LGBT for Straight People: A New Right in New Hampshire

LGBT for Straight People: A New Right in New Hampshire

May 31, 2009 LGBT Lessons for Straight People 3

Gay EducationIn recent months, we’ve seen several states legalize same sex marriage. New Hampshire appears to be next. Both the House and the Senate approved bills to legalize same-sex marriage but Gov. John Lynch wanted additional language that would make it clear that “churches and religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages or to provide services, facilities and goods of any kind to participants.”

Gov. Lynch, a Democrat, explains why he sent back this legislation.

At its core, HB 436 simply changes the term ‘civil union’ to ‘civil marriage.’ Given the cultural, historical and religious significance of the word marriage, this is a meaningful change.

I have heard, and I understand, the very real feelings of same-sex couples that a separate system is not an equal system. That a civil law that differentiates between their committed relationships and those of heterosexual couples undermines both their dignity and the legitimacy of their families.

I have also heard, and I understand, the concerns of our citizens who have equally deep feelings and genuine religious beliefs about marriage. They fear that this legislation would interfere with the ability of religious groups to freely practice their faiths.

I have examined the laws of other states, including Vermont and Connecticut, which have recently passed same-sex marriage laws. Both go further in protecting religious institutions than the current New Hampshire legislation.

Gov. Lynch appears to be a man who truly listens to the points of view on both sides of an issue. Looking at his record of accomplishments, he has done a lot for the state of New Hampshire . One could make the argument that he is trying to please everyone and we all know that can lead to failure.  I’m being an optimist here and hoping that Gov. Lynch is a sincere and caring person.

The New Hampshire Senate agreed with the Governor’s modifications but the House did not. The two chambers reached a compromise that the Governor has said that he will sign.

The new version, which is expected to come up for a vote Wednesday, adds a sentence specifying that all religious organizations, associations or societies have exclusive control over their religious doctrines, policies, teachings and beliefs on marriage. It also clarifies that church-related organizations that serve charitable or educational purposes are exempt from having to provide insurance and other benefits to same sex spouses of employees. The earlier version said ‘charitable and educational’ instead of ‘charitable or educational.(Emphasis added.)

Sen. Sheila Roberge, R-Bedford, wanted to add wording that would allow businesses and individuals to decline to provide wedding services if doing so would violate their “consciences or sincerely held religious beliefs.” This was rejected by other representatives, stating this would open the door to all kinds of discrimination.

Rep. Anthony DiFruscia, R-Windham, responded to Sen. Roberge’s proposal with “Hypothetically, if I’m a Nazi — which I’m not — and I felt white supremacy should take place, do I now get an exemption because my conscience says if you’re not blond and blue-eyed, I can discriminate against you?”

What does this legislation mean in every day words?

No church would be required to perform wedding services for same-sex couples. Since a church can decline to perform a wedding service for anyone, this is rather moot. Interestingly enough, our minister will not marry Catholic couples who are on their second marriage. You see, they cannot get married in the Catholic Church since they are divorced. After marrying a few of these couples, and then watching them go back to their Catholic church, he felt that these individuals did not take their faith seriously and he now refuses to marry them unless they belong to our church.

Religious organizations that serve charitable or educational purposes would not be required to provide benefits to same sex couples. Since no business is required to do this now, this also seems moot. Our own government doesn’t do this.

Do I know if the LGBT community finds this compromise reasonable? I don’t know. I have conflicted feelings. But I was even more surprised to find this.

We all believe that Federal Law prohibits discrimination in employment based on religion, sex or national origin. For the most part, that is true. But it turns out, there is an exception in the law. The law that covers “Unlawful Employment Practices”  Title 42, Chapter 21, Subchapter VI, § 2000e-2 contains an exception clause as follows:

(e) Businesses or enterprises with personnel qualified on basis of religion, sex, or national origin; educational institutions with personnel of particular religion.

Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter,

(1) it shall not be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to hire and employ employees, ……..on the basis of his religion, sex, or national originin those certain instances where religion, sex, or national origin is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise, and

(2) it shall not be an unlawful employment practice for a school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning to hire and employ employees of a particular religion if such school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning is, in whole or in substantial part, owned, supported, controlled, or managed by a particular religion or by a particular religious corporation, association, or society, or if the curriculum of such school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution of learning is directed toward the propagation of a particular religion.

