Normally, I don’t like getting political on this blog. While this is a place for me to express my ideas, I also want this to be a place for my writing, first and foremost. When I have touched on current events, it’s usually at a point when I feel I must speak up. This is one of those times, so turn back now if you’re not into that. I promise I’ll be back soon with something lighter (the first Disney retrospective is coming, I swear!) Otherwise, here we go.
News broke today that the Trump administration is considering a new ruling that would allow health care workers to cite “religious objections” as a reason for not treating certain patients. In a recent Heritage Foundation report, current head of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights, Roger Severino, specifically cited reasonings that directly target transgender and other non-binary individuals, though it takes little stretching, if any, to see how these rule changes could affect the rest of the LGBT+ community. For more information, read this article from LGBTQ Nation. A friend of mine on Facebook shared it with me, which is how I came to know about this story.
These rules, which in all likelihood will be a thing, are utterly disgusting. As stated in the article, similar rules have already been used to discriminate against LGBT+ individuals. In 2015, a pediatrician in Michigan refused to even see the infant daughter of a lesbian couple due to her “religious beliefs.” Let me repeat that: a licensed pediatrician refused to even be in the same building as her six-month-old patient because the child’s parents were two women. More information on that story here as reported by The Washington Post. Other rulings, as mentioned in the above article by LGBTQ Nation, have resulted in the death of several individuals over the objections of ambulance drivers, and the refusal of several hospitals to admit LGBT+ individuals who have suffered from violent attacks. This isn’t happening in countries often used rhetorically to shut down people talking about issues, folks; this is happening in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
These events prove that there is discrimination against this community on multiple levels. There have been incidents where LGBT+ people have been denied service, like the Kim Davis case or the more recent example of the bakery in Oregon. These always get pundits fired up about discrimination and moderates hand-wringing, asking “Where will this end?” Believe me, I know a couple people who I’ve had that exact conversation with.
To these people, I say, when you are denied a basic human right for characteristics you do not control, then you can complain about discrimination. Article 25, Section 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, and I quote, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” Emphasis on “medical care” was mine.
I try to be open-minded to a lot of viewpoints and belief systems that aren’t mine. I recognize that I was raised in a specific environment and that environment has only offered me one way of seeing the world. But, my one rule when considering a belief system is this: any point of view that denies the humanity of another’s point of view should not be tolerated. That is what this is, an attack on people’s humanity.
The constant clamor against LGBT+ rights after the same-sex marriage ratification in 2014 tends to go along the lines of “You’ve already got marriage equality, what more do you want?” Here’s the thing: it was never about marriage equality. Saying the LGBT+ rights movement was about marriage equality is like saying the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was about the bus system in Montgomery or that the Latino rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s was about grapes. It’s never about the action, it’s about the intended outcome. Every movement for social, political, and civil rights has been about getting the dominant culture to respect the humanity of those pushing for rights. These movements go in stops and starts, but ultimately, we need to keep pushing.
As an example of a larger goal to push for, may I suggest making sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes in the United States? There is currently no federal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as there is for race, sex, and religion, among others. There is a patchwork of state protections, however, there is no protection against housing discrimination or employment discrimination in twenty-eight states, and no protection under hate-crime laws for sexual orientation in eighteen states and gender identity in thirty-two. Efforts were made under the Obama administration to address some of these issues, but that can only buy eight years of protection at most. There was some promising news on this front, as just this past year the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that sexual orientation could be included under the definition of “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (read more here) but that didn’t really seem to amount to much. Without more sweeping protections, we will have to fight this battle every so often. I’m not saying that this would instantly solve all the problems facing this community, but it would sure help stop new ones from being made.
Next time, we’re going to talk about something a little lighter. Thank you for listening. Hopefully you learned something today.