For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton's third law doesn't just cover physics. It covers politics and culture, especially in the United States. And it is in full force in this country as state legislatures embark on new and creative ways to continue discrimination against sexual and gender minorities. In Florida, the focus has been on the bathroom and attempting to police which restroom a transgender person may use in order to pee and poop. Sorry to be crude, but that really is what this is all about: some Florida lawmakers don't think that trans people who go outside of their homes to, let's say, go to work should be able to use the restroom that fits with their gender identification. They raise the spectre of attacks, particularly on women, in public restrooms by men who want to rape and assault them. Actually, what a MTF transperson wants to do is relieve herself of bodily fluids... in a stall... wipe, wash their hands, and go on their way. I don't identify as transgender, but a bill such as this, where people will be forced to produce a driver's license that shows a gender which conforms with their choice of restroom is of great concern to me on a personal level. I have been followed into restrooms in the Southeastern United States (yes, folks, thus far it has ONLY happened in the South) and been accosted for being in the wrong restroom. My short hair and broad shoulders seem to confuse people. My blue jeans and leather jacket must obscure my womanly features. And some people must believe they are the bathroom police. Having failed to stop marriage equality in Florida, it seems lawmakers are casting about for who is the next vulnerable group they can bully by legislation. And it appears to be the "T" of our community. The bill has found support in the House; thankfully, though, it seems to be of less importance to the State Senate.
But things aren't so lucky in other states where there have been a number of these so-called "Religious Freedom Restoration" acts filed. Indiana has passed this bill and sent it to the Governor. It purports to protect business owners who are seeking redress for being asked to provide services that counter their religious beliefs. What horrors are happening? Well, for instance, with the advance of marriage equality, same-sex couples might want to have a wedding cake.
"Eek!" shrieks the baker. "A wedding cake for two men or two women?!?!"
Or, perhaps, a same-sex couple might want to honeymoon in a hotel.
"Ew!" shudders the hotel manager. "They want to sleep in a bed in my hotel together?"
Due to their deeply-held religious beliefs that me, and the many others like me, are products of Satan, these business people want to be able to use their religion as a means to subvert local ordinances that say they can't deny services to people based on their sexual orientation or (in many cases) gender identification. Again, failing to be able to stop us from getting married, they want to prevent us from living our lives in simple and peaceful harmony with the rest of the population. Love, sadly, remains a battlefield in America.
The terrible thing about this particular type of law is that it doesn't protect anyone's freedom of religion. There is no threat in this country against someone worshipping Jesus Christ or paying homage to other deities. The free exercise of religion, even minority belief systems, is protected by the United States Constitution. And to assert that having to provide services to people you don't like is akin to the type of cruelty and retribution being visited on Christians in other parts of the world is insulting and makes a mockery of very real threats against Christianity. These laws aren't about religious liberty; it's about religious bigotry. And as a Christian, a queer Christian, I say, "Enough!!" I am tired of having the wolves dress up in sheep's clothing, enter the gates, and scatter the sheep away from God by claiming that they're the voice of Christianity and that they're being "persecuted" by laws protecting me and others like me. Christ did not go to the cross and die so that we could continue hating one another. Christ left us with a directive to love one another. You don't have to go to bed with me and my wife; you don't have to attend the wedding for which you are being paid to bake a cake. There are plenty of people in the world who I probably disagree with over one thing or another, but if they come to me for massage therapy services, I'm not going to tell them, "No" unless they act in a manner that is inappropriate and could threaten my license.
Marriage equality is coming to all 50 states, even if it means some of them will be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. The light is coming into the world, but as Jesus notes in John's gospel, the people will turn away and go to darkness. Lord, give me the strength and the compassion to keep lighting the way and coaxing the frightened to leave their dark corners and journey with us toward greater light and Love in the world.