As parts of the country take two steps forward towards achieving equality, sadly it seems other parts of the country take two steps back.
On Wednesday afternoon the Kansas House approved a bill, 72-49, sending a measure to the Senate, that if enacted, would allow business owners to lawfully discriminate against citizens on the grounds of sexual orientation or marital status if it violated their religious beliefs.
Supporters of the measure hail it as a method of ensuring religious freedom. Opponents content, rightly in our view, that the bill will simply serve as a legitimate method of discrimination. Put simply, this is a form of apartheid.
The measure comes in response to the landmark ruling in United States v Windsor, which leaves the possibility of federal courts ruling that the constitutional ban on same-sex marriages is unlawful.
This is a shameful and retrograde measure. Lest we forget, it was only 50 years ago that this country saw civil rights protest against racial segregation and discrimination against black Americans. This measure is no different to the treatment that was afforded to black Americans. It is an appalling indictment that any state in our nation should be actively promoting discrimination on the grounds of sexuality. Martin Luther King famously said that individuals should be judged by “the content of there character” and not by the colour of their skin: the same principle applies here. A person’s sexuality should have no relevance whatsoever as to how he or she is treated by the state.
In a recent case in New Mexico, a lesbian couple successfully sued a photographer who refused to provide services for a commitment ceremony.
Many commentators argue that there is no comparison to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s to the struggle for equality the LGBT community strive to achieve today. The harsh reality is that there is no difference. Discrimination on any ground is unacceptable and should not be tolerated in a modern society.
As Justice Scalia observed in a case in 1996 “opposition to homosexuality is as reprehensible as racial or religious bias.”
The 14th amendment is quite plain: the constitution prohibits states depriving “any persons” of “equal protection of the laws”. Gays and lesbians are “persons” and as such should be treated no differently to heterosexual persons.
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