Friday, February 21, 2014

Old Ideas, New Victims

I grew up listening to the stories my older family members told me about living through the Jim Crow era.  My mother (along with her sisters and cousins) were in that first integrated class in the city of Hampton.  I heard about the different restaurants around my hometown, where the Black folks weren't allowed to wait inside for their food orders.  There's one section of town where Black folks were told to be out of, before the sun went down (interestingly, the first place I ever went to vote is in that section of town).  My family members, if they wanted to vote in any election, paid their poll taxes until that was outlawed in 1966.  I am saying all of this to say that I can still talk with people who remember a very different country, even though MILLIONS try to pretend that these events happened "so long ago."  I am also saying all of this to say that I am horrified by this new wave of proposed legislation coming down the pike in various states to impose a GLBT form of Jim Crow on their state populations under the guise of "religious freedom."

The state of Arizona, through its legislature, passed legislation that would allow businesses to discriminate openly against the GLBT community on the grounds of religious freedom.  Think about that for a minute. 

Similar legislation has been flirted with (or partially passed) in Kansas, Maine, Tennessee, and Idaho.  There is no justification for embracing segregation of any form.  Besides, I am sure that not a single one of those who have proposed or backed this legislation has considered that he/she might be the victim of their own proposed law.  This is not a nation of just (presumably) straight, conservative, fundamentalist "Christians."  Would anyone in that demographic group be bothered if someone from another faith tradition decided to discriminate against him/her?  What if a Muslim denied service to that conservative "Christian" on religious grounds?  Would that be cool, or would the vitriol begin?  What if someone decided to discriminate against the straight couple "living in sin?"  What about the divorced?  This could continue.

Most of us can take the hint that we aren't welcome some places.  For example, I no longer spend my money at Chick-Fil-A, because of its leader's stance against the GLBT community.  I have no desire to sue the company.  I can just go someplace else (and do).  I've made similar moves with other companies and organizations that support causes that I don't support.  This is, after all, the free market, and I want to know the organizations and businesses that don't want my business, just as I want to know those organizations and businesses that do want my business.  But it is simply outrageous to re-impose legalized discrimination.  Besides, the U.S. Constitution simply won't allow it, so why even start?

So, I wonder what Governor Brewer will do.  Arizona's leading newspaper has asked Brewer to veto the legislation.  Let's see if she does.

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