Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mark O'Connell on How Anti-Gay Laws Make Targets of All of Us

Therapist Mark O'Connell points out what I've tried to say over and over here about laws targeting gay citizens and making them susceptible to discrimination on religious grounds: those laws hurt everyone in any society that permits them to be enacted. As he states,

It’s one thing to be denied a wedding cake by a baker who can’t think outside the Bible. It’s quite another to be physically attacked for simply walking down the street. But the implicit messages in all of these anti-gay bills is that such targeting is fair game—and people are getting the message, right here in America.

The implicit message of legislation that makes a minority group susceptible to discrimination on religious grounds is that such targeting is fair game. One can draw a direct line from laws permitting bakers to claim religious warrants for refusing to sell cakes to members of a targeted minority group, and acts of outright violence against members of that same group. 

There is, in fact, a direct line to be drawn between draconian legislation now metastasizing all over the world, in which gay citizens of various nations are overtly made susceptible to acts of hideous violence, and "religious freedom" legislation in the U.S. which argues that bakers should enjoy a religious "right" to withhold goods and services from gay citizens:

Anti-gay laws have metastasized globally over the past few years and now prescribe a variety of consequences for being—or seeming—gay. They range from the death penalty to imprisonment, public lashing, or employment or consumer discrimination. While frightening in their range of punishments, these laws share one thing in common: the implied message that those who seem gay—a highly subjective, perception-based determination—are socially acceptable targets of discrimination and violence.

And so while laws are being passed in various places in the world opening gay human beings to the possibility of imprisonment, public lashing, discrimination in the areas of employment or provision of goods and services, we in the U.S. want to argue about a fictive "right" of bakers and florists to claim religious warrants to discriminate against those who are gay? We want to argue about whether "Christian" bakers and florists are now themselves being discriminated against--when, as Governor Brewer recently noted when she refused to sign anti-gay legislation into law in Arizona, no evidence of such discrimination exists in her state?

Instead of focusing on what's happening to those who are gay at a global level, and recognizing that laws under consideration in the U.S. that would permit discrimination against gay people on religious grounds are part of the very same impulse that is leading to maleficent laws against gay folks in many places in the world, we want to argue about a fictive "right" to cake-and-flower discrimination in the U.S.? And about fictive "discrimination" against bakers and florists?

As I say, these laws harm all of us. They do so by normalizing the very idea of discrimination against any targeted minority. They do so by creating smokescreens around issues of religious belief, rights, and liberties, that permit us to ignore what's really happening--and happening to all of us--in a society that permits the targeting and stigmatization of a vulnerable minority group.

On any grounds at all. Including "religious" ones.

The graphic at the top of the posting is from the Human Rights Campaign's 2013 report, Equality from State to State. Gray = states with laws prohibiting employment discrimination on sexual orientation and gender identity; black = states with laws prohibiting employment discrimination on sexual orientation; white = no state laws prohibiting discrimination on either ground.

The graphic at the bottom of the posting is from by way of the Facebook feed of George Takei.

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