Posted: Feb 28, 2014 10:00 AM
 
Multiple states are trying to take us back to the days of state-sanctioned discrimination and separate-but-equal mentalities. Do they not remember the Jim Crow era? How are we here, again, in 2014?

As strange as it is to write something like this in 2014, let's talk about why "separate but equal" doesn't work. Apparently, this is still unclear in people's minds, as evidenced by recent state attempts to bring back Jim Crow era communities.

Georgia and Arizona have proposed bills that would nullify discrimination laws by guaranteeing no legal recourse for private business owners denying service to people based on their own "sincerely held religious tenet or belief" (source). Similar bills have been attempted in Kansas, Tennessee and South Dakota, only they target gay people specifically whereas Georgia and Arizona are more into catch-all discrimination.

In other words, if your religion believes same-sex relationships are immoral, you could deny service to gay couples. You don't have to seat them in your restaurant. You don't have to let their kids in your school. You don't have to allow them in your taxi.

If you can prove a "sincerely held religious tenet or belief" that women shouldn't work, you can refuse to hire females. Wow, that sounds fun. That sure sounds like a state I'd like to live in (um, sarcasm).

As summarized by New Republic, the effects of Arizona's SB1062 would have been mind-boggling (thankfully, it was vetoed): "A restaurateur could deny service to an out-of-wedlock mother, a cop could refuse to intervene in a domestic dispute if his religion allows for husbands beating their wives and a hotel chain could refuse to rent rooms to Jews, Hindus or Muslims" (source).

How is basic decency not enough?

Since "basic decency toward humanity" apparently falls short as sufficient reason to not legally protect discrimination, perhaps we can think about the fact that we already tried this from 1896 to 1964. Yes, remember the whole "Plessy v. Ferguson" state-sanctioned segregation, separate-but-equal thing? Yes, that.

Remember how it resulted in "white-only" drinking fountains, schools, restaurants and parks? Remember the Civil Rights Movement? Martin Luther King, Jr.? Rosa Parks and sit-ins and marches on D.C.?

Remember the Civil Rights Movement?
Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Rosa Parks and sit-ins and marches on D.C.?
Yes, right. OK good.
What exactly is the difference, in effect?

Yes, right. OK good. What exactly is the difference, in effect? In 1920, a restaurant could deny entrance to people based on race. Today, if these bills pass, a restaurant could deny entrance to whomever they please, provided they can prove it violates their hate-based backward convictions… err, I mean "sincere religious belief."

Rooted in hatred

And please don't tell me "hate" isn't involved. It is, and here's why: If hate weren't involved, they wouldn't have a problem providing a service to somebody who doesn't share their convictions. If hate weren't involved, they would see a gay couple walk into their restaurant and say to themselves, "Huh, there are two humans deserving of kindness and decency, just like everybody else." Why? Because they're human. But no. Instead we have a bunch of bigoted humans parading "religious conviction" as justification for their discrimination.

You know who else did that? The Ku Klux Klan. Look it up.

I know what you're going to say: "But Janelle, they can just go somewhere else. What about religious freedom! What about the rights of the religious?"

Why is it never equal? Because by definition, one group is always already favored over another.

The only way to respect both sides is to let them separate. There's nothing wrong with separate. Separate doesn't imply "unequal."

But it does, and here's why: "Separate but equal" is never equal. I feel idiotic stating something so profoundly obvious, but clearly it's necessary. Why is it never equal? Because by definition, one group is always already favored over another. In this case, heterosexuals.

Let me put it in other terms: If you're gay, there's a risk you and your partner will be denied service based on that relationship. If you're straight, there is no risk that you and your partner will be denied service based on your relationship (unless there's some homosexual-only religion I don't know about, in which case, do they accept straight people cause I'm totally in). Also, has anybody wondered how exactly the business-owner will determine "gayness?" Pant color? Fabulousness? Just a touch too feminine for a dude, or too masculine for a woman? Or are they "in the clear" as long as they don't go out with their partner or "act too gay?" It's simply baffling in its implications, in the stereotyping it fosters, in its unbridled stupidity.

That's not equal.

And here's another question: Why should laws "protect" people whose religious beliefs have the power to harm others?

That's insane, particularly when the only potential harm to the religious person is a profound ego violation. How are they at risk by serving dinner to a couple they believe lives "immorally?" How is putting a plate of food in front of a lesbian a violation of their civil rights? Because they don't want to? Because their belief system argues against it?

Well check it out. I don't want to pay taxes but I do it anyway for the common good. Also I don't want to go to jail. I know a lot of that tax money goes to wars I don't support. My belief system argues against those wars, and yet, nobody cares. And they shouldn't care.

My personal convictions really shouldn't hold much weight when looking at issues involving a bunch of humans sharing the planet.

Dear people who hate gays: You live in a world with gays. Get over it. Nobody cares.

Don't want to serve people you don't like? Don't open a business serving people.

They're just beliefs. They're thoughts. We've all got them. So why would some of those beliefs be protected by law and others not?

Some people "believe" shooting up grammar schools is necessary. What if their "religious belief" justifies murder? Well of course we'd never allow that because it's absolutely insane. If your belief results in the violation of another's civil rights, your beliefs become irrelevant. Obviously.

If your belief results in the violation of another's civil rights, your beliefs become irrelevant.

Well, apparently not. Apparently if you're a religious extremist with sufficient political power, your beliefs can become more important than basic decency and civil rights, even if they were written into law in 1964: "All persons shall be entitled to full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion or national origin (source)."

People of every race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality fought for years, often with their very lives, for the paragraph you just read. This is the country we strove to become. These are the words won through years of failure, death, discrimination and hatred. I hope we never let a few take us back to the days we relive only to learn from, and never repeat.

We are laying the foundation for our families. Are we moving forward into equality or back to state-sanctioned discrimination?

More on civil rights

How did "freedom of speech" get confused with "no consequences?"
Stop saying women "can't be understood." It's not funny. It's sexist.
Calm down, the Coke commercial is not a threat to your freedom

Photo credit: Robert Kirk/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Topics: