Welcome, ranters, to the debut of “Reversing The Spin” here on Cuetherant.com! I’m very pleased to be here with you this week and every other week hereafter. I’ve been fortunate to call Jackson, Mississippi, my home for the last 12 years, and I’m always looking to find ways that I can help to improve the city and the state. Cuetherant.com is an exciting opportunity for me, because I believe that Mississippi has a lot of young, progressive people with powerful ideas who just need voices, and Cuetherant.com is a wonderful example that I’m proud to now be a part of.
Rod did a great job had a couple of weeks ago. We have a similar development here in Mississippi, where the “Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act” SB 2681 was passed unanimously in the state Senate before beginning to draw attention.
Some states have had bills like this on the books for years. While the first versions of these laws were passed due to fears that governmental prohibitions might endanger certain individual religious practices, the new laws, like the ones proposed in Arizona and Mississippi, are part of a campaign by Republicans to discriminate against gay people. Under these laws, businesses that refuse to serve homosexual couples could claim that they have the religious freedom to do so.
Conservatives are claiming that “this is not about discrimination, this is about religious freedom.” This is as absurd as the argument that the Civil War wasn’t at all about slavery, it was about states’ rights. These new laws are about granting the “religious” freedom…to discriminate against gay people, just as the Civil War was fought over some states’ right to allow their citizens to own black people.
Now, it is true that in many states and jurisdictions, businesses already have the right to refuse service to gay people, because there is no specific prohibition on sexual orientation discrimination like there is on race- or sex-based discrimination. As our country learns to accept homosexuals for who they are, this will get less and less common, because cities, states, and even the federal government will pass anti-discrimination laws that will eliminate this bigoted practice. These “religious freedom” bills will act in direct opposition to this, explicitly giving businesses the right to tell gay people to “move along.”
If this Mississippi bill becomes law, it will be an explicit endorsement of the idea that gay people are second-class citizens in our state and in our nation. The effects will not just be limited to gay people needing to find a different baker for their wedding cake. A vote for SB 2681 is a vote to allow restaurants to refuse to seat two lesbians who are there for a romantic dinner. It is a vote to allow apartment owners to throw out two gay men from their shared home, or not rent to them in the first place. It is a vote to allow doctors, pharmacies, and other healthcare providers to deny life-saving treatment to gay men or women with AIDS or any other sex-related health issue.
We need to be moving towards inclusiveness, not excluding those who are already pushed down by society. We need to speak out against this law and others like it.