Our Southern Dilemma

On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee moved religious liberty legislation forward that alarms LGBT Georgians for its potential to embolden anti-gay animus. I held hope that reasonable minds would block litigious, bad faith actors from abusing religious liberty to undermine civil rights. In a prior hearing, it looked as if nondiscrimination principles might prevail. Alas, it was a flash in the pan.

The new language was not publicly released in advance of Monday’s hearing. There was no amendment to exempt civil rights laws from religious objections. There was no testimony. There was no debate. The bill was hurried through while a senator, who may well have brought perspective to the legislation, was in the restroom. Once again, a legislative body ran roughshod over Georgia’s minority communities.

There was no room at the table for us.

For LGBT Southerners, this is just another day in the life of a second-class citizen. Like all LGBT Georgians, my mere existence is a legally permissible ground for various forms of discrimination. That is a heavy burden I carry every day, made easier only by the liberation of my education and having a platform to speak to my fellow Georgians. Not all are so fortunate.

There are no state laws protecting LGBT state employees from wrongful termination or hostile work environments. Georgia is one of only five states that fail to protect any citizens from invidious discrimination in public accommodations. Same-sex couples cannot marry the person they love. And even if the Supreme Court strikes down Georgia’s marriage laws, newlyweds can return from their honeymoon to a pink slip. Private workplace discrimination is completely legal in Georgia, despite overwhelming support from Georgians to ban it. It is undeniable— the place I love and call home does not love me back.

At the same time, our children suffer. Over 100 religious schools in Georgia ban openly gay students, yet hold out their hands for government collected scholarship funds. LGBT homelessness among young Georgians shunned by their own families is appallingly high. Being an LGBT child is hard enough, always questioning your own self-worth. It is doubly hard for children who are torn away from their communities because of irrational prejudice, sometimes subsidized by the state.  Stigmatization takes a grave toll on their mental health, far too often leading to drug abuse, addiction, depression, and suicide.  Who is looking out for our kids? Who in power is pushing through legislation with fierce urgency to guarantee they will have an opportunity to achieve success?

I can no longer bear being lectured that there is no discrimination in Georgia. Let us remember invidious discrimination against my community is legal in this state. There are, consequently, no statistics to turn over to prove its existence. I have seen people ejected from businesses because they’re gay. LGBT persons are often victims of insults in the public square. These moments are harrowing experiences that never grow easier no matter how many times you have endured them or how old you are. Hopelessness can take root if you do not quickly fight back tears, forgive, and press on for a better day. The daily struggles of my friends and neighbors are erased from the debate under the Gold Dome. They deserve better. Georgia deserves better.

More than just a fear of losing a job or being denied service, many LGBT Georgians live in constant fear for their very lives.  The LGBT community has taken steps to fight back, securing local anti-discrimination laws in discrete municipalities. These are the very protections the organizational backers of pending religious liberty legislation oppose in the false name of religious free exercise. These modest laws are why we are stuck debating dramatized fears of majority repression.

As the LGBT community works toward securing statewide protections, it should not be surprising that any law that could undermine existing protections would generate passionate resistance. Senator Cowsert’s instinct to insulate civil rights laws and ordinances from religious objections was right. Instead of meaningful protections, we were given a mirage of compromise in the form of unenforceable legislative findings. The LGBT community asked for a half piece of bread. They barely threw us crumbs.

I sincerely appreciate that many legislators have said they harbor no intent to encourage discrimination. But, these are promises our legislators are ill positioned to keep. The interpretation of any religious liberty law would lie with the courts.  While I have great faith in our judges, LGBT Southerners are understandably skeptical. We cannot take for granted that our state courts will always mete out justice in our favor. Look to the Alabama Supreme Court, which yesterday took extraordinary measures to target our constitutional rights and relegate us to a position of social inferiority.  I ask that Georgia’s elected officials examine their hearts and reflect on how they might feel if they were routinely subjected to humiliation and vilification. For many LGBT Georgians, the scars of mistreatment animate their visceral fears. Verbal promises will not overcome the hard lessons of repeated abuse.

