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Can We Stop Pretending “Religious Liberty” is the Real Motivation for Legislation?

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February 10, 2014

You know, after getting back from a national conference with 4,000 queer folks and allies, I was floating on a little rainbow hued cloud, having all the queer feels, and so on—until that queer cloud gets swallowed up by a thunderstorm of oppression and the dismantling of civil rights. Otherwise known as the latest bill my home state’s legislators have introduced that attempts to target queer people, by allowing both private AND public employees to not “treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid.”

Oh, though apparently it’s all about religious freedom and not queer people. My bad, homies.

I am a ~little~ tired of having a bunch of old white dudes claiming that being able to rescind someone’s else’s rights is inherently promised within the constitution’s right to religious freedom.

You see, Kanas-legislators-who-have-brought-my-queer-mojo-down, religious freedom is ability to possess whatever religious beliefs you have, to talk about those religious beliefs, and to be free to have whatever spiritual practices go along with those beliefs as long as they are not detrimental to another person’s rights.  And being, a public employee and being granted the right to ignore someone’s 100% legal marriage? Is pretty detrimental.

By endowing individuals with the right to not recognize someone’s marriage EVEN IF THEY ARE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES WHO’S JOB IS TO SERVE THE PUBLIC (in a secular fashion, since our government is secular), Kansas threatens the well being of queer couples even more. The reason why there has been such a hullabaloo over marriage equality is because I mean, yes love conquers all, validation, etc., etc., –but also because marriage endows a couple with some very real protections and rights as concerns their spouse.

This bill is in many ways following the same trajectory as we have seen abortions rights face since Roe v Wade. Sure, you give someone the right in name to be able to marry whoever they want (as should be the case for christsakes already) under the law, but then you put into practice laws that strip one access to the rights and privileges of marriage—well it’s a similar tactic to basically ALL anti-abortion legislation since 1973.

“Oh sure we’ll give you marriage equality. We’ll just ensure that no one ACTUALLY has to recognize it.”

And it’s not a surprise that the same people who are vehemently anti-choice are most often, also vehemently anti the LGBTQ community. Nor is it a surprise that the argument of “religious freedom” or cries of “religious persecution” is used often to defend one’s flagrant dismissal of other’s rights. But the whole narrative is deeply, deeply full of bullshit.

Denying someone else’s marriage is not practicing your faith. You are not being persecuted if someone marries someone else, and their marriage is not completely and totally compulsive heterosexuality. And in fact, you are totally allowed to think that someone’s marriage is not valid—you just shouldn’t be able to deny them services or rights just BECAUSE you don’t think it’s valid.

Personally, it’s part of MY spirituality that if it ain’t your body, then ain’t your business who that body decides it wants to get hitched too. I wonder if the esteemed legislators of Kansas who support this bill are likely to rule that my “religious freedom” is in jeopardy by their own actions?

I wonder.

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