By: Nicole Lashomb*/TRT Editor-in-Chief—
According to many, religious conservatives have been defeated in the same-sex marriage battle. Although there are a few clinching tightly to their homophobic interpretation of the bible, a vast majority has succumbed to the idea that gay marriage will indeed become law of the land. As of April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments from proponents and opponents of marriage equality. Many believe the ruling will be released by the end of June, which will afford the LGBT community the right to marry for love, not gender. I, too, am of such mindset.
With a likely impending ruling upon us, anti-LGBT states have been chomping at the bit in an expedited fashion introducing new legislation, which would allow individuals, and businesses, to continue to discriminate against the gay community. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), conceals the preferred weapon of choice to slaughter the spirit of the LGBT community, at least in an attempted homicide.
According to an article published in the Daily Beast, “The federal RFRA was passed in 1993, nearly unanimously, with liberals and conservatives uniting in response to a Supreme Court case, Employment Division v. Smith, which upheld anti-drug laws being used against Native Americans ingesting peyote. Outraged by this intrusion on a minority religious practice, RFRA provided that the government can only “substantially burden” the exercise of religion if it has a “compelling state interest.” [pullquote]“The evangelical owner of a business providing a secular service can sue claiming that their personal faith empowers them to refuse to hire Jews, divorcees, or LGBT people. A landlord could claim the right to refuse to rent an apartment to a Muslim or a transgender person. …”[/pullquote]
What was intended to protect minority groups from religious persecution has now been contorted in an attempt to legalize discrimination. Thanks to right-wing activists, the RFRA has been redefined to suit their special interests in assuring that certain minority groups continue to be devalued as second-class citizens.
Sexual orientation has nothing to do with religious freedom. Discriminating against others who are members of the LGBT community and refusing to serve them as a result, amongst many other attempts to persecute it, has nothing to do with religious practice. No religious practice, to the best of my knowledge, instructs its disciples to discriminate against another human being while proclaiming themselves to be holy. Case in point.
Even if misguided “followers” through erred interpretations, pulpit brainwash or utter disgust of LGBT people believe that being gay is a “sin,” it is not a sin to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, create flower arrangements, welcome children of LGBT parents into a particular school, allow same-sex adoptions, etc. Because no religion condemns those who offer services to the gay community, they cannot hide behind their religion to maintain the right to discriminate against it. [pullquote]What was intended to protect minority groups from religious persecution has now been contorted in an attempt to legalize discrimination. Thanks to right-wing activists, the RFRA has been redefined to suit their special interests in assuring that certain minority groups continue to be devalued as second-class citizens.[/pullquote]
Despite common sense, a new religious freedom law has passed in Indiana. Known to be the most extreme discriminatory law of its kind, made possible by the RFRA, such a law “could empower any individual to sue the government to attempt to end enforcement of a non-discrimination law,” the HRC released in a statement. “The evangelical owner of a business providing a secular service can sue claiming that their personal faith empowers them to refuse to hire Jews, divorcees, or LGBT people. A landlord could claim the right to refuse to rent an apartment to a Muslim or a transgender person. By passing a state RFRA, the state puts the power to decide what constitutes religious discrimination in the hands of the state Supreme Court. Given the fact that state Supreme Courts tend to reflect the leanings of the state as a whole, this places a gay couple in Mississippi at much greater risk than a gay couple in Rhode Island.”
The battlefield is getting more bloodied by the day. To date, lawmakers have introduced more than 85 anti-LGBT bills in 28 state legislatures. To interpret the bible to hurt others, not to “love thy neighbor,” and judge them as if you were almighty, and to seclude and segregate them is not what Christ taught according to that same bible. It shouldn’t be the belief of anyone. First I’d heard, “love the sinner, not the sin.” This horrible rhetoric then evolved to become “hurt anyone whom you disagree with, according to your biased interpretation.” Christ never spoke of “homosexuals” but people did and it reflected their own bias. First it was against Native Americans, then Blacks, later Muslim, Indians, Mexicans and anyone who was different somehow. Similar treatment is given to us women too. When will this stop? If the entitled majority, read right-wing, red state Republicans, would start educating themselves more about diversity and understanding other people, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, faiths, etc., they too would realize that they are on the wrong side of history. And the count keeps ticking. Now is not the time to become complacent.
*Nicole Lashomb holds an MBA from Marylhurst University & a Bachelor’s from SUNY Potsdam. Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.