Spring-time re­newal

Si­mon Wil­liamson lives with his hus­band in het­eronor­ma­tively-as­sim­ila­tive fash­ion in Athens, af­ter a year of sur­viv­ing ru­ral Ge­or­gia.

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

“I very much ap­pre­ci­ate that the mar­ket agrees that dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT peo­ple in the man­ner de­scribed in HB 757 is wrong; it is great to have our peo­ple on the right side of the mar­ket in this day and age. But don’t ex­pect that to con­tinue for­ever.”

Any­one who has ever picked up a news­pa­per would more than likely have known that the mar­riage fight at the Supreme Court last year was one of many bat­tles in­volved in our war to be treated like peo­ple.

We’ve fought a lot, through our mag­nif­i­cent or­ga­ni­za­tions, ask­ing for ba­sic things like bar­ring hous­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion, and en­cod­ing into law things like not be­ing fired from our jobs when our boss finds out what we like to do with our gen­i­tals. We might have won the mar­riage de­bate – I’m not as scorn­ful as some about that par­tic­u­lar vic­tory as I had a dog in the fight; I’m an im­mi­grant through mar­riage – but there is more to do that af­fects the prac­ti­cal lives of far more peo­ple than the abil­ity to get mar­ried.

We saw this with the pas­sage of HB 757, aka the “re­li­gious lib­erty” bill, which is some of the premier push­back in this state against the na­tion­ally in­creas­ing wave of gay rights. This has been beaten down through the ac­tions of ac­tivists – I have a friend who has been on the phone for two weeks work­ing against this bill – and prod­ding from cor­po­rate Amer­ica.

Big busi­ness might be help­ing out the gay rights fight, and in­deed forced Gover­nor Deal’s hand into a veto on Mon­day. But don’t think our cor­po­rate al­lies in this fight are go­ing to stick with us when it comes to other very real and daily prob­lems faced by real peo­ple.

The Em­ploy­ment Non-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act – the one that says you can’t fire LGBT folks for, you know, be­ing LGBT – re­mains too bur­den­some for busi­ness to get the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to even in­tro­duce onto the floor. Since the act was first in­tro­duced, in 1994, it has failed to gar­ner enough votes on more oc­ca­sions than Mitt Rom­ney.

Back when we lived in ru­ral New­ton County, we noted the ab­sence of pub­lic op­pro­brium weapons avail­able in big me­dia mar­kets like At­lanta. I am fairly cer­tain that if the fire chief of Butts County dis­trib­uted books about gay peo­ple, a lo­cal mayor wouldn’t come out guns blaz­ing like Kasim Reed did against Kelvin Cochran. One of the great­est clubs we can wield against dis­crim­i­na­tion is a loud me­dia, which isn’t avail­able, or as agree­able, as those based in and around Mid­town.

Ge­or­gia’s big busi­nesses are mak­ing the right call, and the pres­sure they put on the gover­nor is likely more im­pres­sive than what civil or­ga­ni­za­tions were able to force on their own. The gover­nor wants Ge­or­gia to lead in busi­ness (a very rea­son­able aim), and laws like HB 757 don’t al­low him to boast about that.

But we must be wary of al­low­ing cor­po­rate Amer­ica to take up this fight for us, in­stead of our own or­ga­ni­za­tions. While our in­ter­ests con­verge on this re­li­gious lib­erty bill, they di­verge on oth­ers. Com­bat­ing the ho­mo­pho­bia and trans­pho­bia of cer­tain seg­ments of so­ci­ety will re­quire reg­u­la­tion, and ap­pro­pri­a­tions, and maybe more train­ing of the police force, and the ju­di­cial sys­tem, and health­care (in­clud­ing the state-fund­ing of some pro­ce­dures) and new rules for schools (even the semi-pri­vate and pri­vate ones).

We aren’t go­ing to get a mass of cor­po­rate al­lies for those. I very much ap­pre­ci­ate that the mar­ket agrees that dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT peo­ple in the man­ner de­scribed in HB 757 is wrong; it is great to have our peo­ple on the right side of the mar­ket in this day and age. But don’t ex­pect that to con­tinue for­ever.

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