Now that the Alabama bill to allow for religious-based agencies to deny LGBTQ parents (SB 145 and HB 24) is getting more traction, I want to try to step back a little and walk through it to explain where those of us against it are coming from. Now – if you believe LGBTQ people should not be parents? Then move along. We are too far apart on this debate to even remotely approach each other.
But – if you’re undecided on this legislation for legal or moral reasons, let’s continue.
Protected Classes And Why They Exist
Let’s start first with the Civil Rights act of 1964. That’s basically where we defined “protected classes” of people who can not be discriminated against for that trait and that trait only: Race, Color, National origin, Age, Sex etc. There are other groups like people with disabilities who became a protected class with other legislation like the Americans with Disabilities act. These laws are how – at a federal level – our country takes control of BIG items to protect BIG groups of people. For example, because of the Civil Rights Act, states can’t decide to discriminate against race with things like Jim Crow laws.
Basically, our federal government acknowledged that some people’s unalienable rights were being denied for things they could not control. (Although religion is a protected class too and that’s a little tricky, but everything else is of the “can’t control” variety.) And the Federal government protects the constitution so they needed to step in. This way, instead of fighting this with tons of small state laws across the country in the judiciary, they made a larger federal ruling.
Now…let’s take those protected classes and introduce one of them to a similar situation. Let’s say a religion said that African Americans were unclean and unfit to parent white children. (Civil Rights Act was only passed in 1964, this is not that archaic of an idea to fathom.) So, obviously this religion could not send white children to those terrible black people. The government would step in and say, “No. Race is a protected class, you can’t discriminate on that basis alone.” Of course, now the agency could just say, “His home is not safe because the windows are painted shut,” instead. And essentially hide their discrimination. But at least the law would keep them from outright denying someone because of their disability.
And honestly? This happens all the time. People in marginalized communities often know there are deeper reasons when they’ve been denied something that relate more to race or sex or disability than anything else. But unless they can prove it, they have no case.
Fast Forward to the election of 2016 when LGBTQ groups were gearing up to win the white house and finally draft legislation protecting LGBTQ people in a protected class instead of constantly fighting legislation in every state trying to legalize discrimination.
And we lost.
So we’re back on the defensive again.
The one debate I would never enter, is if a person didn’t believe sexuality or gender identity should define a protected class. That’s usually where I start these discussions now that I’ve broken this law down a little. And the few times I’ve discussed this with people, if that’s where they stand, then we’re coming from two different places and while I acknowledge their stance, I could never understand it. And hopefully they can say, “Oh – we disagree on this law because we don’t even agree on who should be a protected class.” And then we walk away and can still be friends 🙂 BUT, since I believe they should be protected, then – just like how freedom of religion DOES NOT ALLOW people to discriminate against race – I don’t believe a religious freedom should allow people to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Legal v/s Moral & Ethical
BUT – maybe you would support it! Maybe you hope some day gender identity and sexuality can be protected classes. But you believe that since they are not protected now, then these laws should pass because religious freedom trumps discrimination for non-protected classes. Then we can move forward with our discussion.
Let’s step back one more step further. The Civil Rights Act was needed because there were attempts to legalize discrimination, especially in the Jim Crow South. Now, because the CRA was not in place, none of those segregation laws were illegal, but that doesn’t mean they were right. That’s why people fought to draft the Civil Rights Act…so they could attack discrimination with a giant blanket draped across the nation.
So, the next thing would be to say, “But just because you might be able to prove the discrimination is LEGAL because of freedom of religion, is it RIGHT?” Jim Crow laws were legal but were they ethical? Or moral? Because what this law would be doing is legalizing discrimination. Right now? Faith-based adoption and foster agencies can deny applications for a million other reasons if they want to be secretive about why they’re discriminating, and they DO. But once it becomes legal, they can be BOLD and UP FRONT about the WHY of the declining of applications. They have emboldened those views and every kid in that agency knows: LGBTQ are not fit to adopt or parent us. AND GOD FORBID any of those kids grow up questioning their sexuality or gender because they have been told at a young age that LGBTQ people are less than.
And yes – LGBTQ people can go somewhere else – but do you know how long it takes to work through the application processes? And what if they are trying for a specific child who would be a good match. Maybe even trying to legally adopt a relative that is in the foster care system, or a friend of the family. What if the specific child they want is being cared for by an organization who is legally allowed to turn them down? And why should they have to go somewhere else? Should the black family go somewhere else to avoid the racist agency?
So I would allow you to maybe argue the legalities of it since LGBTQ people are not protected yet on a federal level, but I would not understand why you could support it on a moral level. I’ve allowed you to say, “But it’s legal!” And acknowledged that you are right, in a way. I still don’t think it’s moral or ethical and since people fight against laws on the ground of morality and ethics all the time, we can agree that stance is nothing new. Look at all of the Pro-Lifers, they argue against the legality of abortion all the time on moral and ethical grounds, there’s plenty of precedence.
The Necessity Of Laws
Then I also ask: But is it necessary?
Show me some statistics where faith-based agencies denying LGBTQ families has helped the children? A lot of times legislation is drafted JUST to please constituents, NOT because it’s necessary. This is one of those things: These representatives can come out on the side of Religious Freedom which is the big rallying cry – even from the President right now. If your state went D.T. this election, then “religious freedom” legislation is totally going to win you favor with all of those voters. I live in one of those states where if someone can run and say, “I passed SB 145 or HB 24 which was a religious freedom law!” then they win tons of bonus points.
But is it necessary? I mean – with and without this legislation – which hurts the children more? If we leave things as is and faith-based agencies have to hide why they’re denying LGBTQ couples? Or if we make it LEGAL for them to point-blank deny based on sexual identity or gender? In which situation do kids get harmed the MOST?
Obviously the answer is that if you legalize denial for gender identity and sexuality, then the children lose most of all. Either because they’re denied a possible opportunity at a safe and loving home, or because they grow up believing LGBTQ people are somehow less than. So even if you can argue the legalities of the law – stop and ask yourself, “Who is it hurting and who is it helping?” No children are harmed when a faith-based organization can’t discriminate against LGBTQ people, so we are passing a law that is not necessary to protect children, and can actually end up hurting them by removing loving families as options in their adoptions or foster homes.
I don’t know my kid’s plans in life. I know he wants to get the hell out of Alabama when he graduates in May. So this probably won’t affect him. But damn, he’d be a great Dad, and the bottom line of all of this is that I find it terribly unjust that someone could deny him and someone he loved the right to foster or adopt simply because they were in a homosexual relationship. I can talk a powerful legal/moral/ethics game and can argue protected classes versus religions freedom until I’m blue in the the face. But in the end? I’m just sad that someone wants to make it a legally protected action to tell my kid – the kid who practically helped raised his siblings – “Nope. You can’t adopt or foster this child because you’re gay.”