Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Gay rights laws anything but tolerant

Below is the text of an opinion piece that was published in the Danville Advocate-Messenger, my local paper:

A law that violates the First Amendment right to freedom of religious exercise is not “fair” and a law that effectively brands half the community as bigots because of their sincerely-held religious beliefs is not “inclusive.” Yet these things are precisely what a gay rights ordinance currently being discussed by the Danville City Council.

 On Dec. 9, the City Council heard testimony for and against a gay rights ordinance, an ordinance which has not yet been written, but which promises to in some way mirror similar ordinances passed in a few other Kentucky cities which typically purport to prohibit discrimination on the basis of “sexual identity” in housing, public accommodations, and employment. Federal and State laws already exist to prohibit discrimination."

 The first question to ask about such an ordinance is whether it is even needed. How many complaints have been made? If there have been complaints, are they increasing or decreasing?

These are important questions since such a law would probably require a new bureaucracy to handle complaints (if there really were any), since state government doesn’t provide assistance in such cases. According to city’s attorney, the ordinance would result in “the largest expansion of municipal government since Planning and Zoning.” If government is going to be expanded to this extent—and taxpayers are going to be forced to foot the bill—there should be a compelling reason to do so.

In fact, gay rights laws do little to diminish discrimination against gays precisely because so many people are already opposed to it. Being gay is not only celebrated in our news media, but rewarded with benefits by government and many businesses.

The second question has to do with how such an ordinance would affect churches and other religion-based institutions--as well as Christian business owners. Typically such laws exempt churches, but not other organizations or individuals.

Would Danville Christian School be required to violate its stated principles in order to comply with the law? What about Sunrise Children’s Homes, which has similar restrictions because of its Christian mission? What about Boy Scout troops in the area which are not allowed to hire gay scoutmasters?

In fact, how would this affect a male who wants to rent or sublet a room in his house or apartment, but only to another male? Wouldn’t a female who was rejected because she was the wrong gender be able to bring a lawsuit for discrimination on the basis of “gender identity”?

In Oregon, a Christian bakery owner lost his business because he declined to bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding. In Lexington, Kentucky a t-shirt company refused to print a t-shirt promoting a gay rights event because of the owner’s Christian convictions and was hauled before the city’s Human Rights Commission, which is now investigating his business. In New Mexico a court ordered a Christian photographer to cover a gay wedding at a church despite his religious misgivings. In what other circumstance would a court ever legally require someone to go to church?

One supporter of the measure at last week’s City Council meeting said he thought churches should be exempt because of Constitutional rights, but not other organizations or individuals. He was a minister. Why should this minister’s church be exempt from a law he wants everyone else to follow?

Gay rights laws that exempt churches effectively assume that First Amendment religious freedoms apply only to churches. But the First Amendment does not apply only to churches: It also applies to individuals. No reputable legal scholar holds the position that the First Amendment applies only to institutions.

 People who hold to faith traditions that proscribe certain kinds of sexual practices should not be derided for what they believe—or for acting on those beliefs. And they should certainly not let those who advocate tolerance impose a law on them that is anything but tolerant.


KyCobb said...

These same arguments could've been made fifty years ago against laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race because racists claimed their beliefs were religious. In fact in 2012 a racist church in Kentucky barred an interracial couple from marrying there. So do you support the right to engage in religiously based racial discrimination by businesses?

Martin Cothran said...


You can use the same argument for all kinds of good and bad causes. That's not a problem with the form of the argument.

Do you believe that if, say, a gay-owned T-shirt company were asked to print anti-gay T-shirts that they should have the right to refuse?

KyCobb said...

Yes, you can refuse to print offensive material. But the t-shirt company in question wasn't asked to print anti-Christian t-shirts, were they?

KyCobb said...

"The T-shirt design shows a stylized number 5 and the words "Lexington Pride Festival" on the front and the event's sponsors on the back.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/04/01/2134901/tom-eblen-in-t-shirt-discrimination.html#storylink=cpy"

Yep, I remembered correctly. No anti-Christian message on the t-shirt at all.