Owning uneasy truths is our Southern dilemma. We are now at a point of great promise and great danger. We can choose to pursue comprehensive solutions to pressing civil rights issues or we can abandon the promise and browbeat one another. It is time that we frankly admit to our social ills and stop fueling mistrust and division. History will judge us. I pray it does so favorably.


  1. Robbie says:

    This all stems from the sad reality that for entirely too many people, the mere fact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people exist at all is offensive. That we try and live our lives authentically and without shame disgusts them. They are unable to separate their own religious beliefs from civil law, and they insist on enforcing their so-called “traditional morality” on those who dare to follow a different religious (or secular) path.

    And for too many of these people, they have no idea the amount of pain they cause for LGBT people – many of them children – across the state of Georgia and in the South. This pain is literally killing our kids. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are 4 times more likely than their non-LGB peers to attempt suicide. When LGB youth live in areas and with families who don’t accept them? 8.4 times more likely, and nearly HALF of all transgender people have attempted suicide. (source: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/facts-about-suicide)

    When children have people (families, friends, or trusted adults) that love them and accept them, these numbers drop dramatically and the risks nearly disappear. This is a very, very real problem, but it has very easy solutions.

    • Harry says:

      The most effective therapy is loving admonition administered with peer support. It works with Alcoholics Anonymous and similar programs.

      • Robbie says:

        Thank you for proving my point, Harry.

        And no, no reputable psychological or medical association agrees with you. The only sickness that must be cured is the hatred of those who are unwilling to accept and love LGBT people.

        • Harry says:

          Yeah, the psychological and medical associations are subjected to prevalent PC pressure. Doesn’t change the reality though.

              • Ghost of William F. Buckley says:

                Note mine as well, Harry. I cannot disagree more emphatically that ‘loving admonition’ of AA stems from the fact an alcoholic believes first that they are powerless over drink, that they want a new and better life.

                Most of my friends that are gay, have no issue with their sexuality, nor does it create havoc in their lives, unlike alcoholism does to those afflicted.

                This is a bad Bill for so many other reasons . . . BTW.

                • Harry says:

                  You don’t think the gay lifestyle leads to serious health issues same as alcoholism? You don’t think some would like to be out of that “lifestyle”? Blame it on society or whatever if you like…but maybe the Biblical admonitions are correct after all.

      • MattMD says:

        You are a God-damned idiot, Harry.

        You have to be playing some character. If you don’t like gays (I’d bet a thousand you think the same of blacks and other minorities), fine but don’t talk about therapy.

    • therightdirection says:

      This all stems from the sad reality that for entirely too many people, the mere fact that Christians who want to live out the Truth according to their consciences exist at all is offensive. (This does not mean hateful discrimination–in words or actions. But does include being able to opt out of events of their choosing).

      If the goal is a live and let live society, some in the LGBT crowd need to check themselves, because they are trying to do to Christians what they’re accusing others of doing to them.

      • alpha male says:

        The original diarist gives the game away in the 2nd sentence of their 6th paragraph. “Over 100 religious schools ban openly gay students….” demonstrating that even private conscience and one’s own religious observance are unacceptable.

        Most folks don’t give a rats patoot about other peoples proclivities. However, the fascist winds that are blowing from some sectors of the LGBT community are demonstrating why religious liberty protections are being considered.

        • taylor says:

          You may have misuse the second half of that sentence. Many of those schools take student scholarship organization funds financed by state tax credits.

          • alpha male says:

            nope. Did not miss that. And it changes nothing as the original poster and other like minded extremists want to make those believers into 2nd class citizens who cannot take advantage of the same tax breaks, credits, et al that the “favored” are allowed to benefit from.

            Taking the OP’s view to its inevitable conclusion, eventually the Catholic Church, evangelical churches , Southern Baptist church and the like would be disallowed the charitable and church tax exemptions because they will never perform, sanction, or recognize same sex marriage.

            That, my friend, is extremism by any rational definition. And the diarist lifted the veil on it.

      • benevolus says:

        Actually I think it stems from the fact that many Christians serve a “higher” authority than our secular government and want to make the secular government conform to a particular religious creed despite the Constitution.

        • Rick Day says:

          Then by all means go form your own country and leave the rest of us alone, OK? You will never change the US to a non-secular government because the numbers are against you. Every decade, your numbers dwindle.

