Current Trends

1062 also known as the anti-gay bill was passed by the Arizona house and senate, amid growing protests, and is now awaiting signature or veto on governor Jan Brewer’s desk; while she has previously rejected similar legislation, it remains to be seen what her final decision will be this time around.  Proponents claim said bill protects the religious freedom of businesses and business owners not to have to violate their faith in order for their establishment to operate; civil liberties and LGBT advocates argue it legally allows businesses to refuse service to same sex persons, same sex couples solely on the basis they are gay, reminiscent of Jim crow laws turning blacks from “white” restaurants, lunch counters, bathrooms, drinking fountains exc. Supporters go on to elaborate the two are nothing alike; that because Arizona, as a state, does not have a specific anti-discrimination law incorporating sexual orientation their bill, should it become law, is only making Arizona congruent with broader federal law. However, no one seems to be buying it judging by protests continually being waged outside the state capitol building, since the story broke. Citizens worried about two big things; one, absent specific language in current or added discrimination laws, it will give businesses everywhere free reign to refuse service to homosexual individuals, couples any time, any place, not exclusively businesses attached to weddings, where recent contentions have arisen. Two, surrounding cities, municipalities currently housing voted on legislation preventing discrimination against same sex couples, individuals based on their sexual orientation alone will be legally superseded by the sweeping state statute, a step backwards for the LGBT community; you know you’re on to something when 3 republicans, who originally voted in favor of the would be new law, have now written letters publically asking governor Brewer not to sign it. Homosexual individuals’ fears hardly unsubstantiated considering this is the second time in as many years such types of legislation have landed on the governor’s desk, fears hardly out of line taking into account what has happened to the gay/lesbian community of late both nationally and globally.     

And, make no mistake, the proposed law is bigger than just, despite given examples, those venues associated with weddings, ceremonies steeped in religious tradition, religious meaning, more than just about businesses forced to provide services they fundamentally don’t agree with on a moral level; it is an all-out war on homosexual people seemingly waged by republicans, religious conservatives that apparently can’t find anything better to do, who think homosexuality is the worst thing to befall America even in light of  past 6 years of recession, joblessness, homelessness, unfair employment practices, slow economic recovery and absolute Washington gridlock. In fact SB1062 has been called a solution in search of a problem due to a majority of businesses having no reservations when providing services to the gay community, perhaps don’t know that they are providing service to a gay person owing to whatever it is being completely unrelated to sexuality; others in political circles see it as conservative preparation for the day Arizona legalizes gay marriage. Then religious minded businesses will possess the legal right to refuse service to anyone they choose, but whatever the reason, republicans and religious conservatives who, like with heartbeat bills meant to ban abortion after 20 weeks, ban abortion altogether, if they could swing it, won’t give up a losing battle in the near future. Because, before this law had seen so much as the light of day there were/are almost identical places/cases all over our nation denying service to people only because they somehow knew they were gay/lesbian. Yes most raising an issue, happy to see this type of bill come so close to making it into law, are wedding venue owners, shops specializing in wedding cake, florists, photographers asked to do same sex weddings and refusing on religious grounds, as was the situation with the Oregon cake makers interviewed above. Likewise Colorado and New Mexico have seen discrimination court cases where same sex couples alleged they were turned away because of their sexual preference; aforementioned vendors usually ordered by the court to render services the couple in question were willing to pay for, told they cannot refuse goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation owing to discrimination statutes including the former as a protected class of individual. Next, there is some merit to a law such as the one crafted in Arizona shielding people from morally objectionable practices; particularly events like wedding ceremonies originally founded on religion, mirroring religious hospitals, religious doctors unwilling to prescribe birth control, perform abortions up until you realize just how expansive this can and will get. Firstly, those wedding venders arrogantly assume Judeo Christian is the only type of wedding there is, is the largely preferred type of wedding event; wrong, many cultures and ethnicities of people reside in America and each may want wedding rites according to those customs. Many couples preparing to get married, hetero or homo sexual want a wedding minus usual traditions, perceptions, notions on what marriage means, what it signifies; choosing to customize their celebration in unique ways, more than substituting, writhing their own vows.  Following supporter logic to its inevitable conclusion, what happens when a gay couple only wants to pay for an in studio photo shoot to send to relatives as a Christmas present, as a celebration of their love not a wedding, they want to hold a party, event requiring flowers, other decorations but it’s not a wedding, a civil commitment ceremony, and how is that coming refusal not blatant discrimination? One of the chief problems with the potential law, beyond its inherent offensive nature, is the convoluted language with which it is constructed; “the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.” A statement that would have most people scratching their heads saying huh; the fact your action or lack thereof does not need to be a mandatory or large part of your religion means people can arbitrarily decide who they serve in whatever kind of business they run creating an environment rife for discrimination and not singularly homosexual people.

