Scapegoating of LGBTQ people raises alarm

Scapegoating of LGBTQ people raises alarm April 14, 2021
By Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation

Alarmingly, the introduction or enactment of laws that demonize or discriminate against LGBTQ, especially transgendered people, is reaching a fever pitch in the United States, as well as in some other nations.

Last week, even conservative Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson had enough and vetoed a bill, the stridently worded “Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act,” that seeks to effectively ban medical treatment of trans minors. Hutchinson voiced his concern that this law would go a “step way too far.” “My own personal view [is] that this is too extreme, it was too broad and did not grandfather in those young people who are currently under hormone treatment,” Hutchinson told NPR. The state Legislature voted 3-1 to overturn Hutchinson’s veto.

Every day, it seems another bill is introduced somewhere in the United States to scapegoat transgender youth in a phony culture-war, boogeyman myth predicated on the idea that hordes of young transgender women are invading girls’ sports in public schools and stealing trophies. Hutchinson, by the way, is no angel on this issue — he already signed such legislation into law in Arkansas. FFRF Attorney and Strategic Response Team Member Ryan Jayne, who tracks legislation for FFRF, definitively analyzed what’s wrong with such legislation in his recent blog.

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni reminds the country in his latest piece that this playbook against trans youth is nothing new. As Bruni points out, 20 years ago, the monsters were gays wanting (horrors!) the benefits of legal matrimony. State after state hysterically debated or passed laws or even amended state constitutions to limit marriage to “one man and one woman.” The battle cry, naturally, was led by the Religious Right of the era. No reason exists to oppose same-sex marriage except religious objections. And of course, public officials adroitly use culture-war tactics to deflect attention away from their unpopular actions on other legislation, such as limiting voting rights and opposing social safety nets.

But it wasn’t only extremists who not so long ago opposed marriage equality. Remember when Joe Biden as vice president got into trouble for going off script by endorsing marriage equality in an interview on “Meet the Press” in 2012? The nation, it seems, with the stroke of the Obergefell Supreme court decision in 2015 affirming marriage equality, turned a corner on this issue. But Christian nationalists in public office (and on our highest court) are not forgetting.

Even though two out of three Americans now support marriage equality, equality is still very much elusive on other fronts. The old guard in the U.S. Senate is stalling the Equality Act, which adds LGBTQ to the classes otherwise protected by the federal Civil Rights Act. And make no mistake, the motivation for such opposition is religious in nature, as the recent floor debates in the U.S. House reveal. (Look for FFRF Governmental Affairs Director Mark Dann’s upcoming report on that debate.)

When it comes to cautionary tales about attacks on LGBTQ rights, the country to examine is Poland. Ruled by the Law and Justice Party, which is closely allied with Roman Catholicism, Poland is carving out a special role as persecutor of LGBTQ individuals and does not legally recognize same-sex relationships.

Last fall, a new minister of education and science was appointed who has said that LGBTQ people “are not equal to normal people.” At least 100 towns, cities or regions in southeastern Poland began passing declarations last year to keep out “LGBT ideology,” which have become known as “LGBTQ-free zones.”

As Biden properly tweeted last fall:

Hearteningly, such bigotry has met with resistance. The city of Krasnik has jeopardized millions of dollars in foreign funding for turning “our town into a synonym for homophobia,” as the mayor noted in seeking to repeal its “LGBT-free” zone. Last month, the European Union declared “LGBT Freedom zones” in response. The EU resolution proclaims that “LGBTIQ persons everywhere in the EU should enjoy the freedom to live and publicly show their sexual orientation and gender identity without fear of intolerance, discrimination or persecution.” The resolution firmly states that “authorities at all levels of governance across the EU should protect and promote equality and the fundamental rights of all, including LGBTIQ persons.’”

Poland’s bigotry includes banning same-sex couples from adopting children together. Meanwhile, the United States may not be far behind Poland, as we await the Supreme Court’s ruling in the overdue Fulton v. City of Philadelphia case, which FFRF chimed in on in a friend of the court brief.

In this lawsuit, Catholic Social Services is demanding the right to be a publicly funded contractor for the city of Philadelphia to place children in foster homes, even though it refuses to place them in LGBTQ homes in violation of city policy. (“Pay us to discriminate.” Only the Catholic Church can display that degree of chutzpah!) Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader rushed the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett onto the Supreme Court so she would be able to hear Fulton. In counting votes on that court, it’s hard not to be seriously alarmed about how the high court will rule and the frightening direction that ruling could take our very divided country.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, a third-generation freethinker, co-founded FFRF with her mother Anne Gaylor as a college student in 1976. She served as editor of Freethought Today, FFRF’s newspaper, from 1985 to 2009. Her book, Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So, first published by FFRF in 1981, is in its 4th printing. In 1988, FFRF published Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children, the first book documenting widespread sexual abuse by clergy. Her 1997 anthology, Women Without Superstition: ‘No Gods, No Masters,’ is the first collection of the writings of historic and contemporary women freethinkers. She has been plaintiff in or overseen many state/church lawsuits and actions by FFRF. Annie Laurie has appeared on a variety of TV news shows, including “Oprah,” “O’Reilly,” “Good Morning America,” Univision, CNN and FOX news segments, CBS Evening News and ABC World News Tonight. Photo of Annie Laurie by Chris Line.
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