Today, Saturday, February 2, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., we will stream "live" from Aesop’s Tables, 600 East Massachusetts Avenue, Indianapolis. Our topic will by LGBT rights. You can listen to The Show on "Indiana Talks" by going to their website. Or you can go to Live365 and pick up the feed there. Our video live-stream is on this website and UStream.
There are several aspects to this topic. The most obvious, and what grabs the most headlines, is marriage equality. At present, a proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution is before the Indiana General Assembly. Likely, this week, the matter will be tabled until next week because the United States Supreme Court will hear argument in March on two cases. One case considers a challenge to the validity, under the United States Constitution, of the provision of a state’s constitution that limits marriage to a man and a woman. The other case considers whether one state, consistent with the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution, Art. IV, sec. 1, can refuse to recognize a marriage, between two individuals of the same gender, solemnized in a state in which such marriage is legal. If the U.S. Supreme Court holds that states cannot ban marriage equality, Indiana’s action would be moot.
If this country had single payor (national) health care, some, but not all, of the ramifications of this debate would be moot.
To be free from discrimination is the broader purpose of those who seek LGBT rights.
Many of the people who argue against LGBT rights base their arguments on religion. If the bible says homosexuality is wrong, then we should not allow the State to approve of persons of the same sex who seek to marry. This is an example of religious "freedom" advanced at the expense of the freedom of others and constitutes an advancement or "establishment" of religion. White evangelical Christians, in particular, have come to claim they are targets of persecution while they seek to impose their beliefs on others.
Our society has advanced to the point at which members of the LGBT community no longer are prosecuted in our courts for their relationships. To allow those people now to marry is not an imposition of their beliefs on others. Two consenting adults can enter into marriage. If one is opposed to same-gender marriage, that person should not enter into such a union.
LGBT people also seek protection of their civil rights. For example, if two people of the same gender who have a sexual relationship want to rent an apartment, they should not face discrimination by the landlord. The 1964 Civil Rights Act and other statutes protect persons from such discrimination on the basis of race. LGBT persons seek similar protection. They want equality under the law.
If we are to use religion as a cloak for such actions, then where is the line drawn? Some would say people of dark skin are "sons of Ham" from the bible and not equal to others. If we give credence to the argument these views, and more importantly the actions they entail, are protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, we allow what some would see as hateful conduct under the guise of religion. What, though, if a person does not base this same discrimination on religious teachings? If someone is a bigot, but does not root that belief in a deity, presumably that person’s views would be disregarded. In one sense, I say "good." However, from a First Amendment perspective, we would have allowed a religious belief to trump a secular belief. Indiana’s Constitution allows for freedom of conscience. Religion is not supposed to have "one leg up" on other belief systems.
Where does the hem of the cloak of religion stop as to wrongful conduct? Cannibalism has been practiced, in history, as a religious rite. I do not think anyone seriously would argue the Free Exercise Clause covers that. The United States Supreme Court held that possession and consumption of peyote is not protected, even though people indigenous to this continent have used peyote as a sacrament for centuries.
Today’s discussion will include current topics of other matters before the General Assembly and national audience.