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LGBTQ Equality vs Religious Liberty
Using religion to discriminate against LGBTQ people - part 1 of a series
September 1, 2020 - There are some religious people, congregations, and religions that support LGBTQ people. In the Episcopal Church, Bishop Gene Robinson was the first openly gay Bishop - but his consecration led to a worldwide split in the church over the issue of homosexuality. In New York City, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah is an LGBTQ-welcoming synagogue with an openly gay leader, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum. Both Bishop Gene and Rabbi Kleinbaum were guests on earlier editions of OutCasting; you can listen to their interviews at OutCastingMedia.org.
But historically, many religions have condemned LGBTQ people. The Catholic church has described homosexuality as an "intrinsic disorder" and encouraged people to "condemn the sin, not the sinner" - as if people can just rip sexuality out of their lives without inflicting great harm. Any number of religious counselors continue to practice conversion or reparative therapy to "cure" people of being gay even as a growing number of states, and even some other countries, recognize that this "treatment" is ineffective and potentially dangerous. We did a series in early 2020 on conversion therapy; its also available at OutCastingMedia.org.
As the law is catching up with growing public acceptance of LGBTQ people and as we have secured a number of important civil rights, there's a movement determined to put us firmly back in our place, as they would have it. Cakeshops and florists claim that they're entitled to deny their services to us because they say that providing services to LGBTQ people would violate their "religious liberty." This discrimination would never be seen as legitimate if it were directed at any other minority group. Just imagine it - a shop owner says: "My religious liberty prevents me from serving Black people, or Jewish people, so go away." It's unthinkable that that would be seen as acceptable in today's world. And of course, there are businesses where the stakes would be much higher if it becomes the law that businesses can just turn away LGBTQ people based on a religious objection.
So is there any legitimacy when a business owner cites "religious liberty" to justify denying service to LGBTQ people? What are the contours of religious liberty? Whats supposed to happen when someone, citing religious liberty, discriminates against LGBTQ people, thus denying their equality? What does "equality" mean in the United States? Does one take precedence over the other when they come into conflict?
Joining OutCaster Lucas to delve into this issue is Jennifer C. Pizer. Jenny is the Senior Counsel and Director of Law and Policy for Lambda Legal, the country's oldest and largest legal organization seeking full recognition of the civil rights of LGBT people and everyone living with HIV.
Sprouts: Radio from the Grassroots, is a weekly program produced collaboratively by radio producers at community stations around the world. The show features local news and culture of international interest.