Sexual Orientation, Freedom, and the Law

Tonight, Springfield, Missouri’s City Council is going to revisit an issue it put on the back burner two years ago. It is an Ordinance that, if passed, will place the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community into the protected class category the same as women and minorities. It will prevent an employer from discriminating against any person LGB or T in that business owner’s hiring practice; it will place landlords at odds with city law if they discriminate in their leasing practices of that same community; it will be a violation of the law for a business owner to deny service to a potential customer due to their Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity (SOGI) – meaning their status as a member of the LGBT Community. The penalty for a business owner if found in violation of this potential law if passed? $1,000 fine and/or 180 days in jail.

Now, before I begin the discussion, I want to make something very clear. I hope those reading this blog that are opposed to it will see that there is no bigotry involved, no direct religious aspect involved, and no assumptions involved. I’m going to try and approach this from a logical, legal, and while I have my opinion, I hope an objective standpoint. I will add that some of the people I admire most in life are part of the community we are discussing, and this is nothing personal… I love and don’t judge; I’m as flawed a man as any; I believe that we all have our paths we choose in life and we must own them; and I believe I am no more credible a judge than the next man.

I also am a firm believer in freedom and man’s free will.

With that, let’s make sure we are on the same ground when defining freedom.

Freedom: the ability for one man to pursue his own self interests as long as doing so does not impede on the next man from doing the same. When there is a conflict, the default goes to the man on whose property the conflict resides or is about (property being anything one owns, including money). There are very few exceptions, but as a rule of thumb we are going to stick with this definition.

So, let’s visit what has been deemed the “SOGI Ordinance.” For me, this is not about bigotry, intolerance, hatred, or lack of understanding. Of those I have met who agree with me on what should happen to this bill I have yet to meet anybody that disagrees with my belief on why, though many people do in fact take the religious perspective as the main perspective in their argument. For me it is an issue of: (1) Safety; (2) Property Rights; (3) the 1st Amendment; (4) The Role of Government; (5) Tolerance.

Let’s take them one at a time:

  1. Safety: The proponents of this Bill will have you believe there is no other alternative and that doing this will only bring equality and harmony, tolerance and acceptance. What they won’t tell you about are the safety issues with this Ordinance – that is both the economic safety and the physical safety of the individual. What do I mean?
    1. If passed, this bill will allow any man who claims he feels like a woman to enter a woman’s restroom in WalMart, Applebees, gas station, or any other public venue. This is not about a concern so much of the “T” community – though there is that concern. Three words for Springfield: Craig Michael Wood (here, here, and here). All it takes is one sick pervert to decide he “feels like a woman” and having ill intent to destroy the heart of this community once more.
    2. If passed, this ordinance will not only enforce the non-discrimination of hiring and of leasing property, but also from services. If you host weddings you will be forced to host those of gay couples regardless of your convictions – just like in New York. If you are a photographer you will be forced to conduct wedding and engagement shoots for gay couples regardless of it violating your conscience – just like in New Mexico. If you own a bakery and tell a gay couple your religious beliefs would be violated if you made their wedding cake, you can be told otherwise by the police power of government, and you will make that cake – just like in Colorado.  Remember, in Springfield the punishment can be up to $1,000 fine and 180 days in the slammer… not to mention the fact that regardless of the validity of the complaint by the LGBT community member, your business will be all over the media. And this, all because a business owner decided to place his beliefs over the dollar.
  2. Property Rights: Really quick, you don’t have the right to a job! You don’t have the right to tell somebody what to do with their money! If you don’t like their point of view, their beliefs, their convictions, go somewhere else! It’s called the free market!
  3. The 1st Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” Let’s consider the second part of the quote – the Congress shall make no law “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” with regards to religion. Now, there has been 200+ years of litigation revolving around what that term means. However, I would defer to the Father of the Constitution first: “James Madison’s statement that religion includes “the manner of discharging” duties to God….” As a linear thought, we can conclude that he didn’t say, “Only on Sundays,” or “Only when at church” – it says “exercise” means the manner in which we discharge our beliefs. As for my belief, I believe I have been charged to fear God in all I do and obey his commandments. I believe that pertains to every conscious decision I make – it’s not reserved for particular times and places – it means all the time and in all I do. And if we are to violate this law, have we the right to tell Muslims that because their religious garb offends us they have no right to exercise their religion? After all, they need to tolerate and accept me and my wants and expectations.  
  4. Role of Government: If we are able to be told how we are to practice our convictions and beliefs even on our own property, what is it the government can’t tell us to do?
  5. Tolerance: For two years I have asked the same question and never had a cogent answer given. I am told I need to tolerate and even accept others for who they are; I have been told I need to be non-judgmental; I have been told I shouldn’t discriminate because of a different lifestyle, belief, or conviction than mine. Shouldn’t that same ideal be reciprocated? Where is the tolerance, acceptance, non-discrimination, and lack of judgment towards me and my lifestyle, beliefs, and convictions? Jussayin’, if that’s not hypocrisy, I’m not sure what is.

