I. AM. FURIOUS.
Rather than go into detail about the one specific incident which set me off, allow me to post an excerpt from this wonderful piece from Five Thirty Eight. It gets to the center of my anger. The piece is called 'Religious Liberty' Has Replaced Gay Marriage in GOP Talking Points and it says that the GOP has, for the most part, given up on talking about gay marriage because much of their base isn't into that fight anymore. Instead, they are talking about "religious liberty":
Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, a unit of the Southern Baptist Convention that advocates Christian values to government leaders, acknowledges that the conversation has shifted.
Whatever their definition of marriage, he says, Americans should be concerned by the Supreme Court’s decisions, “both in terms of the power of the government” and “the reasons given for the redefinition.”
“I think that’s where the conversation is now,” he went on. “What sort of justices and judges would a president appoint, and how would they be restricted by a constitution itself?”
The shift from talking directly about same-sex marriage to more glancing references is also reflected in the GOP debate rhetoric. Mentions of “religious,” “religious liberty” and “religious freedom” appeared more than ever in this year’s debates when referring to the rights of business owners to refuse services to gay customers. It’s code, Dennard says, for “gay marriage.”
Talking about "religious liberty" is rather easy. It elevates the false idea of a person from persecution because of their religious beliefs. It makes folks who discriminate in secular business dealings seem like they are being "persecuted" for their religious beliefs, when in reality they are only being asked to treat all customers - whose taxes help with the safety and upkeep of their businesses - fairly.
One would never know that the phrase "religious liberty" is yet another clever shift of semantics in the 30 year plus war on lgbts propagated by the religious right.
In the 70s, they said the children must be protected from "recruitment" since gays supposedly can't reproduce.
In the 80s, they exploited the ignorance regarding the AIDS crisis to make lgbts seem like deserving pariahs.
In the 90s. it was all about keeping us from receiving unfair "special rights."
And in the early 2000's, it was all about "protecting marriage."
So now we are in the middle of yet another con job propagated by slick verbiage, straw man arguments, junk science, and anecdotal stories taken out of context - i.e. "religious liberty."
And just like every other example above before it, the "religious liberty" argument puts the lgbt community on the defensive as if we are the bad guys trying to corrupt all that is good and pure. Part of the reason for this is that hardly anyone has pointed out how "religious liberty" is a new bit of paint on the same old engine of homophobia and fear. Oh sure, some of us gave Sam Smith hell for his inaccurate statement about openly gay men winning Oscars, but very few of us have bothered to demonstrate that same degree of outrage when it comes to the connection between "religious liberty," "protecting marriage," "special rights," and all other cutesy phrases used over the years to bamboozle us into playing catch up while the religious right channels "The Passion of Joan of Arc."
That's why I'm mad. Again, never mind the specific incident because the generalities are more important. After over 30 years of being branded and having to fight tooth and nail for our dignity, the lgbt community finds itself in the same situation again.
"Religious liberty" is not about protecting religious people from persecution anymore than "protecting marriage" was about safeguarding matrimony. It's about what it has always been about - homophobia and keeping lgbts under heel.
We rip open a door closed to us, but allow the opposition to control how quickly we can come through to the other side with their clever organization and deceptive phrases. We find ourselves hustled into having to explain why we should have the same right to come through the door at the same speed in which heterosexuals do, even though we shouldn't have to.
They tried to keep penalize our private sexual behavior. We beat them in the courts.
They tried to keep us from adopting. We beat them again.
They tried to brand simple talk of our families into that of sexual education. Again we beat them.
They tried to keep us from marrying. After a long battle, we annihilated them.
They are trying to demonize our transgender brothers and sisters. It's happening slowly but with our track record, I expect a victory. But the point is after so many victories, why are we having to explain our right to be treated like everyone else?
Maybe it's time for the other side to explain why they feel we shouldn't.
Photo of Angela Bassett taken from the 'Waiting to Exhale.'