As a nation and as a state, we find ourselves at an interesting crossroads regarding both same-sex marriage / non-discrimination for the LGBT community, and religious rights. Fear and feelings run deep on both sides. Having sought opinions on both sides I have noticed some interesting things.
There really aren’t two sides to this issue, but more of a spectrum of opinions. From what I have observed the spectrum goes all the way from legal consequences from one side to legal consequences for the other. But I believe most people are in the middle. The spectrum I have noticed is:
Ban against behaviors religious institutions find immoral
Government discriminates against behaviors religious institutions find immoral
Discriminate against behaviors religious institutions find immoral
Both sides are treated equally
Discriminate against people exercising their religious beliefs
Government discriminates against the exercise of religious belief
Ban exercising religious belief
Of course this isn’t a perfect spectrum as anti-discrimination laws have passed when same-sex marriage was illegal but I think it is accurate enough for a discussion about LGBT issues.
As a society we used to be at the top side of the spectrum, and we are slowly moving downwards. I really appreciated the comments from the LDS Church’s Elders Dallin Oaks and D. Todd Christofferson last week regarding this topic and the encouragement to move us closer to the middle but not too far to the other side.
There is legitimate concern as we have seen somebody’s religious belief used to discriminate against them, such as the case with the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, where a website outed him for having donated to Prop 8 in California. The attack was successful and the CEO ended up stepping down.
A similar things happened to Peter Vidmar who stepped down from leading the US delegation to the Olympics. The reason was similar; he donated to Prop 8. Both of these were more about revenge for political opposition than it was about them being able to do their job.
But on the other side there have also been plenty of persecution, including violence against those who are even suspected of being LGBT. Gay couples are attacked for just walking down the street together. They are also routinely and legally discriminated against.
Many on both sides even approve of discrimination for the other side. But I do think common ground can be found. I think we all move beyond discrimination and towards a better understanding.
Realistically the question of whether same-sex marriage is legal in Utah will be decided by the Supreme Court in April. Regardless of their decision Utah can still be a leader.
What I propose
I fully support Senator Steve Urquhart’s non-discrimination legislation. I believe that we should also ask for nothing in return. It simply asks that gender identity and sexual orientation be added to non-discrimination law regarding housing and employment.
On the other hand I think that Rep. Jake Anderegg’s bill, as I last read it, to allow public officials to recuse themselves from performing lawful marriages they disagree with on religious grounds is stepping too far back. I will write more on this when Anderegg revises his bill and is ready for public scrutiny.
I think that if this non-discrimination bill were passed in Utah by itself it would go a long way to show that we value all citizens equally and that it would go a long way to bring understanding and show that we care to the LGBT community. It will definitely be a step in the right direction.
Some common concerns
From discussing with various friends I am aware of several legitimate concerns regarding non-discrimination that I would quickly like to address.
I shouldn’t compelled to perform a service I don’t want to
Good luck taking that up with the US Supreme Court. Unless you are non-profit, you are already compelled to not discriminate. This only adds another reason why you can’t discriminate.
This creates special classes
Kind of. I was hung up on this one for a while, but eventually realized that everyone is equally protected under the law. This means that although a gay person is protected, so is a straight person. Right now you might not see this as a protection; in the future you might.
It isn’t that big of a deal
I have heard this regarding the two guys who were pushed into resigning that I mentioned above. It usually isn’t a big deal until you have been discriminated against or at least somebody you know. Trust me, it is a big deal when somebody can’t see past a characteristic you have and either won’t hire you, or fires you from a job because of it, even though it can be worked around.
Then I won’t be able to fire somebody or evict them
Why not? You just won’t be able to fire/evict them because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. People of different races get fired/evicted all of the time but hopefully not because of their race.
Will it actually prevent discrimination?
This is something I have also struggled with. Won’t somebody just come up with another reason? Maybe but that isn’t the point that I see. What it will do is send out a social signal to everybody, and especially to future generations.
I am unsure what the future will hold
Aren’t we all? This is probably a huge one for a lot of people although they might not realize it. What will the future hold? That is up to us. Let’s create a great one together.
In closing I would like to echo the words of Oaks who, when talking about transgender issues, admitted that he still needs to learn more about it. I agree that we all need to learn more about how the other side feels. We need to come out of trenches and realize that we can be friends and bear each others burdens, even if we disagree.