With the recent passage of SB 296 – an anti-discrimination bill that also provides religious protections – a piece of legislative history has been created, a blueprint and example that should be noticed nationally. In contrast to the balance that addresses the rights of parties on opposing sides of same-sex relationship issues in the bill, one of the great detriments of the left-wing political correctness that seeks to control the conversation in this country is a failure to maintain such balance when forwarding a progressive idea.
Such political correctness is so often associated with the “feeling” of rightness or wrongness of an issue and often ignores the social implications and opposing viewpoints that championing such a cause might engender. Further, when a cause has been established as “just” by a highly vocal minority, there is little room for discussion, compromise or objection. In many instances, the equal rights of the objectors to such causes are condemned in a firestorm of rhetoric or legal sanction that would be unthinkable if applied equally on both sides. The balance is absent, as is a broader rationale.
No issue has been more contested than same-sex marriage in the legal and social discussions over the last several years. More states are adopting laws granting rights to same-sex partners while often limiting the rights of those who do not feel comfortable condoning such relationships. While there are several states holding out in conservative areas of the South and Midwest, most liberal states on the coasts have enacted strong anti-discrimination laws for same-sex couples, but little protection for those uncomfortable with such social arrangements. Utah now joins this group, but does so in a balanced manner that should be given notice by other states and by the Washington establishment in general.
Most of us would agree to the personal and sensitive nature of family relationships, particularly between spouses, partners or children. The traditional family has been under attack for so long, and the rhetoric has been so deep, we get the impression that those who would defend traditional family ideas are simply old-fashioned, out of touch, or hopelessly biased and discriminatory. SB 296 paints a more realistic picture of how real and differing attitudes might be governed. The bill reminds everyone that people on both sides of the issue should be recognized, accorded equal rights and fair treatment.
Most people would also agree that no one should be discriminated against due to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc., etc. Any rational mind should comprehend this. But despite the “feel good” nature of such attitudes, the pressure of political correctness often does not tolerate any viewpoint other than the vocalized mandates of the minority. We have not read about anyone in California losing their high position for objecting to Proposition 8, yet instances of executives supporting the bill have resulted in forced resignation. Not for any just reason business-wise, but for holding a “discriminatory” attitude.
Balance can only be found in allowing those who choose such a lifestyle to enjoy their rights, and allowing those who object to exercise their rights and opinions also, as long as each party does not infringe on the welfare of the other. SB 296 seeks to accomplish that balance. This eliminates the scenario of a fundamental Christian wedding planner being sued for not accepting the business of a same-sex couple when there are a hundred other planners that could easily meet their needs. The couple can still easily find a planner; the religious objector can feel free to exercise their conscience also. While more substantive issues such as housing and employment would obviously be more complicated, the principles of sensitivity are evident on both sides of the issue in the Utah bill. And that, at least in theory, is fair and balanced for everyone.
It is difficult to find balance on issues that are socially complex and tough to administer in the face of changing societal moors. SB 296 seems to strike a favorable balance that, in principle, should be noticed by legislators wrestling with other complicated issues. Utah’s leadership in this arena should not go unnoticed. In an era that seems to thrive on political divisiveness, such balance could go a long way in promoting political cooperation and a fairer understanding and administration of such complicated issues.