Anti-LGBT laws target rights as “political correctness”
When marriage equality became the law of the land last year, many in the LGBT movement as well as our allies celebrated with jubilance. Deep down, I think many of us wanted to believe that we had won and that equality was ours.
Before the fizz could even leave the celebratory champagne flutes, anti-LGBT advocates went to work across various states from Indiana to Georgia to Mississippi to roll back the ripple effects of justice that the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges created, and began the unsavory act of using religion as a weapon to wield against some of the most vulnerable and targeted people in our country, namely transgender folks.
Transgender people are more likely than other people to face violence, homelessness, and joblessness. They are also more likely to attempt suicide. So, why is it that politicians feel it’s OK to make this population their target for hate?
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has now signed into law what is perhaps the most brazen and blatant legislative attack on LGBT people, one that leverages hateful lies about transgender people. HB2 not only rescinds the city of Charlotte’s ordinance that barred discrimination against LGBT people—including allowing transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity—but also nullifies all such local ordinances throughout the state, and mandates that people use public bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate. When discussing his decision to take away the rights of LGBT North Carolinians to live free from persecution and discrimination, McCory said: “This had to do with overstepping—a government overreach forcing businesses to allow men to be in women’s or girls’ restroom or shower facilities. This political correctness has gone amok.”
“Political correctness” is a dirty phrase within right-wing ranks. Masking bigotry under the disguise of “fighting against political correctness” relieves politicians and hate-mongers of any need to act with dignity and decorum or even use dog-whistle politics. Their threats to the safety of underrepresented communities are open and blatant; they have freed themselves from all logic and any semblance of real political leadership—all in the name of untethering themselves from “political correctness.”
Ensuring that all citizens of this country are treated fairly and have the ability to pursue their happiness without undo harm isn’t “political correctness.” It’s the basis for American democracy.
While HB2 may be the most flagrant anti-LGBT law that has passed, it’s part of a wave of backlash legislation that is gaining steam across the country right now—most of the proposals some version of so-called religious freedom laws. Under the guise of religious liberty, the conservative right has been codifying policies that strip citizens of their rights to employment, goods, and services if a business or employer believes that their religious values are being violated by a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Every inch of progress that is made is faced with unwavering opposition. What has become alarming in this case is the unapologetically homophobic and transphobic rhetoric coming out of the mouths of our elected officials.
Fortunately, many major companies have come out against these religious freedom laws, most recently helping to win a battle in Georgia, where Governor Nathan Deal just vetoed a bill that would have legalized discrimination. But these bills show no sign of slowing. According to the ACLU, there are at least a dozen proposed state laws that, in one form or another, “could allow religion to be used to discriminate against gay and transgender people in virtually all aspects of their lives.”
We have to recognize the real issue here, and it’s not so-called religious freedom. Instead it’s the freedom to be who you are, love who you love, and live a life of your own making, free of insult or injury. This isn’t just an LGBT issue but a human rights issue.
The United States was founded on principles that allowed people to worship freely without religious persecution. This fundamental right was not created as a way for others to impose their values on others but instead quite the opposite. Codifying discrimination isn’t a part of any religion’s doctrine and has no place in our politics, even though many have perverted their doctrines to believe otherwise.
What these bills remind us are that elections matter. These laws wouldn’t be able to be passed if we had more thoughtful and progressive politicians sitting at the table, from city councils to the state house and senate. Local elections are essential to equality. Too many people are vulnerable to the whims of bigoted politicians who are playing politics with their lives in order to score points with their base and fundraise off of hate.
No one’s rights were ever won and done. Justice takes constant vigilance. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And what we know to be true is that the arc will only bend toward justice if we make it.
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