          Please, BY ALL MEANS feel free to serve that higher authority in the privacy of our home or in congregation of your church, by by all that is holy, you do NOT get to change the government to your particular set of morals for all citizens.

          You. Have. No.RIGHT.

          • benevolus says:

            I think we agree on this. I was just pointing out that the mere existence of Christians isn’t what bothers most of the rest of us, it’s what “Christians who want to live out the Truth” actually ends up meaning.

  2. ColinATL says:

    Backlash and kabuki theater, that’s what this is all about. Backlash because LGBT Americans and our fair-minded allies are winning. Slowly, but inexorably, we are winning the battle for hearts and minds of all Americans. So the opposition have to paint themselves as the victims of discrimination, in need of their own protections. It’s all they have left. “Woe is me, I can’t hate you the way I used to!”

    Kabuki theater because it’s all about putting on an act for the purported victims to make them think that they can stem the tide of LGBT rights. In the end, these bills are insidious and invidious, and they will lead to very real situations of LGBTs and people perceived to be LGBT being kicked out or rejected. But will the so-called victims truly feel less victimized? Will they ultimately end up on the right side of history? They won’t. And then they’ll see that this act did nothing for them other than whip up their strong misplaced feelings and raise the profile of certain self-aggrandizing politicians.

    The battle is depressing, but we will win the war in the end.

  3. gcp says:

    ” many LGBT Georgians live in constant fear for their very lives”
    “children who are torn away from their communities”

    Note to the LGBT crowd; hyperbole does not help make your case.

    • Rick Day says:

      Note they should not even be ‘making cases’ at all for basic civil rights.

      “Straight” enough talk for ya, random internet person?

    • bsjy says:

      Wrapping the argument in the language of civil rights is both inconsistent with the reality of civil rights and disrespectful to those who actually did fear for their lives in the civil rights struggle.

      A black American does not have to announce his blackness for people to judge him according to his color. He can be law-abiding, peaceful, just going about his business, and be denied his natural and civil rights on account of the color of his skin.

      That is not the case for LBGTQI. There is no inescapable physical feature that marks a person adopting the homosexual lifestyle or dealing internally with homosexual inclinations. We only know they are what they say they are when they say it.

      Impartial observers might find a better analogue for the LBGTQI political agenda in the gang culture. The “colors” we put on when we come out of the closet are different from those of the Crips and the Bloods only in details. The willingness to defend turf and root out the weak-willed is common to both groups, but the gangs did not dare to insist that everyone endorse their lifestyle choice and interior inclination. Stupid gangsters.

      • Robbie says:

        The language of “civil” rights is absolutely appropriate. By definition, rights that are granted by the government are, in fact, civil rights.

        I won’t even bother with the rest of your comments because they’re too absurd to legitimize.

      • taylor says:

        So, if you’re homosexual, just don’t tell anyone about? Is going out in public with another permitted? Or maybe that would be the same as wearing gang colors.

      • Rick Day says:

        soooooooooo…back in the closet with the lot of ’em?

        That…won’t work, son. It is you that has to change, not them.

        You are no special snowflake, you know.

  4. Rick Day says:

    Hmm…I wonder if I can put a sign up on my business that says “No Church Goers Allowed” even though not many of God’s chillenz actually go out and…you know…have FUN.

    Except we now have a twice monthly party for Gay Blacks. BAM BAM take that, Senator.

    Our BnB? Pfft…I’ll take a heathen in my house any day over a moralistic moron.

    I simply cannot, in my spiritual opinion, allow such morally corrupt people into my establishments. My lack of religion forbids it (note most christians reference atheism as ‘religious’, although I am not an atheist, I am merely anti-christian-in-government).

    So what happens in 10 years when there are only about 40% of the voters identifying as ‘christian’? Blowwwwwwwww bakkkkkkk

  5. Kevin Lawver says:

    If you don’t believe that the LGBT community is discriminated against and that this bill will further marginalize and already marginalized community, that’s your choice.

    I’ll make the economic argument – this looks awful. We have foreign companies looking to do business here. I talk to technology companies from all over the world who are interested in moving here. But, they have LGBT employees, friends, family, etc, and they don’t want to be associated with, or do business in, a state that publicly disregards their status as equal members of society.

