This past week the governor of Indiana passed legislation that effectively allows gay men and women to be rejected by businesses due to their sexuality in the name of protecting ‘religious freedom’. No, you’re not reading The Onion and no, you haven’t stumbled in to the Tardis in a drunken stupor and found yourself back in the 1920s – this has actually happened.
Let’s say two women out on a date somewhere in the heart of Gary, Indiana fancy some ice cream on their way home, they stumble in to their local ice cream parlour and order two scoops of mint choc-chip. The vendor spots a romantic glance between the two, confiscates their food and shoves them out of the door. Now, the most decent of people can see a major issue with that behaviour but now it’s perfectly legal in one of America’s fifty states – well, as long as he says it’s in the name of God.
The United States has many more theists than the United Kingdom; devout Christians are much more vocal across the pond than they are here. But why is the autonomy to choose a religion more important than the freedom to simply be? I’m not a religious person but I acknowledge and advocate the right for each individual to pick their own faith and spirituality. If you want to be a Christian, be a Christian. If you want to be a Sikh, be a Sikh.
The problem forms when people exploit this unassailable freedom for a sinister motive like we’ve seen stateside this week. There is no requirement in Christianity, the predominant religion of Indiana, to reject, banish or scorn homosexuals. The Bible is pretty clear in its condemnation of homosexual activity but it doesn’t call for gay men and women to be outcast.
Again, we arrive back at this question; why is religious freedom considered more imperative than sexual freedom? It’s widely and correctly believed that a person’s sexuality is not a choice – but a person’s religion is. Why are we giving legal clout to the need of some to discriminate against those with an inoffensive innate characteristic in the name of their chosen beliefs? Would I, as a gay man be allowed to turn away a theist who I felt was immoral? No, I wouldn’t and that shouldn’t be the case either. This is not a motion to protect religious freedom, its legislative homophobia and nothing else.
Just a few weeks ago, Antony Sher, a rich gay actor, said “life is good for gay people in this country now”. That is simply not true, gay people still face discrimination every single day both socially and lawfully. If this case in Indiana isn’t enough to attest to this then we only have to look to the Republic of Ireland where gay men and women are facing a referendum to determine whether or not they’re allowed to get married. That to me is simply absurd, millions of people who will be entirely unaffected by the legal union of two people of the same gender can spitefully vote to keep it illegal. That’s similar to me surveying my entire street on my preferred choice of dinner every night to see if my eating habits suit them – of course, it doesn’t affect them or the enjoyment of their own meal in any way, but they deserve to have their say on my life, right?
You would think that in 2015, we would have moved past this thinly veiled odium. It’s high time we stopped trying to lawfully isolate people as social lepers in the name of religion. I imagine there are countless theists in Indiana and elsewhere that have found the passing of this new law as abhorrent as the LGBT community has. I for one am not sorry for being romantically and sexually attracted to the same-sex, I’m just not and I shouldn’t have to be every time I fancy a cupcake.
The people of Indiana are being short-changed by a discriminative movement guised in the name of faith. There is no requirement in any religion that necessitates refusal of service to gay men or women. Homophobia is alive and well and unfortunately is rearing its head in pseudo-clever yet imaginative ways. This law should be overturned immediately – imagine the stain on the so-called “Land of the Free” when this bill goes in to the history books. Finally, as for those Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists or atheists for that matter, who feel they cannot serve people of a certain disposition – get your arses out of public service, you’re doing it wrong.