Already during the past two years alone, up to and including present day we see, have seen, systematic exclusion, isolation of LGBT citizens from businesses, from ordinary venues as far removed from religion as you could possibly get; again in New Mexico, last year an Albuquerque airport shuttle company apologized when a reportedly gay couple was told by a vender contracted company’s driver to sit in the back of the bus after being seen holding hands. According to statements the driver did not want women and children to have to see their “inappropriate” behavior. While an apology was issued, an inquiry investigation started, the driver only initially faced suspension, not immediate termination based on the simple fact he admitted his actions. Seriously, in 2013 we were witness to people being sent to the back of a bus and  proponents of similar proposed law in 2014 are possessed of the nerve, the unmitigated gall to try and sell everyone from socially conscious to LGBT Americas on this statute not being extended to restaurants, how about cab companies, athletic clubs? Because, going back to Oregon, a cab driver, once more last year, made news under suspicion of kicking a lesbian couple out of his cab; he says it was because they were “drunk and abusive.” Never mind he dropped them on the side of what can be assumed, by non-Portland-ites, was a busy highway (I-84), proceeded to not simply warn another cab driver he had had problems with the two, but actually took  matters farther into his own hands preventing them from also giving the stranded women a ride. Thankfully he will permanently lose his cabby permit; discrimination wasn’t even applied based on how many city code violations under which they could still readily remove his specialty license, violations stemming from failure to execute his job, failure to adequately ensure passenger safety. In Virginia, a Roanoke athletic club denied a family membership to two men and their young son stating they did not qualify as a family; antiquated definitions are hardly a surprise considering they may have never had a same-sex-couple apply for membership, that specific membership, therefore never needing to change their out of date description regarding families. What is startling here is it took going to court to get the club to do an about face taking into account the subsequent lawsuit is from 2012. These are more instances piled on top of headline makers like the Hawaii bed and breakfast sued for blatantly asking if the couple wanting to book their stay was homosexual then refusing them a room, the hospital where a nurse refused to recognize one man’s power of attorney over his partner, ejecting him from said hospital after a “disruptive, violent” altercation with the patient’s immediate family. Further the bill’s very existence encourages not just the practice and proliferation of a religion, of one religion over another; rather it lends support to things like the Chick-Fil-A controversy, a devote Christian randomly, seemingly without provocation ranting on the evils of homosexuality in the middle of his restaurant, substantiating fears of LGBT persons it is a slippery slope to being completely excommunicated from American society, from free society. Now it’s no gay people in my Christian florist, bridal shop, wedding cake bakery; tomorrow it expands not just to shunning gay customers, but somehow being gay suddenly impedes your ability to make a quality wedding cake, fit a bride(s) for a dress, groom(s) for desired tuxes, your ability to photograph a heterosexual wedding to quality standard or arrange flowers per customer preferences. Today it’s removing gay people from anything with a religious connotation to it, businesses profiting off providing services for marriage, being one significant player; tomorrow it’s no homosexuals in my restaurant, in my cab, in my athletic club, in my bar, my event space, we saw this play out with rental properties, apartments and so forth, practices reading essentially no ‘homos here’ until sexual orientation was added to fair housing practices in most areas. Tomorrow it’s ousting gay customers from my business; next year it’s refusing jobs to anyone who is gay/lesbian, your sexual orientation purportedly somehow interfering with your ability to flip a burger, do proper accounting, be a pilot, flight attendant, food inspector, dance instructor, IT person. Gay people, under that scenario, suddenly can’t work, can’t find a place to live, can’t enjoy a meal in public, can’t get certain goods and services; here is a picture of the future we want to create, really? Under the law who’s next; our deplorable cab driver’s name was Ahmed Egal meaning are we soon going to see identical mindsets saying I won’t serve anyone who isn’t Arabic, Muslim, Hindu, insert religion, ethnicity, culture here, all in the name of religious freedom?                 

