On the EDge: Still a long road ahead for LGBT equality

OPINION – One of the pearls I would always offer my reporters when I was an editor was “Never be surprised by a decision a court hands down.”

You can watch all the “Law & Order” reruns you like, but it will still not make you an expert on the law.

That’s why I had no idea how the U.S. Supreme Court would rule on the issue of same-sex marriages.

As we learned Monday, SCOTUS, that is, the nation’s Supreme Court, ruled on behalf of equality for all when it decided not to take on appeals filed by Virginia, Indiana, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and, of course, Utah, states that petitioned the court to uphold their bans on same-sex marriage.

This court has recently been unpredictable and a lot more political so I was halfway expecting the justices to hear the case and, eventually, hand down a ruling that it is up to the states to decide who can marry whom, which would have been an egregious violation of civil rights.

I am not a huge fan of the whole state’s rights concept anyway, particularly now when the laws between states are so contradictory. It is ridiculous that what is legal in one state is illegal in another. Since when should our rights be restricted by borders?

Usually, of course, the disparity of our laws is rooted in some religious influence, which is an affront to justice and an insult to the First Amendment, which protects us from religious persecution, regardless of whether it is a result of our beliefs or our opposition to a predominant strain of religion. And, make no mistake, this legal challenge to same-sex marriage was rooted in religion, not law, with a number of churches jeopardizing their tax-free status by supplying money, services, and people to fight the legalization of same-sex marriages, particularly in California where millions of dollars were raised and many “volunteers” gathered to try to strike down a law allowing people to marry regardless of sexual orientation.

Citing morality, they became vigorous defenders of what was termed “traditional marriage,” but what is moral about separating a group of people from their civil rights, whether it be for reasons of race, creed, or sexual orientation?

It’s really quite easy. If you don’t believe in same-sex marriage, choose a partner of the opposite sex. But, do not try to deprive a couple the right to live and love and make a commitment simply because it is two men or two women. There will be no harmful spillover effect, you won’t be “recruited” to join the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) lifestyle, and their marriages will have no impact on your day-to-day existence.

An old quote about the United States being “a nation of laws” was dusted off yesterday and spun in at least a dozen directions. Even Gov. Gary Herbert trotted it out during his press conference.

However, the best use of that term, which originated in ancient Greece, came from Supreme Court Justice John Marshall: “The government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men. It will certainly cease to deserve this high appellation if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right.”

Marshall’s wise words came on the heels of the precedent-setting Marbury v. Madison decision in 1803, which clarified that the judicial branch of government – headed by the U.S. Supreme Court – is the final authority when it comes to Constitutional issues and rights.

The struggle for equality for the LGBT community is not over, however.

In Utah and 28 other states, you can still be fired from your job if you are gay. You can also be refused housing because of your sexual orientation in many parts of the state.

State Sen. Steve Urquhart has been trying for a couple of years now, to pass a bill in the Legislature that would remove such discrimination.

“The basic principal behind the bill is straight forward: We should all have an opportunity to earn a living and keep a roof over our heads,” he said during an interview with Utah Political Capitol earlier this year. “Gay and transgender people are good, hardworking people with families, just like everyone else.”

The bill was shot down in 2013 when the far-right segment of the Legislature said it would create “a special class for the LGBT community.”

Urquhart disagrees.

“It just means you can’t fire a person because they are gay or because they are straight,” he said.

Punishment for such actions is a veritable slap on the wrist – a $500 fine – but it is a place to start.

Why is this bill necessary?

Because, according to Utah Political Capitol, a 2012 survey revealed that 43 percent of gay Utahns and 67 percent of transgender Utahns reported that they had experienced employment discrimination, meaning they had been fired or denied a position specifically because of their sexual orientation or gender identification.

Those are embarrassing numbers that won’t be fixed by Monday’s SCOTUS decision, numbers that are deeply etched in generations of homophobic bigotry that cannot and will not be erased just because now the law allows people of the same sex to marry.

What will happen next?

I can easily foresee that during the next Legislative session, a bill will be introduced to ban same-sex married partners from adopting children.

That bill, unfortunately, would gain more traction in the Legislature than Urquhart’s because of long-held, but misguided, stereotypical thinking.

I’m not always on the same page as Sen. Urquhart.

Our politics are usually miles – make that continents – apart.

But, we share common ground on this issue.

Yes, the Utah LGBT community has reason to celebrate.

But, there are still many more roads to travel on the path to true and complete equality.

No bad days!

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

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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  • Koolaid October 7, 2014 at 11:38 am

    If someone is bisexual, will they have the right to be married twice, one marriage to a gay partner and one marriage to a straight? Satisfy both sides of their equation? Gays had their day in court. Polygamists want their day in court. What about the bisexuals? You know, if you’re bi, you double your dating opportunities.

  • Gary October 7, 2014 at 11:53 am

    We must have equality so let’s invest 16 billion of tax dollars and develop a way for gay men and women to reproduce like heterosexual do. And free sex changes for those poor souls that trapped in the wrong genders body.
    YES we do have a long way to go……
    Legalizing gay marriage has set you back, as for as public support is concerned . You just have not seen it yet.

