In September and October, Equality Ohio launched campaigns to persuade Ohioans to accept same-sex marriage (SSM) and to change federal and state law on workplace issues. Their strategy is surely influenced by a recent poll of Ohio voters.
The Public Religion Research Institute found that most voters would not approve a marriage redefinition—good news for Ohio conservatives—while the majority was favorable toward non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Yet “discrimination” was conveniently undefined, a hole big enough to drive any leftist truck through.
Specifically, the survey showed that 51% of Ohio voters would not vote “yes” on changing Ohio’s constitution to allow same-sex marriage, with 45% in favor. SSM advocates know a loss would be catastrophic, so major gay advocacy groups seem to be shifting focus to “education” while another group, Freedom Ohio, collects signatures for a 2014 ballot issue.
Equality Ohio’s education effort is being spun as “Why Marriage Matters Ohio.” Meanwhile, they join a coalition of labor and other leftist groups to push an “ENDA” law in Ohio and at the federal level. That’s the “Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” which would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as categories alongside race, religion, sex, national origin, etc., to civil rights laws.
Major pressure is being exerted on Senator Rob Portman to support this bill. The focus is the national ENDA bill, but Ohio will not be ignored as it is one of the key states identified by the coalition called Americans for Workplace Opportunity.
A bill along these lines is currently at the statehouse but has seen little action. In 2009, House Bill 176 passed the Ohio House but didn’t make it through the Ohio Senate.
”Did you know LGBT people in Ohio can be fired just because of who they are?” says one of the talking points. In fact, this is exactly how a young man approached me as I entered a restaurant on High Street in Columbus.
Unfortunately for this young man (or perhaps fortunately), I was ready with the facts. Had he ever heard of Crystal Dixon? She was fired from the University of Toledo for objecting to same sex marriage in a newspaper letter to the editor, unrelated to her UT job. This was not a statewide law, but a university’s use—some would say misuse—of “non-discrimination” based on sexual orientation/gender identity.
And it also wasn’t a state law, but the private, corporate world’s approach to inclusion that motivated Macy’s as they fired Natalie Johnson in 2011. She refused to allow a teen boy into a women’s dressing room. He showed up with three other people, one of whom claimed to be his lawyer, indications of a set-up to test the “transgender” support of Macy’s. The retailer did not disappoint them. A manager backed the young transvestite and despite Natalie’s reasons—her religious faith and her concern for the privacy of women—sided with him and his companions.
So in a head-to-head contest—religious freedom vs. sexual “minority” rights—the latter justifies discrimination based on the former? Where in our Constitution does immorality trump faith?
Many people would not buy the notion that it is “who he is” that prompts a confused male to dress with women. Natalie might say her faith is “who she is.”
The ENDA bill would cover government and private companies, with some exemptions for dedicated religious institutions. But as with the current debate over ObamaCare and religious freedom to reject abortion insurance coverage, individual workers citing religious objections are sitting ducks for, ironically, discrimination resulting in fines, job loss, business closing, reputation damage, not to mention intense personal stress.
I continued to share with this young man a few other case histories, like Elaine and Jon Huguenin who, because of the application of a New Mexico non-discrimination policy, have been ordered to pay $6,000 by the courts. What horrific crime did they commit? Christian owners of a photography studio, they declined a request to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, citing their faith.
This young man on the sidewalk and I discontinued our dialogue before I could share other names he has probably never encountered. Aaron and Melissa Klein just closed their Oregon bakery rather than continue to endure threats to their children, vicious emails, boycotts of both their business and their suppliers, and an investigation by the Oregon Labor Commission. Their unspeakable crime? Declining a cake order for a same-sex wedding.
A bar owner in Portland is paying $400,000 to eleven men because of a phone call. They cited emotional distress after he phoned one man to ask him and his friends to stop patronizing his bar. Seems these eleven transvestite men were found offensive by other customers, including women who encountered them in the restroom, open stall doors and all. But the state “gender identity” non-discrimination policy prevailed.
Arlene’s Flowers in Washington State was sued by two homosexual men because providing flowers for their ceremony was against the owner’s faith. The state attorney general also sued, but the florist is counter-suing, citing religious discrimination.
Is this what is meant by “discrimination”? That certain views are not allowed if it’s offensive to homosexuals and transsexuals? It is highly probable the respondents to the above-mentioned survey, who voted 68% against “gay and lesbian” discrimination, did not have the whole story. Yet this is the research being quoted by Equality Ohio, et al., as they lobby Ohio legislators and provide grassroots education.
When the public gets the whole story, they aren’t buying the brutal treatment of small business owners. In a survey in liberal Washington state, which just voted to approve same-sex marriage, 61% either opposed or strongly opposed the state attorney general suing Arlene’s Flowers over this issue.
It’s likely that Equality Ohio would not want voters to understand how such “non-discrimination” policy is regularly applied to people of faith and small business owners in states where the LGBT lobby prevails.
Linda Harvey holds a B.A. in English from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and has done graduate work at Miami, Ohio State University, and Trinity Lutheran Seminary. She is the wife of Tom Harvey and the mother of two children. They live in Columbus, Ohio.
All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.
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