    If we really want to be the best place to do business, we need to be the best place to do business for everyone.

      • Kevin Lawver says:

        Harry, “rule my life” is the operative phrase. You’re asking the state to rule someone else’s life by making it just fine for other people to discriminate against them in ways it’s not fine for other members of society.

        If you don’t like the idea of my beliefs ruling your life, why are you so set on making your beliefs rule someone else’s?

        • Harry says:

          Here’s the deal – don’t tell me not to discriminate against you and I won’t tell you not to discriminate against me. Deal? Otherwise you’re trying to rule my life. Discrimination is a part of living in a free country, just can’t be against a legislatively protected group – and you boys aren’t protected.

          • Kevin Lawver says:

            If you’re a private citizen or run a small business, you can already choose who you do business with and pretty much deny service to anyone you don’t want to without giving a reason. You don’t need any more protection than you already have under existing laws.

            This law doesn’t need to exist. It’s a pointless overreach that will lose in a court battle and only end up making the state look bad.

            And to your assumption – I’m not gay. I’m a white Christian guy who just happens to think that the Golden Rule is more important than my personal feelings about how someone lives their life. I’d rather the government spend their time solving real problems instead of trying to enforce someone else’s idea of Christian behavior on other people.

      • Rick Day says:

        No Harry, people kill gays. Cake bakers only civilly discriminate. Islam is a myth, like the others.

        Are you feeling OK?

        You don’t seem to be your chipper self.

          • Harry says:

            Islam or Christian – you decide. Did you see the video of homosexuals being thrown off the tops of buildings by those mythic Muslims in ISIS-land? The “inside joke” was made that homosexuals can fly. I don’t think the victims consider it to be a myth.

  6. Dave Bearse says:

    Second class citizens? Third class rather. There are millions of Georgians quite content at second class status just so long as there is an identifiable third class that can prop themselves up with.

  7. Dave Bearse says:

    A little off thread here…maybe it’s already been done. I think there may be a dissertation in the role of the widely seen and critically acclaimed Brokeback Mountain on the change in general acceptance and attitude toward gays from minority to majority in the US. It was effectively a 2006 movie, and by most measures acceptance of gays accelerated in 2007. 2008 was a year where gay marriage began to garner attention in judicial and legislative realms.

      • Ghost of William F. Buckley says:

        Visions of ‘Deliverance’ dance through my head.

        Run, son, I hear banjo’s.

    • blakeage80 says:

      That may be a chicken and egg argument, Dave. I can”t accept that Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger are responsible for all this.

      • Dave Bearse says:

        It’s clear the movie was released prior to a majority of Americans not objecting to gay marriage, and generally accepted that that acceptance of gays accelerated thereafter. It’s for the doctoral candidate to determine if the timing was coincidence, or how much if any the movie may’ve have contributed to change.

  8. Ghost of William F. Buckley says:

    Life was simpler in the 70’s when all we had for hate filled invective was, “Nuke the baby whales.”

  9. Rick Day says:

    really closer to the 80’s but technically correct’ by 10 weeks – According to a letter to the editor published in the New York Times Book Review on October 7, 1979, the origin of phrase “Nuke the Whales” was in the lyrics to a punk/new wave song that was written by Robert A. Falk, a senior at Harvard University who played bass under the pseudonym Töd Venice in the band Supreme Pointiff.

  10. Will Durant says:

    Gotta’ love Sen. McKoon’s sense of timing. Not only of Sen. Fort’s bathroom break but the magic moment of the Senate vote for his RFRA bill occurring while the press and public were paying attention to the transportation bill on the other side of the building. Misdirection worthy of a Houdini or perhaps even a Tricky Dick.

    • Ghost of William F. Buckley says:

      Houdini-ish or Nixonian misdirection aside, Sen. McKoon may very well face the same Judiciary Committee that Rep. Teasley was unable to convince on the merits of his House Bill. Rep. Wendell Willlard chairs Judiciary and his patience with this matter may not be infinite, but is certainly resolute.

      If Rep. Willard is assigned the Bill, it may not make crossover. This one needs to bake awhile longer, in my opinion. As to Sen. Josh, that antic is not ever going to be forgotten, it will come back on the Majority, painfully.

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