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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Lenin Square, MSU Rutgers Style, and Shanghai Hall

Title catch your eye? Maybe so… At least I hope so.

The Springfield area and Southwest Missouri is often considered a “conservative area.”  After all, when the Springfield was debating whether or not we should make a protected class of the LGBT community, it was quoted by a proponent that if something that left-of-center could be passed here it could be passed anywhere.

The reality, however, is that if we look underneath the surface of Blunt-Mania and Billy Long campaign signs, we have a very different picture – a juxtaposition if you will. You see, if we consider some very important events that have taken place in both the recent and not-so recent past, we see there is an underlying portion of our society that is far from the typical “Springfield Conservative”.

While the purpose of this post is to consider a particularly new occurrence, a review of some of the more liberal highlights of Springfield would be necessary to give context to what would otherwise seem out of the ordinary given our reputation.

A review:

  • Over the course of the debate on the all-inclusive smoking ban in 2009, a local college employee who is well respected said that she would be in favor of limiting the amount of fast-food restaurants that are in Springfield because of the health hazard.
  • To continue on the issue of the smoking ban and add a bit of spice, the city has decided to enhance-target the smokers in the downtown area. You see, the smoking ban left smokers to smoke outside of any “public place”. So they move to the sidewalk. Well the same non-pragmatic liberals that thought this thing up didn’t like the idea of having to walk through groups of smokers on the sidewalk – so they pressed forward with creating a ban on smoking outdoors in the downtown area in general.
  • Leading with the smoking ban, going to the square, we find when local radio show host Nick Reed calls the downtown area “Lenin Square”, he has merit. The same night the local government banned smoking downtown, they also banned skateboarding, “passive” panhandling, and tried to force permits on groups trying to feed the homeless. This, along with the EU style surveillance cameras, gives Reed’s naming of the downtown square a good ring.
  • Again the square: if you are a music group, you’re encouraged to play on the square amplified and all; if you are a sidewalk preacher spreading the Good News, you and your miniature amplifier are not welcome and you will be arrested.
  • In the early 2000’s, Missouri State University’s Social Science Department was the root of a lawsuit. In Brooker vs. Franks, Emily Brooker explained that her religious views were not only the cause of ridicule by a single professor, but the cause of her being ganged up on by numerous staff in official hearings and interrogations. It makes us need to pause and reflect on the fact that this type of suppression is not limited to Rutgers and the like.

These instances should bring us up to date in the reasoning that while we may have Republican based elected officials, we need not fool ourselves into thinking we are a conservative community. After all, it may be the university and elected officials that commit these acts, but do we not have culpability in the fact that this is our community and we are responsible for who we allow to lead us?

Onward with the most recent example of leadership acting like we live in China when it comes to what we can and can’t talk about. City Councilman Jeff Seifried has made an earnest effort for some time to put more police officers on the street in our community. While I disagree with much the guy does, I do agree with him on this issue and the fact that community safety must be the priority at all times. The fact of the matter is that if we don’t feel safe… if we don’t feel protected by those men and women who put their life on the line every time they clock in, we have no reason to worry about anything else… at least that is what Maslow told me in Psych 101.

Apparently Mayor Bob Stephens became weary and tired of hearing Jeff’s rants on that silly safety issue. So, in true Obama Fashion of telling his opposition to “sit down and shut up”, he literally created a resolution that would have oppressed the council’s speech and disallowed any further discussion of public safety issues such as Jeff’s until somebody else somewhere else figured some other stuff out about something or another. A bit tongue and cheek with the “else” rant, but the point is that it is beyond comprehension that we have a mayor that would actually try and pass something that takes away anybody’s right, especially our leadership’s right, to discuss public policy and community safety.

While we luckily had council members stand against the resolution and have it tabled (not voted on and not put in to practice), we need to keep this instance in our memory bank every time the conservative hears he is in a conservative community and feels like he can put his guard down.

It’s when that guard is down that our community comes one step further to being “Shanghai’d”.