Re­spect on LGBTQ mat­ters should go both ways

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

A few com­ments re­gard­ing Ken­dra John­son’s guest col­umn on the fail­ure of anti-LGBTQ bills in the re­cent Arkansas leg­isla­tive ses­sion (“For­tu­nate Fail­ure,” May 20). No one should be the sub­ject of dis­crim­i­na­tion be­cause of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion/gen­der pref­er­ence/race or re­li­gion or de­nied med­i­cal help or a place to live on those bases. We’re all hu­mans and we all pos­sess a God-given dig­nity and de­serve to be re­spected on that ac­count. We can de­bate in a civil man­ner whether or not it’s ap­pro­pri­ate legally to sanc­tion same-sex mar­riage or to al­low males with gen­der iden­tity is­sues into women’s bath­rooms and locker rooms.

The wicket be­comes sticky, though, when we in­voke the ral­ly­ing cry “dis­crim­i­na­tion,” es­pe­cially when a per­son’s or an in­sti­tu­tion’s re­li­gious be­liefs are in­volved or there is con­cern about a girl’s mod­esty when a male wants to use her public re­stroom. The LGBTQ com­mu­nity has been em­pow­ered by re­cent le­gal vic­to­ries that should be­gin to lessen acts of dis­crim­i­na­tion against them. How­ever, dis­crim­i­na­tion cuts two ways. The florist, the baker, the caterer, the pho­tog­ra­pher or the min­is­ter who re­fuses to pro­vide ser­vices for an event for re­li­gious rea­sons stands to be heav­ily fined or even to lose his or her busi­ness be­cause they, in con­science, won’t pro­vide ser­vices for, say, a same-sex wed­ding. At best, they run the risk of be­ing de­cried as big­ots. The shoe is then on the other foot.

When rea­son­able peo­ple dis­agree on these mat­ters, in­stead of law­suits, there should be re­spect — “I’m sorry, but my re­li­gious be­liefs pre­vent me from help­ing you in this mat­ter; the place down the street will as­sist you. Thank you for com­ing in.”

But what can and has hap­pened is that the cus­tomer, un­der the cover of le­gal em­pow­er­ment, brings a law­suit against the busi­ness owner which can lead to stag­ger­ing fines all the way to bank­ruptcy for that owner. Is the owner dis­crim­i­nat­ing un­der the cam­ou­flage of re­li­gious be­liefs in re­fus­ing ser­vice? Who knows? But that owner de­serves as much of a break as the cus­tomer who en­joys his or her own newly ac­quired le­gal pro­tec­tion.

At the end of her com­men­tary John­son in­vokes “the prom­ise of fair­ness.” Sounds good, but fair­ness goes both ways. We live in a bro­ken world, so we need laws to level the play­ing field. It’s still not to­tally level, but nei­ther side should try to tip what equilib­rium there is to its own ex­clu­sive ad­van­tage. REV. DAVID LESIEUR Rogers

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