2016

13 April 2016: Laws make LGBT citizens second-class

Recently, states within the citadel of slavery that gave rise to a war that resulted in 600,000 American casualties, within the land that proudly claimed “Segregation now, segregation forever” as its motto, within the land of Jim Crow have launched an attack on the constitutional rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered Americans.

North Carolina has forbidden the state’s communities from enacting laws that would protect members of the LGBT community. Mississippi now provides cover for businesses wishing to deny wedding services to same-sex couples and for employers to implement workplace policies, including dress code, grooming and bathroom and locker access, on religious principles.

The Tennessee House has sent a bill allowing mental health counselors to refuse service to patients on religious grounds to the governor,

The pushback from the religious right under the guise of religious liberty against Americans endowed with non-hetero sexual orientations is in earnest. While t’s happening in the Bible Belt, a land of stolid cultural conservatism, if unchallenged the notion can and will assuredly spread.

Women get it. People of color get it. People who hold non-Christian religious beliefs get it. Immigrants get it. Disabled people get it. Each has known the effect of discrimination, bigotry, and debasement.

Back in the day, states’ rights was the banner under which narrow-minded and bigoted individuals coalesced. A half century after the golden age of the Civil Rights movement, a most uncivil pushback is hiding behind noxious epithets such as religious liberty and political correctness gone amuck.

Over time, educated and thoughtful Americans have come to understand not only the power of language but also the power base from which repressive language arose. The purpose of labeling people of color with the n-word, or gays and lesbians with the f-word, or immigrants with the a-word was to relegate them to an inferior status and to demonstrate the power of the ruling class: native-born, white, hetero Christians.

We’re not that America anymore, however. The equal rights genie that was trapped in the bottle after the writing of the Declaration of Independence that said all men are created equal and entitled to certain inalienable rights was let out with the emancipation of slaves and has spread its pixie dust since.

But with the pushback from the right are coming more powerful pushbacks from citizens, social groups, governments, and corporations.

On the front lines are groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Human Rights Campaign. At the governmental level, the states of New York and Washington have officially banned state-funded travel to the offending states.

And perhaps more potently given the enormity of their economic power, numerous corporations have either threatened to abandon those states or now plan to move from them. The governor of Georgia, seeing the writing on the wall when Delta Airlines and Walt Disney joined hundreds of other economic behemoths and threatened to leave, vetoed a bill designed to also curtail the rights of LGBT citizens.

PayPal is now seeking another state in which to build after North Carolina passed its laws. Live-and-let-live Montana and Vermont have eagerly offered PayPal places to reside.

Last week, the Colorado House passed a bill with large bi-partisan support that would change the official language of Colorado governance to avoid using terms such as “illegal aliens” and “defective individuals.” In their places, laws and rules would instead read “undocumented worker” and “disabled person.” The reason is that, as noted earlier, language, the terminology used to identify, label, or describe a person or a group is key as to how they are perceived. Immigrants are not aliens from another planet, nor are disabled people defective.

In the end, the intent of those states enacting laws to discriminate against LGBT people is to reclassify them as second-class citizens and to institutionalize a theocratic form of governance that sets one religion’s prohibitions above what our Declaration of Independence and Constitution espouse.

RIP: With the passing of music legend Merle Haggard, America has lost another of her balladeers, an outlaw troubadour who sang songs of the struggling downtrodden. Like Johnny Cash, Haggard’s music sang to our collective soul. He will be missed, but we’re more a heartfelt people because of him and his music. Godspeed, Merle.

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