Salt Lake City is considering ordinances that will prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. There are already laws on the books that seek to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, creed, color, religion and other characteristics — laws that are necessary and beneficial. What’s the big problem here?
I’ve been discussing this topic for several months now, both in the context of Mayor Becker’s proposals as well as in the context of the Common Ground Initiative that sprung up during the last legislative session. I write about it, discuss it with people, and ask questions all the time and I’m still at a loss as to the issue here. Why is it so hard to just say that we’re all equal and we all deserve equal rights?
Equal rights. What does that really mean? To me, it means that every individual has the same rights and responsibilities in society as every other individual. That means the freedom to work, to live, to love and to marry. The right to speak out, to be heard, to be a member of our communities. Unfortunately, you can’t legislate attitude and tolerance. Fortunately, that’s not what Mayor Becker is trying to do. The ordinances he is proposing serve to establish legal equality for all citizens, they don’t seek to elevate one group above another, nor do they seek to create “special protections” for one class of citizen. They seek to ensure that all Salt Lake City residents are treated equally.
Enter the bigots. Of course, mere mention of same-sex, gay, homosexual, lesbian, transgender and you’ve got the attention of Utah’s institutions of bigotry: the Eagle Forum, the Sutherland Institute, and the LDS Church. The first two are easy to understand, they’re just hyperconservatives that march in lockstep to the drums of the “Christian” right. The LDS Church however, never ceases to amaze me with their bigotry and hypocrisy. This is an organization that fled to the frontiers of the West in order to escape persecution. They were pushed out of the United States, basically, because of their beliefs. They formed a state and set up a community in which they were free to practice their beliefs.
How quickly we forget our history. The LDS Church now stands as the single largest roadblock to freedom and equality in the state of Utah. I don’t particularly care if you think that homosexuality is a sin, that’s your right. What isn’t your right, however, is forcing that belief down the throats of other people through law. How is it that an organization that fought for years to obtain its own brand of equality and freedom now feels the need to oppress those that disagree with them?
Really folks, it’s not that hard to understand. We’re all humans, we’re all here on the same planet. We should all be treated equally. End of story.