Sanchez: Conservatives to end discrimination by creating more

BY SADIE SANCHEZ | JULY 14, 2015 5:00 AM

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Following the June 26 Supreme Court ruling, legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, anti-LGBT+ conservatives have been scrambling for a new way to discriminate against queer people. And it seems they found it.

The First Amendment Protection Act , a federal bill introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, aims to eliminate discrimination based upon religious beliefs by encouraging it against members of the LGBT+ community. The bill would allow owners of any establishment, be it a university or a pizza shop, to refuse service to any LGBT+ costumers.

NPR’s Robert Siegel sat down with Lee this July 7 to discuss the purpose behind the new bill and what it means for the LGBT+ community.

In the segment, featured on “All Things Considered,” Lee cited his motivation behind the bill, saying, “Our country … was founded on a proud tradition of religious freedom and tolerance. This is especially important when it comes to government discrimination — government retaliation based on religious belief. And that’s what this bill is aimed at prohibiting.”

He went on to discuss what the bill means for employment opportunities, using a religious university as an example: “The university — the college in question ought to be able to decide what kinds of people that it wants teaching because that, in turn, influences what will be taught by the university. It becomes the university’s speech.”

According to the senator, however, he doesn’t see discrimination against LGBT+ people as being a problem in the United States: “We’re not, moreover, in a society in which people who are either gay or lesbian who are married to a member of the same sex, for example, are subject to widespread discrimination.”

He went on to say his bill doesn’t pose a threat to employment opportunities, as “there is no shortage in the United States of colleges and universities and other employers of all types, of all sorts, who are willing to hire.”

Now, Lee, this is where we run into a problem.

While the bill’s foundation as a whole is based upon contradictory logic — eliminating discrimination against one group by enabling it against another — one of the most concerning things about this interview is Lee seems to think that discrimination against the LGBT+ community is not a problem.
In fact, while the country has made great progress in ending hate toward the community, the fight is still far from over, especially when it comes to employment.

In 32 states, you can still be fired solely on the basis of identifying as LGBT+. Only 18 states in the U.S. offer protection for both sexual orientation and gender identity, with a few protecting solely sexual orientation. This is a far cry from the discrimination-less country that Lee thinks exists.

Discrimination cannot be overcome by creating more of it. With more and more churches and denominations accepting LGBT+ identities and same-sex marriage into their doctrine, those who exclude such individuals must reevaluate. If people of the same faith can interpret the same text to mean something of love and acceptance instead of hate, why can’t Lee?

No one should be discriminated based on who they are, whether that be based on their beliefs or identity.

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