The news out of the State House is that SB 344 is not getting called down for Second Reading on today, the deadline. I never got around to reviewing it in any detail, but I believe SB 344 was initially much like SB 100 without protections for transgender people. With some more or less significant amendments in the committee report, that was the vehicle for the LGB(T) Rights / Religious Freedom legislation this year that made it out of committee. (As I said before, I don’t necessarily agree with the “religious freedom” nomenclature since one person’s freedom is very often another person’s burden, but I lack a better short hand, so I’m sticking with it.) Without a vehicle having cleared one chamber or the other, it is very unlikely that LGBT Rights/Religious Freedom language would be allowed as an amendment in some other legislation as the bills switch houses.
I’m a white, heterosexual, upper-middle class, cisgender male without any particular religious motivations, so I have the luxury of being philosophical about such things; but I have a hard time feeling bad about the death of this thing. It reminds me of Jonathan Coulton’s half-pony, half-monkey monster from Skullcrusher Mountain. (Premise: Evil genius is trying to woo a love interest he has abducted):
I made this half-pony, half-monkey monster to please you
But I get the feeling that you don’t like it
What’s with all the screaming?
You like monkeys, you like ponies
Maybe you don’t like monsters so much
Maybe I used too many monkeys
Isn’t it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?
Despite the good intentions of a lot of well-meaning legislators, I think the best we were going to get out of this was a ruined pony.
The problem, as I see it, is that something has to give. The two values the legislators are trying to balance are incompatible. This is not a situation where two things we like mostly co-exist but occasionally clash in incidental ways. To be clear, I think religion generally is mostly compatible with equal rights regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. If you read the Bible, there is a ton of stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with gender or sex. But, this specific legislative fight was never about a fear that LGBT rights might somehow interfere with, say, a religious organization’s ability to care for the poor. Rather, a driving force for the religious concerns lobbying the General Assembly is a conviction that gay relationships are sinful. On the flip side, a primary concern of LGBT groups is discrimination motivated by that sort of religious world view.
Maybe I have the parameters of the fight all wrong or maybe I am not sufficiently optimistic about the possibility for creative solutions in this context; but it seems to me that when push comes to shove and the competing value systems come into direct conflict, one is going to have to take priority over the other. At the moment, it looks like the Unstoppable Force of LBGT rights versus the Immovable Object of Religious Freedom. Eventually, in these situations, in turns out that the force was not unstoppable or the object was movable. I have my suspicions, but clarity can be frustratingly slow in coming. And, without clarity about which one is going to take priority, the resulting legislation is going to be a half-pony, half-monkey monster.