For those paying attention, you are going to hear some things said tonight and in the near future that I would like to rebut ahead of time.

You are going to hear that if you oppose this Ordinance you are a bigot and religious zealot. No, actually I don’t want to interfere in any way or tell others what to do with their life. That’s their prerogative. However, I do have a problem with them saying I don’t have the same rights they do with regards to me pursuing my own interests.

This fight is going to be compared to that of slavery and women’s suffrage. However, at no time has the LGBT community been enslaved, denied the right to vote, made to use separate water fountains and restrooms, or lynched systematically and institutionally because they were LGB or T.

We are going to be told that there was a survey done in which 60%+ of respondents either witnessed discrimination or have been discriminated against. This survey was done by the same people who are trying to get this Ordinance passed (PROMO), it surveyed less than 300 people across the state of Missouri (population 6+ million), and less than 100 of those respondents had Springfield addresses (Springfield population 150,000+). Hardly reliable given the source and complete lack of statistical validity.

We are going to be preached at and told to be tolerant of alternative lifestyles. Please refer to the question posed in my 5th point above: “Where is the tolerance, acceptance, non-discrimination, and lack of judgment towards me and my lifestyle, beliefs, and convictions?”

I really hope I’m not perceived as being hateful. I know personally I’m not bigoted. I don’t want to come off as mad or spiteful. I’m not. I am, however, very concerned that inch by inch, we as Americans are having our rights taken away under the guise protection, help, and charity.

As somebody who has been called a Spic, who has been in fist fights because my mother was called a “N***er Lover”, had a grandfather who called his son-in-law (my uncle) a raghead, and listened to workplace jokes that were racist against all of the above, I have no room for hatred… it sickens me and I despise it. However, it exists and always will. The only thing legislation like this does is make people more partisan to their own point of view, and less likely to “tolerate” others when in fact those others are forcing their way in to the lives of those who aren’t doing anything other than trying to get by in today’s world.

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The Lens in Which We View Life

I was very excited recently to sit down with an old friend and political mentor, Bob, for a breakfast at the Cook’s Kettle in Springfield. We have been friends for a while, but the way life has it we get so busy and forget to have the occasional meeting just to visit. I was glad to have the opportunity to do this with Bob.

As Bob and I were preparing to pray over his breakfast platter and my biscuits and gravy, Jim, the operator of the restaurant, came up and gave me a hug. With sincerity Jim told me he has been praying for me and was glad to see me for the first time since I was released from custody in May. He and Bob also know each other, so the three of us briefly visited.

During the quick discussion, Jim explained that he understood my difficulties I have had in life and also of his pride to know me and see me picking myself back up. Jim mentioned an analogy that resonated: While we may fall down, we must get back up; we may have a limp for the rest of our life because of the fall, but that doesn’t keep us from continuing on in life.

After the quick discussion Jim excused himself to allow me and Bob to continue our visit.

Bob and I talked about the analogy Jim gave. While I appreciated the kind words, it was an interesting way Jim looked at life. While the analogy can be valid in many people’s minds, for me it is not.

I told Bob exactly that and went on to explain.

Sure, a man may fall and rise again. That fall may keep him from running full speed again be it due to injury, lack of confidence, or any other number of reasons. But what if the fall itself started long ago, and what many perceived as the fall was simply the inevitable loss of balance that the outside actually sees?

You see, my fall didn’t happen in an altercation on Thanksgiving of 2011; it didn’t happen on New Years’ Day of 2012; and it didn’t happen when I was given the punishment for those two situations and my admitted guilt for my actions. My fall was a process that happened long before those events.

Through many losses of loved ones, my experience in Iraq, and other life-altering experiences, I went through many things in life that I may have overcome, but never dealt with. It festered. It simmered. It laid wait. It eventually came to a head. Much like the athlete who is administered cortisone shots to avoid the reality of his injury and that injury eventually catches up to him, I numbed myself through running my body ragged, and by self-medicating. Eventually the running and medicating didn’t work any longer, I broke, and I was forced to deal with the fall and injury I had ignored for so very long.

However, the limp in my walk was already there. It was after that I began to fix the injury and made plans to run again – run without pain. Father with love. Husband with sincerity. Be a friend with humility. And above all else, serve my Heavenly Father with a meek heart. That is the plan. That is the marathon of life I want to run.

It isn’t that we always have to see the misfortunes in life as something we can’t recover from. Rather, I see them as learning experiences, building blocks, and obstacles to not only overcome but deal with. For if life is an experience – a test of will, then the harder the obstacle is the more opportunity we have to build, to learn, to overcome and deal with… to gain wisdom and be better because of it.

That is the choice we have – to be the victim or the victor.

The victor decides there doesn’t have to be a limp, not if we consider life experiences spiritual strength training.