In today’s America, 2015, we live in a world where the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender community is under constant attack, scrutiny, and discrimination from intolerant religious fundamentalists who take refuge for blatant acts of hatred behind the constitutional protections of the First Amendment. In the same free country, at this same time in history, neo-liberal progressives along with the far-left mainstream media are at war with America’s traditionalists who simply wish to preserve the rights guaranteed to them and uphold their moral values unlike the “anything goes” policies of current day Europe. Are you with me? Here’s what I’m getting at: every coin has two sides, and in this day and age, if you want to effectively advocate for anything, you have to start by being wiling to step out of your self-consumed idealistic bubble of how the world “should be” and have the modesty to embrace the idea of negotiation. Otherwise, there’s not much that distinguishes you from the rowdy, screaming, angry protester picketing outside on a street corner except for your common exercising of free speech. And that said, I’m speaking directly to folks on both sides of this issue.
Facts & Discrimination
At this point, I’m going to assume that by now we are all aware of the issues transpiring within our country, particularly in Indiana with regards to business owners turning away LBGT people on the precedent that it’s against their religion and it’s their first amendment prerogative to do so. Let me begin by establishing some facts on the issue and by that we can further delve into this topic and hopefully come away with some productive conclusions.
According to various sources:
- As of 1993, there are 21 states which have enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Acts which ensures the notion of “religious freedom” for citizens is protected (NCSL 2015).
- Contrary to the former, the ACLU illustrates that currently 21 states have passed non-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation, 18 of which have anti-discrimination laws against sexual orientation as well as gender identity (ACLU 2015).
- To gauge where we the country stands on the gay marriage issue from a comparative approach, today there are 37 states that recognize same-sex marriage in addition to the District of Columbia, 11 states (including Texas) where pro-gay marriage court cases are pending, and only 2 states in the U.S. that have effective gay-marriage bans and lawsuits have been filed (Freedom 2015).
These facts shine a light on how split the American public, or legislatures are on the LGBT rights. Much like segregation experienced by African Americans in the 1950s and 60s, the LGBT community has faced its fair share of inequality and have had to fight tooth-and-nail politically to accomplish the progress that they have today. It is an absolute violation of human rights when this demographic of Americans citizens are denied the privileges and rights that are enjoyed by other Americans. It is similarly discrimination to fullest extent, and the only difference that distinguishes this issue from the segregation issues of the past, are the specific people being targeted which exposes the irony that perhaps the Civil Rights Act of 1964 failed to include the words “sexual orientation.”
In opening my article, I pledged to be objective and empathetic towards both sides of the issue. In doing so, I’d like to shift our attention to the matter of religious freedom of expression. As you’re already aware, our First Constitutional Amendment grants every U.S. citizen the right to freely practice their own religion uninhibited by Congress or the government. Following this is the Free Exercise Clause, which specifically states that “opinion, expression of opinion, and practice were all expressly protected.” (Findlaw 2015) This law serves as a model for our society’s tolerance of religious differences and the celebration of those individuals who believe different from us. It’s not a tool to oppress just as it’s not a device to degrade or demean. This hypocrisy is completely apparent to me when opponents of religious freedom acts are intolerant of private business owners who feel completely uncomfortable with engaging in providing particular services to patrons that starkly contrast with their moral and religious beliefs. And as if that we not enough, hard-liner leftists wish to penalize those owners who refuse service. That idea in itself is extremely radical and specifically discriminatory towards the rights of private business owners. Now that we’ve looked at the full-spectrum of debate, we’re brought back to square one.
As mentioned earlier, discrimination of any form by way of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, age (over 18), and sexual orientation or identity cannot and should not have a place in today’s society. Likewise, private business owners should not be forced to provide “particular” services to patrons that starkly infringe on their constitutional rights. What do I mean by particular? Well, let’s assume private business owner John Smith owns a bakery. A homosexual couple enter into his place of business and ask for a cake to be made with their intention of serving it at their wedding. John Smith has no right to encroach on the couple’s privacy, their right of the 14th Amendment, by interrogating them with questions as to why their cake ought to be made or for what purpose the cake will serve. Under that same constitutional amendment (14), that couple also has legitimacy to be in John Smith’s store, as they are U.S. citizens who employ “equal protection under the law.” John Smith, assuming that the couple is homosexual, makes it clear to them at that point in time that he can bake the cake, but for reasons of “personal interests”, he will not be catering to wedding. In addition to that, he can “restrictively” decorate their cake. John Smith is not forced by law to apply suggestive figurines, endorse names or apply suggestive phrases. He is simply compelled by federal law to bake the couple a big nice beautiful cake and to not discriminate them in any way made apparently obvious. A contract is then formed and owner & customer are both benefactors.
That is a gloriously idealistic portrait of how things could be. It’s really how things should be. In all reality, we presume that the homosexual couple would probably not go to John Smith’s store in the first place. If they had no choice, at the very least they know that they wouldn’t be discriminated against. What I’ve attempted to do here is provide you a situational example of what constitutional law and LGBT equal rights would look like in a 21st century America. The extreme supporters for and against this polarizing issue will not and are not ever going to come together to compromise. It’s not a perfect solution, but I can guarantee that it’s better than what we have now. I strongly advocate for the creation of federal legislation that bans discrimination of the LGBT community in public and private businesses while protecting the basic religious freedoms of public and private business owners. What kind of bill is that? You may ask. It’s a bill that the gives LGBT citizens the right to basic services offered by public and private businesses alike, specifically outlined for avoidance of discrepancy, and offers the LGBT people certain but perhaps restrictive services bound to the confides federal guidelines. In other words, LGBT are provided equal and fair services of public and private business so long as they do no blatantly impede the religious views of those businesses. I’m asking you today to join me in advocating for a cause that is actual obtainable. Fight for something that has a breathing chance and that people will actually listen to. In 2015, small, progressive steps is the key to how monumental change can be made. This idea in itself may seem arrogant or blasphemous, however when you are advocating for a middle-of-the-road solution, there’s always going to be backlash. In a perfect world we could all get what we want, but as for now, we must live with all live together regardless of our differences, and continue to strive for the equality of all humans while preserving the constitutional laws that got us here. This is not a matter of state’s rights but rather a matter of universal human rights and civil liberties.