Part of this is an advertising problem on behalf of businesses who believe they must function exactly under rigid guidelines set forth by god as they define him; it is one thing to set yourself up in a niche market, plant yourself in a predominately Muslim, Hindu, Jewish neighborhood catering to that culture, ethnicity, religion’s needs in wedding accessories, nuances and customs pertaining to wedding facets, providing native foods, clothing from various regions across the globe. It is an entirely different matter to knowingly open a business attracting the very customers you profoundly don’t agree with, approve of their lifestyle; utterly mystifying to an overwhelming majority is why people upholding such fervent adherence to faith, religious doctrine are equally so committed to running businesses that will doubtlessly bring them into direct confrontation with these issues. You don’t have to run a B&B to run a business; you don’t have to do weddings to be a successful bakery, florist, photographer. Worse, rather than incorporating that into your brand, making their adherence to faith a selling point, they instead wait until someone running counter to their belief system wanders through their doors to deny them products, services; inevitably when brought to court start yammering about religious rights. Whereas if you hang your shingle out saying Christian bakery, florist exc. it at least gives directly opposing individuals, couples forewarning to perhaps go elsewhere. Because of course we don’t want a priest or Rabbi forced to participate, preside over a satanic wedding; that would be a violation of religious freedom. However, there are plenty of other officiants perfectly willing to do so; by the by, couples actually wanting a satanic wedding would not want a church, synagogue leader to do so. Whoever they are, sexual preference, religious affiliation, alternative lifestyle, they don’t want a hassle either; they just want wedding services, a place to stay on vacation and normally will not demand service, begin court cases alleging violation of civil rights until they come across situations like the Hawaii B&B owner who made no mention of faith, Christians only, wholesome family values here on their website, was happy to book them a room before finding they were homosexual. Interesting too is, like Chick Fil-A before them, businesses willing to go on camera in support of the bill, precious few though there were, are not exclusively Christian establishments; last year when the Oregon bakery and a Christian flower shop were making headlines in their area going viral in nation news media, one online news organization was shocked  to discover owners clinging to faith as a reason not to serve a homosexual couple, do their wedding were willing to do some other quite questionable occasions. “Surprisingly, the people who answered the phone at each bakery were quite willing to provide baked goods for celebrations of divorces, unmarried parents, stem-cell research, non-kosher barbecues and pagan solstice parties.” Exposing the exact kind of hypocrisy that always trips up the “Christian community;” representatives of god willy-nilly applying biblical principles when they feel like it, distorting biblical principles to serve their own agenda, their own opinions and prejudices. Speaking of business, several have responded saying the bill proposal does not line up with company values including Delta airlines and Marriott hotels to name but two; simultaneously the Oregon bakery has since gone out of business due to local backlash.

Unmentioned are the unintended victims; while most who will suffer should anti-gay types of legislation pass are people mistaken for gay who truly aren’t, this is also a setback for minorities. Again today it’s gay people, tomorrow formerly segregated parts of the south go back to denying black people entrance into some places; particularly relevant since some private venue high school proms were only desegregated last year. Considering the powder keg over immigration, 3,5, 10 years from now it’s anyone looking Hispanic, Latino, Mexican or like an illegal immigrant; no service for you. Returning specifically to LGBT issues, the couple on the bus could have easily been siblings; one possessing a mental illness, developmental delay, holding hands not to get separated/lost, holding hands because large crowds, the bus experience frightens the other person. It could have been part of a therapy, life coaching exercise to address a strange phobia, overcome a traumatic event, situations having nothing to do with physical attraction, romantic feelings for a person of the same sex. Two guys or two women walk into a photography studio asking about photo packages for a wedding, except their not gay; it’s the groom and the best man, bride and bride’s maid shopping options, members of the wedding party looking to begin setting things up for her special, big day. How ignorant do you look, how big a chance do you take losing business prospects making a snide remark about homosexuals; Christian or not, gay or not, they may decide your attitude and approach to the whole thing isn’t something they want to be exposed to, doesn’t represent someone worthy to arrange their important start with the love of their life. The two women in the cab could have been best friends, even sisters, cousins who went out for drinks, became too intoxicated to drive and either had the good sense to call a cab or were put into one by friends also at the bar; that they happened to be gay is irrelevant, because homosexuality is not a contagion they were leaving on the seats, who was going to see our cabby dropping them off to judge him or his passengers in the first place? While the health club is a little more understandable, it should not have taken a court case to handle the problem; you are a business operating in the public domain. And when you operate in the public domain you have a responsibility to provide products, services to any member of the public who wants them and can pay for them, so says public accommodations law. Not doing so can and will have real consequences; more than the economic impact later to be tallied for Arizona during the time it takes the governor to come to a decision, forget if the bill passes, is where else it potentially leads.  

