Putting “Religious Protection” Bills in Context

Putting “Religious Protection” Bills in Context

In cities and states across the U.S., we’ve seen a recent flood of proposed (and passed) so-called “religious protection” bills. These bills allow business owners to avoid penalties for refusing to provide service that violates their “sincerely-held religious beliefs.” Some of these bills are also described as ways for churches to avoid being forced to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies.

All of these terms—“religious protection” and “sincerely-held religious beliefs”—are code words that sound nice (I talked about such code words in an earlier blog post), but refer to something rather nasty.

These bills sprang up as a direct reaction to same-sex marriage becoming the law of the land, as a way to keep various businesses from having to provide services to gay couples (or flowers for gay weddings).

Various people on all sides of the equation are worried. People who disapprove of homosexuality are worried that they might be forced to somehow take part in providing services for a same-sex wedding. I have friends who are very supportive of gay rights, but who wonder if such “religious” protection might buffer them against having to, for instance, tattoo a swastika on a neo-Nazi. Gay people are rightfully worried, as we are worried about being turned away from everything from restaurants and hotels to doctors’ offices and hospitals.

A Multi-Faceted Issue

This issue has so many aspects to examine and address; I thought I’d take them one at a time so we can come to a better understanding of what these laws do and don’t do, as well as what they resemble in a historical civil rights context.

Churches Are Already Protected

There’s not much more I can say. Churches don’t have to conduct same-sex weddings. They don’t have to conduct any wedding with which they feel uncomfortable. Skeptical? How about if a Christian couple wants to get married in a Jewish temple? The rabbi can turn them away. A Catholic church can choose not to marry a couple where one partner has not converted to Catholicism. A Baptist minister can require that a couple take pre-marital counseling for a specific amount of time before he will agree to marry them. Individual churches already have control over who they will and won’t marry; that already exists and has not changed.

Refusing to Make a Specific Product ≠ Refusing to Serve a Specific Group of People

“I’m a tattoo artist and I’m worried that a white supremacist might sue me for refusing to tattoo a swastika on his scalp.”

“Asking a Christian-owned bakery to sell a cake for a gay wedding is like asking a Jewish deli to sell someone a ham sandwich.”

No. The first is not a concern and the second is not the same. Why? Because no one is being asked to create or sell a product they don’t normally create, carry, or sell. If you’re a tattoo artist and you’re not in the business of creating images of Nazi imagery or burning crosses, you can refuse to do so. You’re not telling your client, “I won’t tattoo you because you’re white/gay/Hispanic/Muslim;” you’re telling them “I do not tattoo swastikas on ANYONE, period.”

As for the bakery/Jewish deli scenario, it’s the same. A kosher Jewish deli doesn’t sell pork products. At all. To anyone. But they’re happy to sell their pastrami and corned beef to everyone who walks through their doors. The same should hold true for all businesses. If you create a wedding cakes for heterosexual weddings and a gay couple comes in and says, “Wow! I love the cake you have in your photo book; this one right here! We’d like to buy this cake for our wedding,” and you refuse to sell them the product you normally carry for sale for everyone else—that’s discrimination.

“But It Violates My Religion!” Has a Nasty History

Let me progress to the next point in my imaginary discussion with the hypothetical Christian bakery owners.

“But doing anything that supports homosexuality or same-sex weddings violates my religious beliefs! *insert appropriate scripture from Leviticus…Deuteronomy, etc.*”

That may be the case. And you might, really, sincerely feel that way. Having been raised as a fundamentalist Christian, I can 100% understand how distressing this must be for you (really, I do).

That doesn’t make it right.

More so, history will prove how wrong you are. You see, arguments just like that were used not too long ago to argue for things like segregation. Actually, after a quick Google, I see that white supremacists are STILL using scriptural arguments against, for instance, interracial marriage. While this is abhorrent if someone believes it privately, it becomes problematic if someone conducts their business with these kinds of beliefs, because now they are affecting, disrespecting—and even possibly harming—other people. Someone who believes that interracial marriage is wrong because of the way they interpret the Bible is a nasty person, but it gets ramped up to a new level when that person owns a flower shop and won’t sell flowers for an interracial couple’s wedding.

Why the Free Market Isn’t the Answer

But we can just leave things alone and let the free market sort things out, right? I mean, if a florist, bakery, or wedding planner states that they won’t serve gay people or same-sex weddings, then gay people won’t patronize them and the community can vote, with their dollars, whether or not they think this is ok.

That seems like a good idea until we put it into another context. Imagine if—in the 50s and 60s—the free market had been allowed to reign to decide whether or not segregation or refusal of service to black people would be tolerated? There would have been entire areas of the country where black people would have been hard-pressed to find a restaurant that would serve them, to find places to shop, to be rented a room at a hotel, or to get an education. I can imagine that there are areas of the country today where similar problems might arise for gay individuals or couples…and not everyone has the choice to simply move somewhere else (nor should they have to).