But apparently, these values are for sale. Bob Jones University in South Carolina refused to enroll black students until 1971, eight years after the court had ordered such integration. The IRS determined that private schools with “racially discriminatory admissions policies” were not entitled to federal tax exemption. After a failed lawsuit, in 1975 the school decided to admit students of any race. It seems to me that if being racist was a true part of their faith, they would have been willing to either stop taking federal money or pay their taxes.

Are you noticing the pattern here? Every time a group fights for equal rights, the opposition is religious groups. And we end up giving in and giving them exemptions. I wonder how far this logic could go. We look at how some Islamic groups treat women and we are appalled. Women being stoned to death, women unable to drive or be seen in public without a man, women wearing burkas. I’m certainly appalled. How can we create loopholes for religions? What would stop bringing back slavery, stoning women to death for not being virgins? People make ridiculous arguments that same-sex marriage paves the way for marrying your dog. What do exceptions for religions pave the way for? Don’t believe me? Read Leviticus and tell me if you want to live in that world.

Which leads us to, the right wing Christians are not happy. They feel that this legislation does not go far enough. From Everyday

By Peter Elliott
Contributing Editor

Hausknecht, judicial analyst for Focus on the Family Action, said, “The fix proposed falls woefully short of any serious protection of religious liberties.”

Hausknecht cited in particular the New Mexico case of Elaine and Jonathan Hugenin. The conservative Christian couple owns Elane Photography in Albuquerque. Vanessa Willock contacted Elane asking it to photograph a commitment ceremony with her girlfriend. After the Hugenins declined, Willock filed a charge against the company with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. The commission found the company guilty of discrimination and fined it $6,000.

“When (Lynch) said he wanted to revisit the language that’s OK, but it barely scratches the surface,” Hausknecht said. “There are a whole host of small businesses that will be effected (sic) by this and punished if they don’t agree with what is happening.”

Rep. DeFruscia, a Republican, hit the nail on the head. Where would this end if, on an individual basis or a corporate basis, the private sector could decide to refuse their service to anyone for any reason? Could a server refuse to serve beef at a restaurant if the server is Hindu, or pork if the server is Jewish? Could an atheist who works at Barnes and Noble refuse to sell a Bible to a customer? Could a photographer refuse to photograph a couple that isn’t photogenic?

Picture this. Mr. Hausknecht is in a car accident and is taken to the local hospital. The ER physician, who is gay, recognizes him. Can the ER physician refuse to treat Mr. Hausknecht? Why not?  I think we would all agree that the physician is bound both by law and ethics to treat Mr. Hausknecht. Would we agree if the patient were gay and Mr. Hausknecht were the physician?  Can the gay ER physician keep Mr. Hausknecht’s wife from staying with her husband? That feels wrong, doesn’t it? Yet, it happens to gay and lesbian couples on a routine basis.

Taking photographs is not part of religious liberties. Neither is selling life insurance, as Lutherans and Catholics do. Neither is running an adoption agency, a catering service, a hospital, an apartment building, a pharmacy, a hotel, or a nursing home. These are all businesses. None require belief in a particular faith to provide their services. For individuals to refuse to provide legal business services to individuals that they do not like based on their own religious beliefs is discrimination.

I know that it might be tempting here to try to draw an analogy to physicians who do not want to provide abortions or pharmacists that do not want to fill prescriptions for birth control. I’m not going to digress into those topics. I bring it up because I think this analogy doesn’t hold up. The proper analogy would be, the pharmacist decides to whom he will provide birth control and to whom he will not. You’re married? I’ll fill your prescription. You aren’t married? That’s against my religion, sorry, no pills for you.

Will LGBT people file a lawsuit every time they are refused service? My guess is, probably not. Why? Not because they are respecting the business owner’s belief system. Most people just don’t have the time or interest – or the money – to take this on.  So feel free to advertise that you prefer not to provide services to the LGBT community. They will gladly take their dollars elsewhere.

I would gladly make this deal with anti-gay religious faiths. You can have your laws that allow your churches to discriminate in the name of God. Not your business, not individuals. Just get your religion off other people’s civil rights. Keep your bigotry in your church closet. Keep your opinons out of the law. Stop funding politicians and legislation. Use your money to help people. All people – without any discrimination. Otherwise, start paying taxes on the money you bring in. You want to be exempt from the law? Pay for it. contributor geekgirlGeekgirl is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles.

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3 Responses

  1. This was brilliantly written. Very well thought out! With each sentence I thought, “and when I finish reading this my comment will include…” but I would read the next line, lo and behold, everything was addressed! My goodness, you have such insight!

    Thank you for most thought provoking and amazing read!

  2. wedding wording

    Forever Married…

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