Americans’ attitude on same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues are shifting rapidly towards inclusion, but you wouldn’t know that from the bills filed by conservative politicians and the talking points of some clergy and Republican Party leaders.
Even God’s name isn’t sacred in the pursuit to deny civil rights to certain individuals. The Texas Observer estimates that Texas legislators have filed a record number of bills micro-targeting the LGBT community, from the bathroom to the courtroom. “Religious freedom” has become a calling card for those looking for some moral authority to cloak their discriminatory ideas.
On Monday a rally was held on the South steps of the Capitol to “support the Texas Marriage Amendment” that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore and several pastors were among the speakers as the audience held up signs that read, “I support biblical marriage.”
The Texas AG recently filed yet another lawsuit against the federal government, this time to prevent same-sex couples from receiving the federal benefit of sick leave to care for a spouse. Yes, politicians are actively targeted the weakest among us — does that sound like the Christian thing to do?
I generally give the GOP points for branding issues (especially when it comes to taxes), but they have largely lost the war of words when it comes to the freedom to marry. The Houston Chronicle reported that Dan Patrick made a pass at rebranding the discrimination as “not about being ‘anti’ anyone, but instead about, “being for marriage between a man and a woman.”
Justice Moore seemed to make the case that government had no business in the business of marriage at all when he said, “No court has any authority to redefine what God proposed in Genesis.” There is the plausible explanation that he simply does not believe in the separation of church and state, and that America is a Christian nation and not a secular one. That really can be the only way for some clergy, politicians and their anti-LGBT allies to fight for discrimination against LGBT people on “religious freedom” grounds while simultaneously (and unnecessarily) pushing to end the use of Sharia Law in American courts.
An article widely making its way around the internet drudged up the old 1968 case of a South Carolina restaurant owner denying service to black customers based on his religious beliefs. It’s a reminder that history does have a tendency to repeat itself, and in many ways we are witnessing a rehash of the civil rights battle by blacks and their allies during the middle of the 20th Century.
That comparison isn’t taken at face value by everyone including Rev. Bill Owens who spoke before the rally on behalf of a group called the Coalition of African American Pastors. He said LGBT people, “were never beaten…they were never hung from trees. They were never fired for nothing. They were never treated like we were treated. You don’t have a clue how we were treated in the South. You don’t have a clue…This is not a civil rights movement. It’s a civil wrong movement.” Speaking of wrong, he should tell that to the parents of Matthew Shepard who was brutally beaten and left for dead simply for being gay.
It must be noted that not all clergy and religious groups believe it is God’s plan to discriminate. Equality Texas has sponsored a few legislative days that included the faith community and Texas Freedom Network sponsored a rally in February with about 150 faith leaders who support same sex marriage. According to the Texas Tribune, Rev. Eric Folkerth of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas told the crowd, “I recognize, as a happily married straight man, that I am afforded legal and social protections that our LGBT members are still not allowed in many cases.”
Two religious leaders, one Jewish and one Christian pinned an op-ed in the San Antonio Express that uncovered the guise of religious freedom being used target LGBT people. In it they concluded that, “As people of faith, our calling is to teach and to adhere to the precepts of our religious traditions. This is not the role of government. Government cannot legally permit us to put obstacles in the way of others who are seeking employment, trying to transact business, or purchase or rent a home, in the name of that religion. There is a vast difference between the “free exercise of religion” and the freedom to discriminate. Let us not make the mistake of equating the two.”
So, while the battle of whether the US Constitution is just another page in the bible (also foreign law) rages on, the battle for the White House is just heating up and you can expect to see the hate-pandering to continue from those seeking the GOP nomination to the nation’s highest office. And, with the Supreme Court deciding the same sex marriage issue by June, they are more likely to win a spot on the The Daily Show than a place in our law books.
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