Red v. Blue: Sexuality Discrimination

A weekly column where Gettysburg’s College Republicans and Democrats debate topics in the news. This week College Republicans reply to: Sexuality Discrimination 

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By Timothy Meads, College Republicans

With a bill as poorly structured and vague as ENDA and with a Democrat’s article that demonizes and misinterprets the conscience and voting habits of the Republican Party, it is best to specifically pinpoint the primary reasons ENDA failed. There are three main points that should be addressed.

First, it would be remiss of a devout Catholic to address an article that discusses gay marriage and not touch upon the subject. I, like many of my Republican counter parts, feel that government should not address gay marriage. Nor should it address heterosexual marriage. In fact, it should stay out of the marriage businesses all together. The appropriate government action is to craft a federal bill that recognizes Civil Unions for all, thus marriage licenses would become obsolete. Instead of granting certain rights and privileges based off marriage licenses, Civil Unions would take their place and subsequently allow gay and heterosexual couples to enjoy the same benefits. This would allow churches and religions to decide what marriage is without government issued benefits being susceptible to the voting booth and majority opinion. This means that if two people, regardless of sexual orientation, wish to be recognized as a Civil Union for said benefits, by all means they have that right. But when you slap marriage on the label, the government interferes with and dictates social norms that should be left to religion and individual preferences. This Republican solution takes the debate of what constitutes marriage off the table and truly separates church from state.

Now, contrary to the author’s implied sentiment, Republicans did not support this bill because they are against gay rights or anti-discrimination efforts. It is because even with the additional legislation exempting certain religious institutions or non-profits, the language of this bill does not do enough in protecting religious freedoms. Consider this: 88% of Fortune 500 companies already have self-imposed company rules that prohibit discrimination, harassment, and mistreatment due to sexuality and gender identity. This isn’t 100% but is not as bad as the Democrats like to report. Most corporations and businesses are not religiously associated nor do they have religious symbols in their edifice due to their boss’s inclinations or personal held beliefs. Where these symbols of religious expression and religious freedom are evident is often in small businesses.

Why is that important? Consider the following scenario: let’s say small business owner Irene P. runs a stationary and card store named Saint Patrick’s. Isabel hangs in her store a picture of Pope Francis. A gay man walks in, applies for a job and is employed. After three or four days working there, he notices the picture of Pope Francis and feels intimidated. While he might be Christian, he thinks the Catholic Church is vehemently against homosexuals (for the record, they are not) and does not feel welcome working there. He was comfortable with the name of the store, because he felt it had no specific religious association. Upon seeing the image, he asks his owner to take it down. He is a gay man and does not want to be reminded that his boss could potentially discriminate against him. Of course, his boss hangs it there as a constant reminder to love all like Jesus does and that the Pope is the leader of the Church. These principles guide her daily thinking and are intrinsic to who she is as a person. Irene rightfully asserts her freedom of religion and refuses to take Papa Francisco off her petite boutique wall. The man decides to sue. If ENDA existed, the man would win and Irene could potentially lose her store. The language is opaque in neither defining discrimination nor which religious organizations are exempt, thus skewing favor towards the plaintiff, leaving the defendant at almost a guaranteed loss. Simply because Irene is Catholic, she is forbidden to show religious expression in her privately owned store under this law. As a private individual, her freedom to express her religious beliefs in her store is stripped away.

Critics might say this argument is invalid. In fact, many stores used to discriminate based on the fact they believed that interracial marriage should be banned because the Bible said so. That was racist, immoral and violated civil rights. But the issue at hand is not an overt and compelling reason for government to interfere in business. The only problem for the Saint Patrick’s employee is his boss’s right to religious expression and religious freedom. In the interracial marriage example, explicit discrimination existed. In Irene P’s scenario, only perceived discrimination is present. Of course, no discrimination actually existed, but the language of ENDA could potentially have allowed the man to sue and Saint Patrick’s to be crucified in the name of gay rights. How is that fair?

And therein lies the debate that will hold much of the court’s attention in the upcoming years: at what point does religious expression become discrimination? Most supporters of ENDA assume any religious object in a workplace relegates that environment to one of intimidation and discrimination, especially Christian symbols. Still, many gay individuals are actually unfairly treated in the work place. This then gives credence to a future bill that would protect both religious freedom and the rights of non-heterosexual and transgendered individuals. The answer is not in ENDA, at least the most recent form of the bill. It is too indeterminate in dealing with an issue that requires specific attention. What is needed is a more comprehensive bill that better looks at the potential ramifications of labeling certain religious liberties as “discrimination.”

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Author: Isabel Gibson Penrose

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