Last week Governor Mike Pence of Indiana signed a sweeping Religious Freedom Reform Act into law. What followed was an uprising, not of the queer community, but of our allies. I will not go into details of backlash as it is well documented in the news media. It is important to note, however, that the tides of anti-LGBT/queer discrimination are changing.
Having thought about this situation over the last week, I have come to the conclusion that the only satisfying answer to these types of laws is to add sexual orientation and gender identity to Title II of The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title II bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin. Federal laws also include gender and age as a protected classes.
It is substantially important to protect classes that are immutable traits of a person. In other words, traits that are inherent and unchangeable. This is the function of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, there is one class that is protected, which is not immutable, and is a lifestyle choice: religion. In all cases, religions are chosen. An exception may be people of Jewish ancestry. Being Jewish is part of an identity that is passed from mother to child. If your mother is Jewish, you are Jewish. However, there is still choice involved. You must choose to participate in the religious life.
In all other cases, being a part of a religion and/or religious community is a choice. The truth of this statement is undeniable as people through out the world change their religious ideology as easy as one changes their socks. There is a myriad of religions from which to choose to meet the needs and beliefs of the individual. Missions would be pointless if religion affiliation was not a choice. Yet, this class is protected.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION IS NOT A CHOICE. IT IS AN INHERENT, IMMUTABLE TRAIT.
But, for arguments sake, let us say that sexual orientation is a choice. The choice argument is used to prevent the protection of the queer community. The argument goes some thing like this:
“Homosexuality is a choice. It is therefore not the governments business to pass laws to allow these people to have special rights.”
So homosexuality is a choice. I will quote the estimable Stephen Fry, “So fucking what?!”
In the Declaration of Independence, our Founding Fathers said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Liberty is dead if there is no choice. Choice is among highest callings of man and bears the great responsibility. If homosexuality is a choice and large number of people choose to be homosexual/queer (rough 10% of the population), then you have a new class of people. This class of people has been demonized and persecuted throughout history. There is an increase, and a strong correlation, of this persecution when the Abrahamic (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) religions come into the scenario. Which is odd to me, since religion is a protected class in the American experiment exactly because the religious came to this country to escape persecution!
Currently in our Country there is a tide of marriage equality sweeping the land. This change in the status of same-sex relationships is fundamental in ending the persecution of the Queer community. However, the religious, particularly Christian, do not wish to lose their entitled monopoly on marriage, sex, relationships and the American Dream. They are continuing to fight to have legal recourse to Other queer people. The Religious Freedom Reform Acts are now a tool in their arsenal. These tools exist for the sole purpose of denying Life, Liberty and Happiness to the queer community. The only remedy that will end the power of this tool is for Congress to write and pass legislation that adds Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity as a protected class. It is not a choice to be LGBT/queer. Even it was, there is not compelling reason to deny those who make that choice a life free from discrimination and open to the hopes and dreams of a bright and fulfilling future.