Saturday, March 15, 2014

Religious Freedom or Legalized Discrimination?

In the words of our Pope Francis: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”  These were bold words coming from the leader of the Christian world; a world that historically speaking has marginalized and shamed the gay community. 

It is encouraging to see how far gay rights and even acceptance of the gay community has come.  From just ten years ago, Massachusetts being the first state in the county to legalize same-sex marriages, to just last June when the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA of 1996 is unconstitutional; saying that DOMA violates the rights of gay men and women. 

Though as promising as these victories are, it’s equally disheartening when the recent scare of an Arizona bill was up in the air; a bill that would have given business owners the right to refuse service to any gay man or women.  Truly, this left me stunned and appalled!  With the premise of the proposed bill defending religious freedom caused me to question whether it would rather be religious beliefs being imposed on others, and causing backlash instead.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for religious freedom, but when a proposed law has the potential to cause people with strong held beliefs the license to screen and stereotype and discriminate; it’s just asking for trouble.  On that same train of thought, with a bill so broadly worded and no specifics in place there comes inevitable issues of discrimination.  For example, it is one thing if a church respectfully declines to perform a marriage ceremony for a same sex couple; but when those specifics aren't put in place, the potential for a restaurant owner to refuse service to a gay man or women becomes legal.  That’s ridiculous; shameful even!   

Then the slippery slope of stereotyping and judging comes into play coupled with gender identities.  How can you tell is someone is gay based on outward appearance?  Deem a man who walks into a business gay because he looks a little metro-sexual or his mannerisms are more feminine?  Deem a woman gay because she wears collared button downs, paired with trousers and a blazer, topped off with a “boyish” haircut and seems a little rough around the edges?  Com’on!  

When I first read the news about the bill, I couldn't help but think about racial discrimination:  “Irish Need Not Apply” signs, “Separate but Equal” restrooms, drinking fountains and restaurants.  And while gay rights may not be the exact same comparison as the civil rights history and movement what it boils down to is judgment, condemnation and alienation. 

What leaves me so much beside myself when talking about gay rights and religious freedom is this: people have their deep seeded beliefs about gay men and women being an abomination; well why stop there?  I know there’s morality about divorce; morality about pre-marital sex; morality about gluttony; morality about greed; the list goes on.  So why not just carry (at all times) an identification card of all the litany marks against us.  This way we can take religious freedom full throttle. 

Going too far?! Hope it made a point!

Being a practicing Catholic myself, I couldn't help but think of Jesus sitting at a table and eating with tax collectors and prostitutes.  The Pharisees and Scribes were quick to judge and alienate sinners; while Jesus said: let the person without sin cast the first stone.  How is a bill that discriminates not a modern day stone?!

Again, yes, religious freedom: good; great; I’m all for it.  That gives citizens the right to respectfully voice their opinion; pray and worship how they see fit; abstain from vices they see as harmful; respectfully yet boldly decline to perform procedures and deeds that are innately wrong.  This is free will; we all have it. 

Now as it were, I personally, support gay rights and marriage.  For example, I voted no on proposition 8.  First off, in a country that doesn't have a national religion; it would be showing partiality over certain religious beliefs.  Secondly, from a secular standpoint, giving same sex couples the right to marry and all the legal rights that go with it doesn't make a heterosexual couples’ marriage any less.  Thirdly, passing a secular bill on gay marriage doesn't infringe on any one person’s religious beliefs and held teachings; maybe makes them uncomfortable, but that is something totally different.  People are free to participate or not participate; because of religious freedom and their free will.  Same sex couples are free to marry; and heterosexual couples are free to marry.  If you aren't gay, don’t marry a gay man or woman.  How does a consensual same sex marriage affect any one person’s decision not to marry gay?  And passing laws that infringe on people’s civil freedoms based on religious freedom is, simply put: imposing one groups set of beliefs on the whole.  Again, we do not have a national religion, where this might be binding.   

For myself, it comes down to this: being gay isn't a choice; and it’s been proven time and time again; it’s a predisposition.  Therefore, I have a hard time accepting a predisposition within a committed consensual marriage as wrong. 

Yes, there are plenty of Biblical passages that condemn homosexuality; but name me one passage that Jesus himself said that condemns gay men and women.  It’s no secret that Jesus challenged and changed old traditions and teachings from the Old Testament in his three years of ministry.  Once more in the words of our Pope: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”  So, if the Pope isn't judging; who are any of us to?!    

No comments:

Post a Comment