We could be, quickly become Russia maybe even Uganda where being gay means subject to open, unchecked harassment routinely accompanied by violence, where there are religious motivated groups patrolling the streets outside gay bars, nightclubs suspected of armed assaults and related attacks on gay citizens, radical groups seeking to eradicate homosexuality. And by that they mean killing the gay/lesbian, anyone who helps them, i.e. “promotes” homosexuality; calling it a plague, a real virus translating into the people who identify as gay also being a plague, a virus. Uganda, where being gay means more than being out-ed in your national newspaper, regardless of if there is any truth to the allegation, called disgusting by your country’s president, someone who is supposed to be a leader leading by example, it means your life is literally in danger, people will try to burn your home or otherwise do you harm. Where being gay now means up to 15 years in jail for a first offense, life in prison for any “repeat offense;” fail to report friend, relative, neighbor you know is gay, jail sentence for you too.  Nearly unconscionable is how this extreme homophobia came about throughout several African nations rumored to have been brought by American Christian missionaries, evangelists; only after their visits did ultra-legislation make its way through the government in a country where homosexuality was already illegal. Uganda’s president quoted as saying he didn’t know what they, homosexuals were doing presumably in his country; hints once he was informed he pushed for the harsh laws he just recently signed. This mirrors what happened in Russia; upticks in violence, harassment, gay hostilities came after president Putin signed into law tougher penalties for so called promoters of alternative relationships. Heaven forbid adolescent, teen Russians, any nationality of person learn you don’t have to kill yourself because you think you might be gay, because at worst you are, at the least you are confused curious; heaven forbid they receive sexual education on the importance of safer sex, use of condoms from a gay/lesbian perspective. Heaven forbid these young people live long enough to reach their full potential without being called filth, believing everyone hates them, they are nothing; heaven forbid, for the Christian minded individuals, they live long enough to be witnessed to, come to the repentance preachers all say they should. Yes, heaven forbid.      

Some locals have praised Uganda for calling right, right and wrong, wrong, praised them for naming homosexuality for the abomination it is, not giving in to US, European, western moral devastation followed by economic devastation. Ok, if we want to call right, right and wrong, wrong let’s do so regardless of country, culture, ethnicity, creed, race, socioeconomic status; let’s call out supposed to be Christians, supposed to be Christian principles being reflected here. According to their dogma homosexuality is wrong, so is greed, envy, jealousy, gossip, lying, stealing, corruption, drunkenness, child abuse, adultery, other abnormal sexual behavior, things we contend with as a society daily; equally wrong is beating up, harassing someone for any reason, even someone who is gay, like the Russians in the video above, hating someone period, never mind because they are gay. Ostracizing them, throwing them in prison, siccing the morality police, religious police on them isn’t going to cause them to change their ways, seek god, turn to repentance, the ultimate goal of religious based teaching, law; in fact it will steep them further into their own views unreachable by any religion. Homosexuality is wrong, so is rape, incest, fornication, murder activities running rampant amongst Uganda’s neighbors as long as these countries are controlled by warlords thinking young boys are “the spoils of war,” as long as superstation and myth coupled with a lack of basic sex education leaves people believing sex with a virgin will cure HIV/AIDS. The long and short of it being, no matter what part of the globe you come from, governments, citizens have so many other things to worry about; homosexuality should be the furthest thing from their mind. They should understand the true essence of personal responsibility that who you have sex with is between you and god providing there is no issue of consent, who you lie to provided you’re not speaking to the police, under oath should be between you and god, the feelings you hold in your heart, thoughts in your mind hatred, envy exc. between you and god. And whether your gay/lesbian you deserve the right to get a job for which you are qualified, you deserve the right to be able to rent an apartment, a room thus having a place to live, be able to hail a cab, eat in a restaurant, buy a health club membership for you, your household, book a B&B, hotel/motel, cruise ship reservation sans your sexuality being a factor. Thankfully Governor Brewer saw the same thing and vetoed the impending legislation. But this is what makes the debate, the fight for gay marriage so important; because, it’s not about the morality of homosexuality, is it right, is it wrong? It is about the right of every human being to be first and foremost treated like a human being no matter which lifestyle they choose to engage in, and in America, the right of every person to be treated equally independent of race, ethnicity, creed, religion, and yes, sexual orientation.