There is a movement or backlash in America to revoke the established protections regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation. This seems to have started in 2003 with both Virginia Tech’s repeal (and later reinstatement) of Sexual Orientation protection and the state of Minnesota with House Bill File 341. This bill, inspired by Conservative Christian group Minnesota Family Council, requires that the term “Sexual Orientation” be taken out of the protections defined in the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
As you ponder how exactly people can decide how a “right” can be repealed, in 2004 the White House Office of Special Council, Scott Bloch, altered the web information and appeal form content on discrimination and harassment to eliminate “sexual orientation.” The Office of Special Council is the place where federal employees complain regarding harassment, which, for LGBT harassment, was now physically impossible. Scott Bloch was promoted to this position from the White House’s Office of Faith-Based Programs. Scott explained that “the statutes protecting people from racial and gender discrimination do not apply to sexual orientation” but that he would protect people from discrimination from perceived conduct or orientation. So, if you are straight and people harass you because you were at a pride parade, you will be defended, if you are actually gay, you won’t. This was immediately followed by the Social Security Agency trying to remove “Sexual orientation” from it’s discrimination clause in contract renegotiations. In 2005, due to frustration regarding continued refusal to protect gay and lesbian employees a US Congress Bill called “Clarification of Federal Employment Protection Act” was created to try and force the Office of Special Council to protect sexual orientation. It remains awaiting vote.
The Office of the Special Council is not the only federal agency which takes cues from conservative Christianity regarding LGBT issues. The IRS, who previously announced that in upholding the DOMA ruling, they would not accept joint tax returns of legally married US gay couples, this year overturned an earlier ruling that no medical expenses regarding treatment for transsexuals, including surgery would be allowed. In citing the evidence to make their decision, they used, instead of any medical or legal journals, an article from the Conservative Christian magazine, First Things, written by the man who convinced the Vatican that transsexualism doesn’t exist. First Things also has an article entitled “Homosexuality and the Truth” by Elizabeth Moberly, you may remember her from last weeks blog about her belief that lesbians could be “cured” with a makeover.
I recommend a few stiff drinks to try and comprehend why the IRS is making policy decisions from Conservative Christian magazines, meanwhile you might enjoy the Alice in Wonderland perversity of the Governor of Kentucky, who announced April 11, 2006 as “Diversity Day” and then used that day to eliminate protection for state workers regarding either “sexual orientation” or “Gender Identity.”
While the government “for the people” (was that all the people, or just straight people?) is deciding which type of diversity is worth protecting, conservative Christians are continuing to target and bully large corporations. The American Family Association (AFA) is the epicenter of all Christian boycotts, going after everyone from Disneyland (for having a “gay day”) to Johnson and Johnson (for advertising on Ellen). Frustrated at their late start and total failure with closing down “Desperate Housewives”, the AFA has moved to banning shows before they even air, targetting NBC’s Book of Daniel, a TV show about a minister with a gay son, by getting in 500,000 complaint emails before airing and threatening all potential advertisers with boycott. The show was cancelled after three episodes.
General Meetings appear to be a new battleground with Bank of America facing a stockholder resolution to remove “Sexual Orientation” from employee discrimination. American Express defeated an identical resolution on April 24th 2006 and now there is a similar proxy vote at Ford’s General Meeting on May 11th. Ford went unsuccessfully to the SEC to try and remove the proxy as it will threaten not only their image with gay rights groups (who know that Ford is under an AFA boycott due to pulling and then reinstating gay-friendly ads), but also may exclude them from recruiting workers from universities with non-discrimination policies. For businesses, gay rights or lack thereof means money, and companies tend to jump to the side they think will do them the most financial good.
As a person whose current apartment manager didn’t want to rent to a lesbian couple (eventually informing us that the building owner would be told we were "sisters") and having lost a job due to orientation harassment, these are not abstract issues. Anytime a government agency or representative starts dictating who has rights and who doesn’t based on the most extreme views of Christianity, I worry. Anytime someone celebrates “diversity” by giving in to those who want to eliminate it, I worry. I should hope that religious groups deciding what you should be allowed to watch, to buy or who to hire based on whether I or people like me are given equal rights would cause, if not anger, at least irritation. I worry for the new targets (or “third wave”) for Conservative gay-hating groups, those who don’t have as many options: Teens & Gay Christians (covered in Part II)
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