LGBT, RFRA — April 2, 2015 at 9:54 am

In the pursuit of LGBT equality, we’ve got to keep the faith


This isn’t about religion. It’s about faith in humankind.

I’m not a religious person. I’m spiritual — Buddhist-inspired — but not religious.

But I have faith. I have faith that people are better than what we are seeing in those who would use religion as a license to discriminate.

Laws like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed in Indiana don’t just discriminate against the LGBT community. They have the potential to hurt everyone. But because the LGBT community often doesn’t have equal protection under the law, it’s much easier to use RFRA to discriminate against them.

Discrimination is wrong. The LGBT community knows it. Allies like me — and millions of others — know it. The deafening outcry and impressive high-profile backlash after Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the RFRA bill into law convinces me that there are more people in this country who support LGBT equality than those who oppose it.

That’s why I have faith. I have faith in humanity, and I have it in abundance.

Indiana is not the first state to pass a RFRA law, but their law as originally passed is more discriminatory than those we’ve seen before. Many of us worry it’s a trend. Although Georgia, North Carolina and Arkansas have backed off their proposed RFRA legislation (for now), and the Indiana legislature is working on amending their law to ensure non-discrimination protections for everyone, other states are still considering RFRA bills, including Michigan. (Update: Indiana Republicans voted down the first proposed amendment that would add LGBT protections.)

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy to beat measure after measure, especially when you look at states like Michigan that have multiple RFRA-related bills pending. Not all these bills are classic RFRA bills and, no, they’re not all “the same” as the federal RFRA law.

Some of the state RFRA-related legislation focuses on specific services, such as healthcare, claiming to be all about protecting “religious freedom” — liberty that isn’t at risk, because it’s protected by the U.S. Constitution. A bill in Michigan that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to turn away would-be parents if the agency has religious objections to them, even though many receive state funding, is only one example.

I’m absolutely in support of religious freedom, but not at the expense of someone else’s equal rights. The LGBT community shouldn’t have to wonder whether a police officer, doctor or landlord will refuse to serve them simply because of who they are, what they believe or who they love. Neither should anyone else.

So we are in for a fight, make no mistake. But it’s a fight I know we can win.

Because I have faith. I have faith that love is stronger than hate. I have faith that when good people come together for a common cause, there’s nothing we can’t do. It won’t happen overnight, but I have faith that those of us who support LGBT equality will triumph over those who don’t, if for no other reason than the fact that there are more of us.

But we must be vigilant. RFRA supporters are not backing down and their attacks are relentless. Despite Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s promise to veto standalone RFRA legislation that isn’t accompanied by civil rights protections for the LGBT community, supporters of Michigan’s RFRA legislation say they’ll forge ahead. So we must all keep a watch on what’s happening in our states, and speak out against discrimination wherever we see it, whoever it’s directed at. We can’t stop now. We’ve come too far.

I have faith the positive voices will drown out the hateful ones.

I have faith in the people who are uniting to spearhead boycotts — which may appeal to RFRA supporters’ economic interests if appealing to their humanity isn’t enough — or supporting non-discrimination initiatives like the Open for Service campaign, which helps businesses tell customers they serve everyone. I have faith when coalitions join forces to pass legislation that guarantees the equal rights of the LGBT community, a fair compromise if RFRA bills can’t be defeated.

I have faith that good Americans won’t stand idly by and see their communities — and, for the faithful, the true intent of their religious beliefs — destroyed for the sake of political ideology or bigotry.

Along with so many others, I’ll keep fighting the good fight. Discrimination is wrong, and it’s time for the LGBT community to have the same rights as everyone else.

I have faith it will happen. Because it’s the right thing to do, and a majority of Americans know it.

[Image credit: | Wikimedia Commons]