Respect on LGBTQ matters should go both ways
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