In April, when Indiana Governor Mike Pence and legislators called for a “fix” to the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act to exempt discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, Scott McCorkle, a LGBT activist said, “Today is a positive first step, but it is a first step in a larger discussion [to] acknowledge the importance of equal rights for all, and I am excited about what will come in the next step of our journey.”
Indiana seems poised to consider the next step in providing protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Both democrats and republicans claim to be hard at work crafting legislation for the next legislative session which begins in January. The discussion of an anti-discrimination law is heating up at a federal level. But the Hoosier State may well be first in the spotlight this coming winter, and the media which profited greatly from the RFRA debate will eagerly cover the ensuing discussion. In other words, Hoosiers can expect the issue to dominate headlines again with everyone talking about it.
If this is the next step in the journey, then all Hoosiers ought to be asking where the journey leads and ends.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Christian who serves the resurrected Jesus. I seek to love all people (though imperfectly) as he commands. I also believe that God made mankind male and female and that he in his love designed the marriage relationship and sexual activity for a husband and wife. We all have many kinds of deeply held desires and inclinations – sexual or otherwise – that are part of our personal constitution. People are born with desires they did not choose. Should those desires become markers of identity? I do not believe so.
But even those who do not raise moral objection should ask where the journey ends because of the implications of such legislation. Historically, we have organized many aspects of our society around obvious biological identities – male and female. The changes being proposed would reorganize us socially based on internal intent – what we internally sense our identity is or should be. We really are considering a massive reordering of our society. Everyone would be affected in every day ways. If the rules are to change, then it is at least fair to ask what the new rules would be and mean.
Where does the journey end? In April, LGBT activist Chris Douglas, said, “The end is that the equality guaranteed to all other Hoosiers through the Indiana Civil Rights Code is guaranteed also to us.” It may seem like a simple, straightforward answer, but lawmakers and citizens alike are right to ask for clarity as to the implications of such protections.
Now is a good time for Indiana’s lawmakers and residents to begin asking the following kinds of questions of a bill designed to offer protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity:
- Would all sexual orientations be protected? How would sexual orientations be identified/declared? Would Hoosiers be required to approve of the various expressions of sexuality such as are fostered in Connecticut at Wesleyan University’s Open House student housing unit? The university recently stated that the “Open House is a safe space for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderfuck, Polyamourous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism (LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM) communities and for people of sexually or gender dissident communities.” [Shortly before posting this article, Wesleyan changed the house statement on its website to read, “Open House works to be a welcoming space for non-normative sexuality and gender minorities, acknowledging this task is one of perpetual motion and action. The goals of Open House include generating interest in the celebration of queer life from the social to the political to the academic. Queer is a word with many meanings, and we embrace all and none of them.”] Though no substantial voices argue for the legalization of pedophilia, some on the fringe of society would claim pedophilia as a deeply held innate desire, indeed, an orientation. Would there be a list of legal or illegal sexual orientations for everyone’s protection?
- How would gender identity be declared to assure good order in society? Would state driver’s licenses indicate the gender identity? What rules, if any, would apply to who may use men’s and women’s public restrooms, bathhouses, locker rooms, etc.? Would schools and other public facilities be required to upgrade their facilities?
- If a person determines he or she was mistaken in his or her original declaration of orientation/identity, what legal procedure, if any, would be necessary to make the appropriate change? How long would that take?
- How is the anti-discrimination law different from simply stating that all citizens must accept, approve, and support all legal sexual identifications and practices?
- Since many believe sex-change procedures to be most effectively and compassionately begun with puberty, what course of legal action will minors desiring such change have if their parents or guardians oppose it?
- What kinds of protections would exist for parents who oppose sex-change procedures on their children who desire a sex change and have been granted it by a court of law? Could discrimination suits be filed against the objecting parents for damages?
- What would be the definition of discrimination?
- Would the legislation be tied to the Civil Rights portion of the Indiana Code where jury trials are not afforded for the alleged offender? What protections would be afforded those alleged to have discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity?
- What would be the penalties for such discrimination? What would be the maximum penalties?
- What will be the guidelines for counseling confused children? Would it be permissible to counsel them “straight” as well as “other”? Would state-licensed counselors and therapists be allowed to keep their licenses if they recused themselves from counseling circumstances that require them to violate their religious beliefs?
- How would religiously-based charities be affected? In facilities designed to serve the most underserved, what matters of housing and care would arise? Would they be required to change their facilities? Would they be able to afford such upgrades?
- What other questions should be asked and answered before mandating and codifying such a significant change in how we are organized as a society? What reasonable alternatives to such legislation might be viable? If questions like those above cannot be adequately answered at this time, is it possible that the best course of action is to simply let the current laws stand that protect everyone while allowing residents of the state the opportunity to organically express Hoosier Hospitality and show love for each other?