  • JAR October 7, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Some good points you make Ed.
    Putting aside this topic for a minute, read Senator Hatch’s keynote speech on Religious Freedom on today’s St George News topics list. The gay community deserve rights to choose, but every American persons religious feeling can’t be thrown out the window as well. Discrimination and freedom to choose is a very broad topic.

    • Ed Kociela October 7, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      JAR: I agree that all of our religious feelings should not be thrown out the window and should be respected, no matter what they may be. But church and state should always be separate entities. There is, of course, overlap — “Thou shalt not kill…Thou shalt not steal” — but laws regarding choices such as these should not be written in our churches.

      • D & D October 7, 2014 at 2:01 pm

        Your Wrong Again. State and Church are separate entities. Not Church and State. Churches can have a voice in the commiunties. The State can not tell the Church what to say and do.

  • Visiting Anthropologist October 7, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    No, “religious feeling” can’t be thrown out the window. But neither can the rights of individual’s who don’t agree with those “religious feelings.”

    And while we’re on the subject, what about the clear, Constitutional requirement for separation of church and state. My experience of Utah is that this becomes a very hazy matter in a state where the church is as all-powerful and pervasive as it is.

  • Lance October 7, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    You’ve got some poor basis right off the bat Ed, as often. The Bill of Rights gives you freedom of religion, not from religion, as you put it. Can you provide some examples of religious persecution you have experienced? You must have a very wide-ranging definition of persecution.

    Now if you really want to fight religious persecution of homos, go to a Muslim country. They hang them there. It’s just under Sharia. I counter you to find a modern example of such persecution in the West.

    • JAR October 7, 2014 at 2:15 pm

      Lance is going into a area where we might not want to go. (for example)
      What happens if say the people of a county in State of Michigan as a example, want Sharia law to govern their court rules and punishments? (or) when the folks in Colorado want to smoke pot? or cigarettes for that matter? Where will the Supreme Court judges hide on those subjects? (Or) it is unlawful to willfully block traffic in New York City ( except when you want to throw your pray rug down at a intersection at certain times of the day) So it is written, so it will be.

    • Aliceyn October 8, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      Lance, let me give you my example of religious persecution right here in this town. My husband and I moved here, and I got a job. My nice LDS neighbor gave me a letter of recomendation. I had blonde hair, blue eyes and fit right in. I had glowing reviews on my job performance. Then 9-11 happened. We were called into a meeting, and “the end times” and other things were spoken of. I didn’t have a ward, etc, and they realized I was not LDS. I began to be critiqued at every turn. Someone stood outside my office door and later brought up things I’d said. If 2 of us did something exactly the same way, I was the one critized. I was reminded this “was a right to work state.” I could be fired for anything they didn’t like even if it was the color or style of my hair…I was miserable and it was clear they weren’t going to fire me so they would have to pay unemployment benefits. I continued to my job and did an excellent job, but they were running me out, waiting for me to leave… Which of course after 9 months of being continually nitpicked and true bulling, I did. Things were perfect until they found out I wasn’t the “right” religion…

  • Bobber October 7, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Here’s a news flash for all our gay friends: the world isn’t all about YOU. Please show some decency and morality.

  • Old Man October 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.

    Jefferson was describing to the Baptists that the United States Bill of Rights prevents the establishment of a national church, and in so doing they did not have to fear government interference in their manner of worship.

    Nothing about the church not having a say in the working of the Goverment

  • McMurphy October 7, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    “I am not a huge fan of the whole state’s rights concept anyway, particularly now when the laws between states are so contradictory. It is ridiculous that what is legal in one state is illegal in another. Since when should our rights be restricted by borders?”

    Good point. The whole notion of individual states is so 1700s anyway. Let’s just dissolve the individual states and our Lords and Masters in Washington make all the decisions on how we are to live our lives. We are headed in that direction anyway.

    To paraphrase the Borg: We are the Feds. Lower your shields and surrender. We will add your social, religious and ethical distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.

  • Not buying it October 7, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Dear god will you please come down and cleanse the earth with fire

    • Lance October 8, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      A culling is badly needed. Obola will be along in due time. Then we can have our dictatorship openly.

  • JOSH DALTON (INCOGNEGRO) October 8, 2014 at 10:01 am

    I wish the LGBT community would realize that its not about equality, but they are fighting to allow their sexual fetish to be accepted by the masses. This transgender stuff is getting way out of hand. That is exactly what all of this is going to evolve into. Here is an example: the FaFa Fini in the Samoan culture. You don’t see them making an big stink about equality! They are accepted by society because they keep their mouth shut wash clothes and do the dishes. Just like a woman should! (i’m going to get some flak for that one) GO FALCONS! FIGHT FOR THE RAINBOW BACK!

    • Dana October 8, 2014 at 11:31 am

      #Keeping The Rainbow

    • B Carter October 8, 2014 at 8:08 pm

      Just like the people, in the 60’s, who wanted inter-racial marriage legal were just trying to get their sexual fetish to be accepted by the masses as well. Come on, now. Two consenting adults should have the right to marry eachother.

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