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One of the most puzzling and frustrating battles for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality is not marriage equality. Rather, it’s the fight for the most basic rights that every person in America enjoys — employment, housing, and other common sense non-discrimination laws. Yet, for some bizarre reason, this is controversial.

As usual, the most ardent and outspoken opponents to these basic rights are Christian leaders, ministers, and pastors. The rank and file within the Churches also tend to lean toward opposition as well. I know full well that I can’t judge the hearts of people who oppose LGBT equality, but it’s very easy to go with the flow when you know the numbers are on your side.

I should make myself clear. I do not believe that everyone who opposes LGBT equality is a bigot. That honor goes for the ones who drive the “debate” with lies, fear, manipulation, and a general bias against the people they’re trying to keep under their feet.

In contrast, a very large group of Christians are not bigots — but they are anti-gay. Yes, I know how silly that sounds. The question for them is, “why?” Why are they opposed to LGBT equality or even basic rights for LGBT people? While it’s quite easy to say “they just don’t like gay people” as I’ve suggested in the past, the truth might be a little more complex.

Yes, there’s a natural revulsion that straight people have to the concept of gay sex. “That’s disgusting,” they might say. “That’s gross,” their kids might say. Of course its’ gross. They’re straight. Straight people just aren’t into that. That doesn’t mean they’re anti-gay. It just means they’re straight.

For us ‘mo’s, it’s kind of the same thing. I genuinely have difficulty in saying the word “vagina” in conversation, a quirk my sister pointed out to me the other day. “I was wondering if you’d just spit it out and say it,” she said as we were discussing va-jay-jays for some reason. Not exactly my favorite subject matter. So no, sex with women just doesn’t flip my lid.

Straight people just aren’t into the gay thing. They’re not interested. I would even suggest that they just don’t even comprehend how we silly gay people would be attracted to people of the same sex. I had a roommate who would say, “I just don’t see how one man can look at another’s hairy ass and say, ‘I want that.’”

I really don’t think everyone who doesn’t support marriage equality is a bigot. Misinformed, yes. Unfortunate, yes. But not a bigot.

The problem is that the real bigots have done their jobs all too well. In their never-ending quest to paint gay people as nothing more than sex pigs who wear assless chaps or dress in camp drag, they have succeeded. Turn on any religious TV show about the gays, and it’s a cornucopia of all of the most revulsive stereotypes of the gay community. And these are the pictures that pop back into the minds of the typical person, which in turn feeds into their voting practices.

To those who are anti-gay, we are not gay people. We are people who have gay sex. Specifically, people who have anal sex. It’s not the mannerisms that bother them, it’s the kind of sexual images those mannerisms suggest. After all, men are supposed to be the penetrators. The idea that men would allow themselves to be penetrated flies into the face of everything that “masculinity” stands for.

As such, any time the average person sees a gay person and either knows they’re gay or just thinks they’re gay, the image of anal sex pops into their mind. Or they’ll remember the horrific rumors they heard about Grindr, vibrating cell phones, mice, bars of soap, or whatever else the bigots have fed into their spirits.

All of this is what leads to the apparent need to oppose LGBT rights. It’s all about the sex. Since gay people are merely “people who have gay sex,” then they should just stop having gay sex and be normal like the rest of us. Once “people who have gay sex” stop having gay sex, then they have nothing else to bitch about and we can all go about our heterosexual business.

So then, our struggle for basic rights for LGBT people needs to start with the very basic educational route — to help the rest of society understand that “gay people” aren’t “people who have gay sex.” Quite simply, “gay” isn’t what we do, it’s part of who we are. The American Psychological Association explains it quite capably:

Sexual orientation is commonly discussed as if it were solely a characteristic of an individual, like biological sex, gender identity, or age. This perspective is incomplete because sexual orientation is defined in terms of relationships with others. People express their sexual orientation through behaviors with others, including such simple actions as holding hands or kissing. Thus, sexual orientation is closely tied to the intimate personal relationships that meet deeply felt needs for love, attachment, and intimacy. In addition to sexual behaviors, these bonds include nonsexual physical affection between partners, shared goals and values, mutual support, and ongoing commitment. Therefore, sexual orientation is not merely a personal characteristic within an individual. Rather, one’s sexual orientation defines the group of people in which one is likely to find the satisfying and fulfilling romantic relationships that are an essential component of personal identity for many people.

This is the single most critical goal we should have in our quest for equality. Because sexual orientation is an intrinsic part of who we are, we must educate and inform those around us that orientation and sexual behavior are two completely different things. Once we get the public to realize that “gay people” are not “people who have gay sex,” then we’ve made a critical step into the right direction.

If indeed that sexual orientation is intrinsic, and person’s religion and creed are not, the question of basic rights becomes a little more interesting. Our constitution already guarantees “equal protection under the law” for all Americans, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act includes specific protections for people in various classes. Specifically listed are race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Unfortunately, those who fight against LGBT rights argue that because “sexual orientation” isn’t listed, then it shouldn’t be a protected class. What continues to baffle me even today is the reality that so many groups oppose such inclusion outright. And the largest voice of opposition is Christian leadership.

Read this next sentence out loud: Christian leaders want to keep it legal to discriminate against gays. 

What, too much hyperbole? Consider the facts. In Lincoln, Nebraska, churches are leading the push to get the required 2500 signatures to put a repeal to that city’s new nondiscrimination ordinance on the ballot. Pastors are the most vocal whenever a nondiscrimination policy comes up in any local, state, or federal government.

Consider these questions as to whether or not you would support basic rights for LGBT people:

  • Should it be legal for a homeowner or landlord to deny renting housing to two men for a one-bedroom apartment because he or she thinks it’s a sin?
  • Should it be legal for a bed and breakfast owner to deny renting a room to two women for a night? Two men?
  • Should it be legal for a business owner to fire someone because he saw them kissing a same-sex partner while at a restaurant, on their own time?
  • Should it be legal for a landlord to deny renting a house to a lesbian couple with three children?

If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then why? Why is it okay to discriminate? Why should it continue to be legal to deny housing or employment to people just because they’re gay? The fact is that anyone who is gay or even perceived to be gay is at risk for discrimination. I don’t think I have to tell you that this isn’t okay.

Discrimination is not okay. Ever.

For the record, the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected attempts to force churches to adhere to nondiscrimination clauses. For example, Baptists are not forced to hire women pastors. There’s no indication that this would be any different for LGBT people. A church would not be forced to hire a gay choir director, for example.

These are basic rights, rights that are NOT protected in two-thirds of our 50 states. It’s time for us to stop using religion as an excuse to deny these protections.

If we are Christian, then we should consider what Jesus said — and no, this isn’t the first time I’ve quoted this passage. It won’t be the last, either.

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. ” (Matthew 25:41-46, NIV)

Sheep look a lot like goats. Goats look a lot like sheep. It’s all in how we treat people. Do we discriminate? Or not?

Discuss.

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