholes to perpetuate discrimination, greed, and a certain kind of hatred and disrespect, as exhibited by…” a president who unilaterally and contrary to the Constitution and existing law proposes to change the residency status of 5 million illegal immigrants and to negotiate a treaty with Iran without submitting it to the Senate for approval.

    Ed, I could go on, but your illusion of moral superiority and disdain for any who disagree with you are readily apparent to all.

    • NotSoFast March 17, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      On behalf of Logic, I would like to make a suggestion to this news feed editor.
      Contact BIG GUY through his personal e-mail address and offer him a weekly Opinion column rebuttal segment to Ed Kocieia & Bryan Hyde weekly inputs.

      • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic March 17, 2015 at 3:15 pm

        Editor in Chief here, NSF. I smile at a good suggestion. I’ll consider him, or you for that matter, as potential columnists. Column writing can be challenging, they’re on you before you know it week after week 52 weeks a year. Interested? Send me some writing samples and contact information: jkuzmanic@stgnews.com
        I’ll be watching my emailbox.
        ST. GEORGE NEWS
        Joyce Kuzmanic
        EIC

  • anybody home March 17, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    I hear Moroni blowing his horn right now as the Defenders gallop in. What a sight.

  • fun bag March 17, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    troll article with a bunch of troll comments. not gonna take the bait

  • ladybugavenger March 17, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    I agree, its a bad law. Gay, straight, rich, poor, we know the discrimination is against people that are not Mormon. Mormon mom leaves baby in hot car and it dies, no charges filed, is a good example of the discrimination.

    • fun bag March 17, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      i’ve seen them kill there kids, kill people with their cars, roast babies in cars, kidnap teen girls, drive drunk, embezzle hoards of cash, shoot people without cause. And they all got away with it because of their membership in the official state religion. karma is a b—- and it’s gonna catch up to them at some point. Maybe to their surprise there’s no celestial kingdom for them and they wake up in hell. Things have a way of evening out like that…

    • Simone March 17, 2015 at 5:23 pm

      Not only that but her “lapse in memory” got her $20,000+ in a #fundraiser.

    • Mean Momma March 17, 2015 at 5:39 pm

      Congrats on spelling Mormon right twice in one paragraph!

  • Hugh March 17, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    Completely agree with Ed.

  • SteveSGU March 18, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Pretty much completely disagree with Ed’s red herring arguments. Decent people with high standards should not be forced to spend their money or their time on people who don’t support their standards. And the people who move in from elsewhere and don’t appreciate the quality communities we have in Utah should move out. Why stay in a place among people that you only want to complain about?

    • anybody home March 18, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      Oh, Steve, you’ve got us wrong. We don’t move here to complain. We move here because we’re missionaries and we’d like to convert you all to a different way of life with a broader view of humanity and a more liberal attitude. You don’t like that? Then call off your own missionaries and keep them out of our territory everywhere in the U.S. and abroad. Or do you think it’s okay for people to try and convert others if they happen to agree with you? The last people on the planet who should complain about “people who move in from elsewhere and don’t appreciate the quality communities we have” are the Mormons who have traipsed the world over not appreciating already existing communities and trying to change them…even deciding to baptize thousands of already dead people who were very happy with their own faiths. Talk about arrogance…

    • ladybugavenger March 18, 2015 at 7:18 pm

      I would love to move….help me out with a #fundraiser

      • anybody home March 18, 2015 at 8:57 pm

        Okay, everybody, fundraiser for LBA…

      • fun bag March 18, 2015 at 10:21 pm

        lol, i will donate some expired canned goods, ok?

      • ladybugavenger March 19, 2015 at 10:04 am

        You all make me laugh.

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