And what about industries beyond just the wedding/restaurant industry? What about hotels? Doctors offices? Hospitals and ambulance personnel? If a florist can legally tell a lesbian woman, “It violates my religious beliefs to sell you flowers for your wedding,” then should a restaurant be able to turn that woman and her wife away if the owner suspects they are a couple? If the two women drive cross-country late into the night and pull into the first hotel they’ve seen in over an hour, can the hotel owner turn them out because renting a room to a gay couple violates their religious beliefs? What if there is an emergency and one of the women calls an ambulance for her wife? Do we want legal protections for medical personnel who feel that rendering aid to a gay person might violate their religious beliefs?

I know I’m going into a long line of “what ifs,” here, but as a gay person who listens to these “religious protection” debates play out, these are very real concerns. Being turned away from your wedding venue or bakery of choice would be heartbreaking, infuriating and embarrassing, but being turned away from a doctor’s office, denied care or denied entrance to your spouse’s hospital room because any of these things happened to violate someone’s religious beliefs are all terrifying possibilities.

Religious beliefs are subjective. There are no boundaries to what kinds of people or beliefs we are legally protecting with the passage of these laws. In promoting this sort of legislation, we’re not really protecting freedom for all; we’re protecting a mean-spirited (in the least) and dangerous (at worst) mentality that has been used for decades to deny freedom to certain groups.

(Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto.)


The question is, ladies: Which party respects and cares about you?

*Republican men covering their eyes*
"Endometria of the right ovary! What's an ovary?!? We don't want to hear about all your medicine and science, y'all! What happens is that God puts a baby in a married woman and it's up to us to make sure that that baby gets out alive, galldangit! Apart from that, we don't want to talk about what goes on up in her hoo-ha!"

Click here to see an explanation of the painful, bleeding infertility “fungus” known as endometriosis!  Oh, what fun to have the inner lining of your uterus growing like wildfire all over the inside of your abdominal cavity!

To the men of the Republican party: You know those birth control pills that only…how do you fellas refer to us ladies…oh, yeah…that only “sluts” take? This condition is why I must take them. (I’m not even going to discuss a woman’s undeniable right to take them for contraceptive purposes; that is a whole other rant against blatant ignorance and disrespect towards women.)

Also, this is why I fully support Obama’s Affordable Care act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”). The surgery mentioned in the article linked to above…the surgery to remove the endometriosis if the pills stop controlling it? Yes…I know you Republican men don’t want to think about disgusting things like ovaries and uteruses and how it all works, but take a second and skim the article. At best, it’s an uncomfortable condition; at worst, it’s excruciating, fertility-killing and debilitating. Even though I (thankfully) have had no major problems caused by this condition for several years, my insurance company has pre-announced that they will deny coverage should I ever need this surgery. You know, “pre-existing condition” and all.

No matter how much I pay out in premiums every month, every year, should I need more extensive treatment, I will have to pay for it out of pocket. Obama cared enough to address this issue and for this he gets my support. Obama is on the side of women—and for that, he should get ALL of our support.

A call for a change of tone…

I just read a disturbing news article about a bomb that was set off on Sunday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Grand Chute, Wisconsin.

“Better to blow up both the mother AND the unwanted baby to protect the sanctity of life.  And if she was heading in for prenatal care or if she wasn’t pregnant and was coming in for a health screening, well…  Collateral damage.  This will send a message to them all.”

Is this what someone who sets a bomb outside of an abortion clinic is thinking?  I have a feeling that there are a lot of people who—even if they wouldn’t go so far as to set a bomb themselves—would agree with this spiel wholeheartedly.

Thank goodness no one was hurt this time, but this is very serious and scary.  We’ve got to work to lessen the dehumanizing and hostile tone that this discussion has taken towards women in general—and especially women who use services from providers such as Planned Parenthood.

Increasingly hostile political discourse creates a class of “evil others” who must be stopped at all costs.  I truly believe that this sort of discourse can push certain people to act out in violent ways.  We need only to remember how a man murdered a crowd of people in front of a grocery store while targeting Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to see how escalating rhetoric can have horrifying results.

I’m very worried that in the weeks and months to come, we are going to see more incidents like the one in Wisconsin.  I fear for the lives of the women who seek care at these clinics, as well as the doctors, nurses and other staff members who are caught with potential targets on their backs while simply trying to provide healthcare to women with little or no income.  And I wonder what it will take for the right to change the tone of this discussion.  I fear for where this is all heading.

I’m am sincerely sorry that YOU were offended = Not an apology

Anti-Gay NC Blogger Quits Over Racist, Homophobic Obama Image |Gay News|Gay Blog Towleroad.

Racist, anti-gay Obama picture
Via Towleroad.com.

“To me, fried chicken is simply a Southern cuisine.”

Bullshit, bullshit, BULLSHIT, Tara Servatius. (Your last name sounds like a villain in a “Harry Potter” book, by the way. Very fitting.)  Displaying a black person alongside a bucket of chicken is a very tired, worn out racist statement.  You very much MEANT it to be racist, so please at least stand by your obvious prejudice as you apologize make poor excuses for your actions.   By your cowardly explanation, you make the assumption that everyone is as brainless as yourself.

