Coming to a City Near You?
“Choose your religious conviction or choose your livelihood. But, you can’t choose both.”
That, in effect, is what the New Mexico Supreme Court has told the owners of Elane Photography. Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin now face over $7,000 fine and court costs because they held to their religious beliefs in turning down a job to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.
But the Huguenins are not alone in their battle with a non-discrimination law on the basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression. These types of laws and ordinances – and accompanying problems – are popping up all over the country. Consider just a few of the cases currently in the news:
• A bakery in Oregon is forced to close its doors because they declined to provide a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.
• Court finds California doctors specializing in fertility issues must provide services to a lesbian couple in spite of their religious objections.
• A printer is found to have violated anti-discrimination laws because they refused to print T-shirts for a gay pride parade.
• A Vermont Country inn ordered to pay $30,000 penalty for declining to host a gay wedding reception.
• Based on a non-discrimination law, Evergreen College in Washington is allowing a man to use the women’s sauna and shower facilities.
As non-discrimination laws on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression continue to multiply, not only in the U.S.; but around the world, citizens who have an interest in maintaining and guarding religious freedom and religious expression – not to mention privacy and decency – need to engage in this battle.
The language of problems: “Public Accommodation”
Most of these laws have three components, they ban discrimination on the basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression in areas of: 1) housing 2) employment 3) “use of public places,” or “places of public accommodation.” As a whole, these non-discrimination laws are a threat to individual religious liberties and lay the foundation to further an agenda that culminates in forcing same-sex marriage upon a state.
There are many, however, that argue that the two parts regarding housing and employment are fair and reasonable: people deserve a roof over their head and to be able to work without being discriminated against. But often these laws go much further. You’ll note that none of the examples given above involved employment or housing issues, but the impingements on religious liberty and privacy come into play under the expansive definitions of the third piece: “public accommodation.” Here’s an example from an actual law:
“Use of Public Places: It shall be unlawful to deny to any person because of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, the full enjoyment of any of the accommodations advantage, facilities or privileges of any place of public resort accommodation, assemblage, or amusement.” [emphasis added]
But then the law dangerously defines “full enjoyment” as an individual being “free from acts directly or indirectly causing persons of any particular sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression to be treated as not welcome, accepted, desired or solicited.” [emphasis added]
In addition, the full definition of “place of public resort, accommodation assemblage or Amusement” is often so large as to almost fill a page. It usually is a list of virtually every store, service, business, public place, school, lodging, transportation, recreational facility, etc. that a community might have to offer. It creates a “non-discrimination net” that has the ability to capture just about everyone.
Whose “rights” take priority?
Rights of religious freedom have been the bedrock of the U.S. since its founding. But now “sexual rights” and the “right” to not be offended have positioned themselves to take priority. As one of the parents of the young girl who was exposed to a naked man in the college’s sauna asked: “But what about my rights!”
Businesses are being prosecuted for following their religious convictions and not acquiescing to an LGBT person’s request while the only real cost to an LGBT person is the inconvenience of finding another business.
“The scope of any right to refuse service to same-sex couples must depend on comparing the harm to the couple of being refused service and the harm to the merchant or service provider of being coerced to provide service. What is most importantly at stake for each side is the right to live out core attributes of personal identity… Requiring a merchant to perform services that violate his deeply held moral commitments is far more serious, different in kind and not just in degree, from mere inconvenience.” Douglas Laycock, Afterword to Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts, supra note 101, at 198.
Is it legitimate to equate “gay rights” with civil rights?
One of the primary goals of those advocating for these non-discrimination laws is to equate “gay rights” with traditional “civil rights” that are accorded to people because of “immutable” (unchangeable) characteristics like skin color, race, age, sex, etc. (read more on this here.) In making this comparison, gay advocates are able to paint anyone who opposes these laws as being a bigot and a “hater.” This has a powerful silencing effect upon people because no one wants to be thought of as a bigot.
Same-sex behavior, however, does not meet the standard of being an immutable and unchangeable characteristic; thus, it is a false comparison to use the Civil Rights understanding and narrative to promote same-sex behavior and political action.
“Skin color is a benign, nonbehavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument. (General Colin Powell )
In addition, the term “gender identity” is completely subjective and allows for an individual to randomly claim an opposite gender in spite of their physical biology. The term “gender expression” allows for a wide array of controversial behaviors and attitudes that these laws demand that people “welcome, accept, desire and solicit.” (Read more on the distinctions of sexual orientation and gender identity here.)
Are those who experience same-sex attraction “born that way?”
In spite of decades of searching, scientists have not found a “gay gene.” This is a fact that even pro-gay advocacy groups like the APA (American Psychological Association) now acknowledge. The APA has significantly altered their position on the cause of homosexual behavior.
“There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles….”[emphasis added]
(APA Brochure:”Answers to Your Questions for a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality” 2009)
Compare this with the APA’s statement in 1998:
“There is considerable recent evidence to suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person’s sexuality.”
Non-discrimination laws based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression create an environment that imposes a new value system upon citizens. It is using the force of government to do social engineering with the goal to normalize and legitimize same-sex behavior. These laws compromise your ability to sustain your own family’s values, allow for significant government over-reach and coercion while negatively impacting businesses and public places.
No one should be forced to “choose between their religious convictions and their livelihood.” There are other ways to accomplish the goal of treating people fairly and with kindness than harsh and punitive government intervention. “Tolerance” has to be a two-way street.
There is no constitutional right to have someone bake you a wedding cake, but there is a constitutional right to freedom of religion/expression – it’s called the First Amendment.
President, United Families International
What Can I do?
- Be aware; watch for evidence that these types of laws are being proposed. Monitor activities of city councils and state legislatures. Read local papers.
- Carefully read the language of these laws. Housing and employment components can be acceptable if the proper exceptions/exemptions are included, but “public accommodation,” almost without exception, is dangerous to your freedoms.
- Elect like-minded individuals to public office
- Engage. Call and email your representatives. Tell them your thoughts. Organize others.
- Insist that pro-gay advocates document their assertions of discrimination. Policy makers seem to accept at face value the anecdotal claims of discrimination from members of the LGBT community while dismissing the actual and well-documented assaults on religious freedom/expression and on modesty and propriety (men in female showers, etc).
- Educate those around you as to the dangers of these types of public policies.
- Teach your children the true meaning of “tolerance.”