A dozen states across the country, including our own North Carolina (see goqnotes.com/27665/), are in the process (or recently were in the process) of considering draconian laws allowing carte blanche discrimination against LGBT people and other minorities.
These so-called “religious liberty” laws would allow individuals, companies, organizations and, in some cases, individual government employees to refuse service or assistance to any person based upon their own religious beliefs or objections.
The laws are, quite simply, the last cries of a radically-regressive, repressive, right-wing Republican movement to oppress LGBT people. The national GOP knows it has an image problem, but their “Come see the softer side of bigotry” campaign isn’t taking root in the states, where these pieces of legislation are being proposed — and, at least in the case of Arizona, passed — by a smorgasbord of right-wing Republicans hellbent on stopping our movement for equality.
Though the laws are undoubtedly unconstitutional, they would, if passed, immediately create havoc and pain in the lives of LGBT people and a whole host of other minorities. Business owners and corporations could simply cite their “religious beliefs” to hang “Whites Only,” “Christians Only” and “Straights Only” signs over their establishments’ doors.
In most states where these laws have been proposed — including Maine, Tennessee and Kansas, among others — legislators have backed down under an avalanche of national criticism and scrutiny. Yet, we’re not out of the clear. There’s no doubt some lawmakers in states across the country will attempt to revive their legislation or create new versions.
What we are now seeing should come as no surprise. In a political revolution as wildly successful as the LGBT movement, conservatives on the losing side of the debate are trying everything they can. Their current zeal for discrimination is a full-swing backlash against last summer’s landmark Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Prop. 8, as federal courts across the country, and even in the conservative South, advance equality in marriage.
There’s much more work for our movement. LGBT people deserve protections in employment, for example — a simple victory we’ve yet to attain. But, despite the priorities left unaccomplished, our movement is winning. When your opponents’ maneuverings begin to become laughable even among their own, then you know you’ve won.
From here on out, I foresee a movement advancing further and faster than ever before. We will find success — in the courts, in state and federal legislatures and at the ballot box. But, in order to do so, we’ll have to remain diligent and do everything we can, as voters and citizens, to ensure this recent wave of radical, discriminatory legislation meets quick, unquestionable dead-ends in legislatures across the country. : :