This kind of mindset is the reason I DETEST the state in which I was born and raised. Homophobia and racism are incredibly common in North Carolina. And this anti-gay amendment will pass with flying colors. I’ll go ahead and add it to their state constitution now, to save them all of the dirty campaigning and lie-spreading. Because the ignorant Bubbas of the state will trip all over their NASCAR folding chairs to get to the polls to vote in favor of this thing, while the minority of politically involved, educated folk watch in horror as discrimination gets embedded in their state’s constitution.

Old McDonald had a woman… Ei, Ei, Oh!

Georgia Lawmaker Terry England Likens Women to Cattle, Calls For Full Term Stillborn Pregnancies

This morning, I would like to focus on Georgia Republicans, who have just passed a bill that makes it impossible for a woman to have a stillborn baby removed from her womb.

Instead, she must wait for her baby’s dead body to pass out of her womb naturally. This is not at all traumatic or psychologically disturbing for a woman to endure—being forced to carry her dead baby around inside of her until her uterus finally decides to expel it—as pigs and cows do it all the time. This comparison is not my own, but that of Georgia Congressman Terry England, who spoke out in favor of the bill and who has carried many a baby himsel…oh, excuse me, no. Who has delivered lots of stillborn pigs.

Congratulations, women of Georgia! Your reproductive status has been downgraded to that of livestock.

While hearing this sort of discourse come out of the men of the GOP doesn’t surprise me, what absolutely shocks me is that it’s not only being accepted in the mainstream, but that laws are being passed and women are not outraged.  Women are either not paying attention, not educating themselves, or are being misguided as to what these laws really mean.

The silence from the majority of women on my Facebook page has been alarming.  The only women who are speaking out don’t even live in the US and aren’t affected by this at all.  From all of my American friends and acquaintances…nothing.   The silence is especially deafening from the conservative women who are paying attention (somewhat) to the political process and who are quick to defend Rick Santorum or repost a link to some right-wing blog denouncing “Obamacare” or labeling our President’s policies that assist the less fortunate as “socialism…”  Even these women who are so quick to speak out for the Republican party are willing to remain silent as the GOP limits their rights, as well as (for those past child-bearing age) those of their daughters and granddaughters.

I try to be somewhat moderate.  I sincerely try to listen to what each side has to say before forming an opinion.  I research the facts in news articles and (especially!) blog postings before I post or comment on them.  Given that, though, I do tend to be more liberal.  However, when another liberal or someone in the Democratic party does or says something that is inappropriate or simply morally wrong, I call them on it.  I speak out about it.  (As in the Anthony Weiner case.  Democrats can be scumbags, too.)

But I am amazed at the women who seem to take a sort of Tammy Wynette, “Stand By Your Man” mentality.  No matter how appalling the discourse may become, they are willing to swallow it and support it, because they are conservative women, dang it, and conservative values have no gray areas!  Anti-gay!  Anti-abortion!  Pro-gun!  Anti-immigrant!  Anti-welfare (even though right-leaning states use most of the money doled out for social welfare in this country…but that’s an entirely different blog post…)!

So to the conservative women of Georgia…and the Republican women of America:  this song goes out to you this Monday morning.  May you continue believing that your misguided politics will lead you directly into the waiting arms of Jesus!

The Onion: Voters Slowly Realizing Santorum Believes Every Deranged Word That Comes Out Of His Mouth

Voters Slowly Realizing Santorum Believes Every Deranged Word That Comes Out of His Mouth

Rick Santorum: Telling American Christians to
Rick Santorum tells American Christians to "Hunker down and pray" during the impending attack from homosexuals, Satan and Snooki.

“Uneasy voters told reporters it was becoming more and more evident that comments from Santorum defending sodomy laws as acceptable restrictions on ‘wants and passions’ and characterizing pregnancy occurring through rape as a ‘gift’ from God were not politically calculated but were, in fact, spoken out of sincere, startling conviction.”

This is the best Onion article I have ever read.  Ever.  Sure, because it’s funny, as the Onion usually is.  But also because it causes the reader to laugh…in sort of a nervous way…due to its horribly frightening accuracy.

Most politicians pander.  Gingrich does it.  Romney is definitely doing it.  Obama even does it.  They say things during the election cycle (sometimes very controversial things) that they quickly drop and move on from once they are elected.  In 2004, Bush was all about the anti-gay marriage amendment.  We heard “one man, one woman” batted around a kazillion times during that God-forsaken election.  Once he was safely back in office, however, we gays were safely out of his crosshairs.  Because Bush doesn’t really BELIEVE the fundamentalist Christian bullshit he spouted during the election.  Gays, however, are a very reliable tool with which to whip the fundies into a rabid, frothing, voting frenzy.  Oh, you Bible-beating little pawns!

But with Santorum, there is no doubt in my mind that the guy is not pandering.  Not one bit.  He honestly believes and stands behind every word that comes out of his mouth.  This is evident because he’s been taking these stances for YEARS.  He compared homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality way back in 2003.  That’s a damn long time to hold up some sort of facade in order to get elected.

I am SO glad to see the Onion taking this one on!