© Josh Sager – February 2014
Over the past few weeks, Republicans in various state legislatures have been advancing bills that target gay Americans for Jim Crow style discrimination. These laws represent an imminent and grave threat to not only the entire gay community but to the entire idea of a secular society.
Currently, anti-gay Jim Crow provisions have been introduced in Kansas, Arizona, Idaho, South Dakota, Oregon and Tennessee—of these provisions, the Kansas and Arizona bills are the farthest along in the legislative process.
- Last week, the Kansas state House of Representatives passed HB2453 by a vote of 72-42 and sent it to the Senate. While Senate leadership has indicated that they will not support the bill, there is still a possibility that it will pass if the political winds swing even slightly.
- Yesterday, the Arizona state Senate passed SB1062 by a party-line vote and sent it to the House, where experts expect it to pass.
While the details of these laws are different in each state, the common thread among them is that they legalize/legally protect anti-gay discrimination by both private and public entities. Just like how Jim Crow laws legally protected individuals who would deny service to African Americans, these bills would allow any religious person to deny service to customers based upon their sexual orientation (or perceived sexual orientation; some straight women with short hair and effeminate men will be entrapped in the stereotype and denied service as well).
If passed, these laws will not only allow business owners to deny service to gays, but will also protect individuals who wish to deny service to gays—this includes everybody from public sector police officers, firefighters and city clerks to private sector doctors, waiters, and hotel staff.
The anti-gay Jim Crow laws which are spreading like a toxic mold over the southern United States are based around the nonsensical legal theory that forcing religious Americans who are operating in society to serve those who their religion hates is a violation of religious liberty.
The collective memory of the America people is remarkably short in regard to bigoted arguments, as few Republicans have realized that they are walking the same path as the segregationists. During segregation (and even some fringe churches today), various religious denominations with fundamentalist interpretations of the bible attempted to claim that integration would violate their “sincerely held” religious belief that the races should be separate—obviously, this didn’t work out well for them in the end (in fact, Bob Jones University lost their Supreme Court case while making this exact argument when they tried to fight against integration), but it did prop up the immensely immoral system of separate but unequal for years before it was conquered.
If states begin to enact this type of modern Jim Crow law, lawsuits are imminent and will likely be fought up to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, this still leaves open the reality that many gay Americans will be facing down immense discrimination unless the courts take swift action.
Regardless of the eventual legal resolution of these laws, the elected representatives who wrote and voted for these bills have sent a very strong message to their gay constituents (and everybody who doesn’t want to live in a theocracy): that message is simply that gay people are not welcome in their state and that they want to legalize the oppression of all gay people who deign to stay.
The only thing that separates the lawmakers in these states who voted for these laws from the WBC lunatics is that the lawmakers aren’t brave enough to stand on a street corner with a sign stating their beliefs.
The freedom of religion guaranteed by the 1st Amendment doesn’t give individuals the right to ignore anti-discrimination laws and certainly doesn’t allow religious people to restrict the freedom of other Americans while using their religiosity as a shield.
All activists and concerned citizens must rise up and fight this absurd return to a very dark period in American history. We cannot let any group suffer under modern Jim Crow laws, just because some Americans have forgotten their history and are willing to repeat the mistakes of their parents. Every politician to support these laws must be voted out of office at the next opportunity and publicly shunned for their promotion of bigotry.