Thursday, June 13, 2013

Queer Quote: Michigan House Speaker (R) "Struggling" With LGBT Equality

Jase Bolger (R) is Speaker of the Michigan State House of Representatives
What is it with Republicans and not understanding the basic ideas behind the words "equal treatment under the law" and "civil rights"? The latest GOP politician to stick his foot in his mouth by expressing his honest beliefs about these issues is one of the most powerful politicians in the great State of Michigan, Jase Bolger, the Republican Speaker of the State House of Representatives.

Michigan has a law prohibiting discrimination in employment by private entities called the Elliott-Larsen act. It includes the following section:
"The opportunity to obtain employment, housing and other real estate, and the full and equal utilization of public accommodations, public service, and educational facilities without discrimination because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status as prohibited by this act, is recognized and declared to be a civil right."
That's a pretty expansive list (many states don't include height and weight in their civil rights laws). Note it doesn't just cover employment but lots of other important areas like education and public accomwodations as well. There are discussions going on in the Michigan legislature to expand the categories to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. You can read below what Speaker Bolger said about this topic on the record to Michigan Live, it is pretty shocking, and it is today's Queer Quote:
“I want to respect gay individuals. I don’t want to send a message as a society that we are intolerant. I think that we need to respect people who are different from us, whether they’re different because they believe differently, whether they’re different because they have different skin color, or whether they’re different because they’re straight or gay. The other side of that equation is I also want to respect people’s religious beliefs. And that’s where the struggle really comes in. I want to respect gay people, I want to respect people who have deeply held religious beliefs.  
 “And so legally – as a lawmaker now – you go back and you look at Elliott-Larsen. And it gets very difficult to try to balance those two. And that encapsulates the struggle. The struggle is how do we respect individuals on both sides of this question. I want to respect the individual rights of someone who’s gay. And I also, in doing that, don’t want to force somebody to ignore or violate their religious beliefs."
"Struggling"? What's the struggle? Why are there "two sides" to this debate? One side says "I want to be able to continue  treat those people badly because of who they are" and the other side says, "everyone should be given the opportunity to contribute to the best of their abilities without fear of discrimination based on who they are (or who they love)." And you think there are two sides to this debate? One of these sides is intolerant and the other is not. Mr. Bolger, I'll let you figure out which is which! #WTF!

If someone says it violates their religious beliefs to allow women to have equal access to public accommodations (e.g. driving, or even working in some professions) is the state supposed to kowtow to that belief? What if they say God told them that white people are the chosen few and all the dark people are there to be subservient to others? (Sound familiar?) Religion has been  used to justify some horrific things, which is why our democracy is based upon the principles of separation of church and state.

What part of civil in the term "civil rights" makes this concept difficult to understand (especially for Republicans)? I know most of them are white, but there are lots and lots of white people who understand this idea, so it seems to be something which attracts people to Republicanism makes them not understand the Golden Rule of treating other people how you would want to be treated. What makes this even more annoying for non-religious people like myself is that "religion" is already a protected category and some religious people purport to use their religion to deny rights to other people that they already enjoy. That's just straight up hypocrisy in my book, and it must be called out and condemned. It should also be noted that there are plenty of religious people who will say that their religious views make it imperative that everyone be treated equally (i.e. "We are all God's children") but since we are talking about public policy and the text of actual legislation, to me religious belief should not even be a topic of discussion in this arena.

Hopefully, Michigan will move forward with updating their civil rights act to include protections for LGBT people. After all, Michigan is a blue state, and the 2014 elections are coming up. Jus' sayin'!

Hat/tip to Towleroad.

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