Firing someone because of transgender identity or sexual orientation is wrong
Generally, opinion columns should not serve as a writer’s keyboard confessional. However, there are rare circumstances in which divulging personal information is relevant to subject matter. This week is one of those circumstances. I must come out in the open for what I truly am – a huge fan of the show “Glee.” This is not something I usually admit to, but a recent episode of Glee really struck a chord with me (pun intended).
The Glee Valentine’s Day Special aired two weeks ago. In the episode, a Christian song-o-gram group called The God Squad sings love songs to people as a Valentine’s Day gift. You pay the God Squad $10, and in exchange they will sing a love song for your Valentine. This all seems well and wonderful until a female character, Santana, asks the God Squad if they will sing a song for her same-sex partner, Brittany. Uh oh – there’s a dilemma. The God Squad might compromise their values as a Christian group if they chose to sing the song, but on the other hand, it would be discriminatory to deny Santana solely based on her sexual orientation.
Why is this relevant? Because this is exactly the kind of situation Christian groups complain about when faced with anti-discrimination laws. This April, Anchorage residents will vote on whether to extend anti-discrimination laws to include homosexual and transgender individuals. Proposition 5 would make it illegal to fire someone because of his or her sexual identity or orientation. The law would exempt “bona fide religious or denominational institutions,” or in other words, churches.
The Alaska Family Council (AFC) has recently released a document that opposes Prop 5, called “Why Vote No.” In this document, AFC argues that Prop 5 would “violate the conscientious right of small business owners [who have] objections to homosexual or transgendered behavior.”
The argument goes something like this: If you are a Christian, and you own a business, your business should be able to deny services to individuals who have characteristics, immutable or otherwise, that you find morally objectionable. Moreover, you should be able to fire a perfectly competent employee if you find that employee to be LGBT.
This thinking is not just wrong; it is bigoted and inconsistent with our society’s conception of equal treatment.
First, conflating conscientious objection with public discrimination is inappropriate. People cannot simply “conscientiously object” to things they find disagreeable. Most people understand “conscientious objection” as it’s articulated in the UN Declaration of Human Rights – “The Right to Refuse to Kill.” As if hiring a homosexual is akin to shooting someone with an assault rifle.
In the case of conscientious objection, what you are objecting to is the ability of the State to use you as an instrument of war. Firing someone because of his or her sexual orientation is wholly different.
Firing someone because they are homosexual is no different from firing someone because they are black, a minority, disabled, or possess any other immutable characteristic you happen to find repugnant.
If AFC really believes that they can just throw around terms like “conscientious objection” as a justification for things they don’t like, then perhaps they should re-read the Constitution. The Religious Right loves citing the Constitution when it benefits them, but the 14th Amendment conveniently disappears when we start talking about homosexuals. Protecting minorities from people who “conscientiously object” to their characteristics is one major objective of this amendment.
Let’s say I own a restaurant. Let’s also say I belong to a local church. After cruising through Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, I decide that it would compromise my values as a Christian if I were to hire divorced people or unveiled women. At my restaurant, I fire anyone who is divorced and any woman who walks around unveiled. Why? Because it is my right, dammit!
Is this okay? Of course it’s not. So, if we agree that it is inappropriate to fire a divorced person on religious grounds, why would we ever think it is okay to fire someone because they’re gay? This is a question I would love AFC to answer.
I hereby issue an open challenge to AFC. What is the meaningful distinction between firing someone because they are divorced, and firing someone because they are gay? I eagerly await your response.
In the final scene of the Glee Valentines Day Special, the God Squad decides that love is more important than convoluted biblical scripture. The song-culminating happiness that Santana and Brittany share outweighs the potential harm of holding onto tenuous principles and antiquated cultural practices. Perhaps the AFC will eventually come to find Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes more important than Paul’s advice. After all, it was Jesus, not Paul, who said, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”