Part 3: Inroads against personal freedom already made in the United States by homosexual and transsexual political activism.
June 18, 2009
Many proponents of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” legislation contend that “sexual orientation” legislation will not endanger civil liberties in the United States—in Europe, Canada, and Brazil, but not in the United States. The evidence to date suggests otherwise.
An example of hate-speech prosecution in Philadelphia In Part 2 I cited the example of two teenage girls being prosecuted for sexual orientation “hate speech” under Illinois law. Another example occurred in Philadelphia a few years ago. District Attorney Lynne Abraham prosecuted a small group of Christians who were peacefully demonstrating at a homosexual parade in Philadelphia in 2004 (go here for video). The group comprised eleven persons from an organization called “Repent America,” including two grandmothers and a 17-year-old girl. All eleven spent 21 hours in jail. After a preliminary hearing Judge William Meehan ordered four of the eleven to stand trial on three felony charges and five misdemeanor charges (a fifth person, the teenage girl, was required to stand trial in juvenile court). The three felony charges were “ethnic intimidation” (proclaiming that homosexual practice was a sin), possession of instruments of crime (a bullhorn), and inciting a riot (reading from the Bible passages dealing with homosexual practice). These four Christian defendants faced up to 47 years in prison and fines of $90,000 each.
Although Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe subsequently dismissed the criminal charges (after comparing the Repent America group to Nazis and the Klu Klux Klan), had the prosecutor Lynne Abraham been the judge (or perhaps had Judge Meehan been the judge instead of Dembe), the verdict would have been quite different. That the prosecution was undertaken at all indicates that some legal authorities already believe that peaceful speech against homosexual practice is prosecutable. Expect judges to side with city prosecutors as the homosexualist agenda gains greater ascendancy through the passage of national “sexual orientation” legislation. Of note is the fact that in 2007 U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel ruled that the city of Philadelphia had a right to “exclude persons expressing contrary messages” from the vicinity of the “Outfest” parade even though the event was a admittedly a “public forum” conducted in a “public place” (namely city-owned streets and sidewalks; go here).
Certainly infringements of speech liberties have already taken place in all other Western democracies that have “sexual orientation” “hate crime” laws. In Canada, for example, among those fined thousands of dollars and threatened with imprisonment for repeat offenses of speech are:
The argument that free speech protections in the U.S. Constitution will prevent such abuses from taking place rings hollow in view of the inducement to violence provision in Title 18.2 and in view of the fact that even U.S. Supreme Court justices have taken to citing precedents in foreign law (e.g., with regard to the Lawrence sodomy decision). Moreover, we already have instances in the U.S. where “sexual orientation” laws have led to abridgements of other liberties in three main areas:
Even legal experts who support homosexualist causes such as Eugene Volokh (UCLA) and Chai Feldblum (Georgetown University) have acknowledged that sexual orientation laws and their inevitable corollary, “gay marriage,” will ultimately force the end of “discriminatory” practices against homosexual persons by even “private entities, including Boy-Scout-like organizations, churches, religious universities, and other institutions” (so Volokh; go here and here).
Even if religious exemptions were to be added to any piece of “sexual orientation” legislation, they would be of little help, for two reasons. First, religious exemptions are used as bait-and-switch tactics. As homosexualist forces tighten their hold on political rule expect such exemptions to be whittled away and ultimately eliminated. Just these past few weeks the New Hampshire House initially balked at providing the religious exemptions asked for by the governor in connection with a “gay marriage” bill. Eventually the House had to compromise with the governor to get the bill passed. The point here is that if homosexualist forces had the votes, they wouldn’t even have considered the exemptions. As culture continues to change, they and other legislative bodies will have the votes to refuse exemptions or overturn existing exemptions.
Second, in the interim let’s not forget that religious persons overwhelmingly work in secular venues where “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” laws and policies coerce their conscience and marginalize their existence to the equivalent of racists.
What else can we expect for the future? Religious institutions that “discriminate” against homosexual and transgender persons, including churches, will probably lose tax-exempt status. Religious schools will likely lose, in addition, federal grant money, access to student loans, and accreditation. Certainly these penalties already apply to religious institutions that discriminate on the basis of race (so the case of Bob Jones University). “Sexual orientation” laws equate sexual orientation with race as benign congenital conditions. Therefore we should expect the same rules to apply to religious institutions when they “discriminate” on the basis of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” All employers will have to subsidize homosexual relationships. Professional licensure for lawyers, mental health workers, etc. will require affirmation of homosexual unions and transgenderism. The list goes on and on.
Don’t believe anyone who claims that this “hate crimes” bill, with its special protections for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” won’t lead down the road to an abridgement of civil liberties for those who disapprove of homosexual and transgender behavior. All the evidence suggests otherwise. If you are tired of fighting these battles, just tell yourself that you haven’t seen anything yet. If this bill passes, the situation will continue worsening, not only for you but also (and especially) for your children. Is this an important issue, even a litmus test issue for determining which candidates for political office you will vote for? Well, can you think of any other religious belief that you hold for which you and your children could some day be ostracized, fined, fired, or worse? I can’t.
Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D. is associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, author of "The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics" (Abingdon Press) and co-author of "Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views" (Fortress Press).
Read Part 1.
Read Part 2.
© 2009 Robert A. J. Gagnon. Read the entire article on the Robert J. Gagnon website (new window will open). Reprinted with permission.