Monday, November 30, 2015

Equality for all is more American than Ryan Anderson's provision of equality for some

Monday, Ryan T. Anderson has penned a painfully verbose (8,000+ word) piece on the Heritage Foundation blog, Daily Signal. According to Anderson “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Laws Threaten Freedom.” I will not quote from it and I will attempt to be more economical with verbiage than Mr. Anderson.

The bottom line to all of this is that Anderson disapproves of gay people because the Catholic Church disapproves of gay people. Similarly, he believes that transgender citizens are confused about their sexuality because the Catholic Church teaches that transgender citizens are confused about their sexuality. Mr. Anderson, you see, is a Defender of the Faith™.

Taking this a step further, Anderson believes that this disapproval should allow people to refuse service in public accommodations as well as to discriminate in employment and housing. Anderson further believes that these permission slips are an expression of ”religious freedom.” This, in turn, creates a right that trumps the rights of LGBT citizens and taxpayers.

As a matter of public policy we determined more that a half-century ago that minority groups should be free of discrimination in public accommodations, employment, housing … just about every aspect of life. However, the 1964 Civil Rights Act did not include LGBT citizens among those minorities. It's more than a half century ago and we were still in the shame stage. Nevertheless, in 1964 people expressed religious freedom as a right to discriminate. There is nothing new here.

Because LGBT citizens are not protected under federal law we must seek anti-discrimination laws at the state and municipal levels. Conservative Christians vehemently oppose these initiatives seeming to forget that they are similarly protected by federal law themselves.

As a matter of common sense, serving someone you disapprove of does not compromise one's religious beliefs. Yet we take seriously some preposterous propositions. By the time Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz got to Kentucky to drool over the politics of Kim Davis she and her lawyers claimed that all she wanted was her name taken off the marriage licenses. I have said in the past that the basis for her objection makes as much sense as the secretary of the treasury claiming that his signature on currency denotes his approval of transactions with those bills. Her complaint was frivolous and should have been dismissed as such.

That brings me to the two bakers, the florist and the caterer. The same handful of characters that we have been hearing about for five or six years. Poor them. The state insists that they comply with non-discrimination ordinances. They want us to take seriously the idea that they are participating in, and thus condoning, a same-sex marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.

By baking a cake? By selling flowers? Come on.

Anderson would assert that the claim is good enough. I say that we have to examine the claim so that the rights of citizens are in balance. These are just business transactions. They connote nothing other than an exchange of goods or services for money. The transaction indicates approval of the price by both buyer and seller. Everyone walks away happy — at least that is how it is supposed to work. These people need pastors who are not deranged to explain what being Christian really means.

This handful of people want to be victims. That should should not deter us from ensuring fairness for every citizen. Would we entertain a complaint that an interracial couple should be denied any of those same services because of the seller's religious beliefs? Or a Jewish wedding given that some Christians believe that we killed their god? Or the wedding of two Syrian refugees who are Muslims?

These same people are the first to demand acknowledgment of “American Exceptionalism.” Yet, what makes us truly exceptional is that we have a sense of fairness. At least we used to until equality was politicized. If everyone gets served, nobody dies. In this country nobody should be told “we don't serve your kind here.” In this country people should be evaluated in the workplace for their contributions and work ethic — not their sexual orientation or gender identity. The precedent is the “minister exception.” Teachers are not ministers.

I think that equality for all is more American than Mr. Anderson's provision of equality for some.

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