OPINION – Four weeks from today, the U.S. Supreme Court will start hearing arguments on same-sex marriage.
By most accounts, it’s expected that SCOTUS will rule favorably before the end of June.
As a result, conservative lawmakers across the nation have rallied desperately to pass legislation that will allow discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community.
It happened here in Utah already, with a smoke and mirrors bit of law that on one hand is supposed to ensure equality in the workplace and elsewhere while still allowing others to continue their homophobic discrimination, as long as it is based on religious expression.
Because there are more than 50 shades of religion, the term “religious expression” can range from the sacramental use of peyote during religious ceremonies to the practice of polygamy in its ugliest forms of child sexual abuse, as we have seen in the neighboring community of Short Creek.
Indiana is the latest state to sign on to this foolishness.
Last week, Gov. Mike Pence signed the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which immediately ignited protests.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, which is headquartered in Indiana, was the first to respond, with NCAA President Mark Emmert questioning if future collegiate championship contests should be conducted in the state.
The NCAA’s Final Four tournament will be played this weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where next year the women’s Final Four competition will also be held. Indianapolis is also set to host the early round NCAA tournament games in 2017 and the men’s finals in 2021. The stadium is also signed to host the Big Ten Football Championship through 2021 as well as next year’s NFL combine.
“The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events,” Emmert said in a statement released by the NCAA. “We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.
“We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill.
“Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”
The bill also drew negative response from the business community.
The CEO of Angie’s List announced that he has cancelled plans to expand its headquarters in the state, the head of Salesforce.com, a global computing cloud company, said he will no longer allow his employees to travel to Indiana for business, as did the mayors of Seattle and San Francisco; and Yelp and Apple have condemned the new law.
Why wasn’t Utah hit with such backlash when its new LGBT/religious freedom restoration act was passed?
Because, it is Utah, a place where such a bill is not unexpected.
Utah is not a very welcoming place.
The state motto is simply, “Industry.”
It might just as well be, “If you don’t like it, leave.”
But, life is never as simple as that.
A lot of people are tied to the state because of family, jobs, and homes they paid a lot of money for that most will never see a return on.
Forget about it. Utah is 91 percent white, 62 percent Mormon. There is no diversity in those numbers, and there is little evidence that the Utah Legislature does much to represent people outside of that demographic. And, while it is true that Salt Lake City has an LGBT population larger than one would suspect, the underlying homophobia cannot be disguised.
At some point, younger, wiser minds will strike down this rash of religious freedom laws, but for many, it will be too late.
The bottom line is that by allowing this sort of discrimination, these laws carve deep chasms in social equality.
Your right to pursue your religion is guaranteed and as long as you do not infringe on anybody else’s freedoms or rights, you are free to practice whatever faith you wish, whether it involves worshipping alien monkey babies from Mars or practicing more traditional faiths.
But, the moment you infringe on my rights, or the rights of others, simply because your version of religion disapproves of what we believe or how we behave, you have stepped over the line.
You step over the line when you refuse services to anybody because of their race, creed, or sexual orientation.
You step over the line when you deny rights, such as marriage, health and life insurance benefits, or partnership rights because of a person’s race, creed, or sexual orientation.
You step over the line when you knock on my door or accost me on the street to try to persuade me to become a member of your faith when I clearly have no interest.
This does not mean that those who oppose these outrageous new laws are godless heathens.
Indeed, the opposite is true.
People of faith believe in treating everyone equally, fairly, respectfully. They are aghast at any law that would deprive a fellow human being of their inalienable rights.
Conservatives are howling that the Indiana law and its clones simply mirror a federal law authored by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and signed by President Bill Clinton that secured religious rights.
Not entirely true.
That law was rooted in ensuring that American Indian groups would be allowed to use peyote in a religious ritual, something that they had been doing for more than 5,000 years.
The new laws, however, are rooted in giving bigots an out should they be sued for refusing services or rights to members of the LGBT community.
All they have to do is stand up in a courtroom and say is: “It’s against my religious beliefs” and be done.
Sorry, but I don’t think God would be very happy to learn that His children are mistreating each other in His name.
But, of course, this isn’t the first time that has occurred.
- On the EDge: New LGBT legislation is bad law
- Governor signs LGBT antidiscrimination, religious freedoms amendments into law
- LGBT rights, religious liberties bill passes Senate, advances to House
- LDS Church expresses support for LGBT nondiscrimination measures
- LGBT activists gather to support nondiscrimination ordinance; STGnews Videocast
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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