Quote of the Week: "But in the end, the continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. It's a choice. It prioritizes scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since – as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing. It disregards the degree to which all writings reflect the biases and blind spots of their authors, cultures and eras. It ignores the extent to which interpretation is subjective, debatable. And it elevates unthinking obeisance above intelligent observance, above the evidence in front of you, because to look honestly at gay, lesbian and bisexual people is to see that we're the same magnificent riddles as everyone else: no more or less flawed, no more or less dignified."
– Frank Bruni in the New York Times
Over the past two months, while some of us were busy smearing our new gay weddings with fabulous cake (OK, this writer was), something pernicious and unnecessary was being pushed through the Florida Legislature – or at least the House, because the Senate seems to know better. By now you're aware of the Religious Freedom Restoration acts that are promoting bigotry throughout the country, even though most states – like Florida – already have protections written into law for religious freedom. Why ever would we need to talk about this now? Certainly not in Florida, right?
513,847: Approximate number of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender residents living in the state of Florida, according to the U.S. Census in 2012
Joyless ball of confusion State Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, seems to disagree. During a House Judiciary Committee meeting, he fell just a hair short of sending gay people to the back of the bus on the issue of private agencies refusing gay adoptions based on the religious affiliations involved. We've spoken of this legislation before, but chosen to roll our eyes, mostly because it doesn't have a Senate companion and is basically a game of chicken to impress the hate base. The bill passed its committee (again, without a Senate companion, so who's in the closet or running for office in Sanford?), but not without us getting a clear view of Brodeur's inner Patrick Bateman slipping its mouth-foot out of the closet first.
"I think we know at the federal level that we have protected classes that receive restricted scrutiny," he told the House Judiciary Committee on April 2. "If we talk about religion, national origin, race or disability, those already receive restricted scrutiny." He then went on to, with his hands, show the tier upon which LGBT people fall in levels of protection, and, well, if his right hand could go beneath the floor, it would have.
Why this particular bill matters, though, is that things have changed since Bill Clinton signed an RFRA in 1993 and Florida followed suit in 1998. For one, the Indiana-style law that currently has Indiana Gov. Mike Pence wiping egg off his face while nuns stand around him includes businesses and not just people. That means, if you're a troglodyte in Indiana who doesn't want to cater gay pizza weddings, you can earn $1 million on the Internet from hateful donors who don't understand that there is no such thing as a gay pizza wedding. It's just pizza martyrdom, really. Florida, the Miami Herald reports, doesn't allow the private use of bigotry in courts of law as justification for discrimination. Also, conservatives, it's not like everyone isn't currently bearing witness to your orchestrated homophobic backlash.
"Knowing these people [who run the Christian adoption agencies], and knowing that they believe in the sanctity of marriage, of one man and one woman, they will be, I believe, one day, faced with a choice: Either shut down ... or get the heck out of the business, or do something that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs," State Rep. Scott Plakon told political website Saint Petersblog last week. "I know these people. They will not be able to continue."
And yet "these people" receive special status in taxation and licensing. Oh, the persecution. But what really gets us down is that this kind of legislation inspires homophobia outright. Last month, WFTV-9 News reports, a 32-year-old gay man was jumped by idiot teens in Parramore. Way to send a message!--
0: The number of heterosexual rights that are affected by LGBT rights
Florida's current bill applies only to adoption agencies, but it could be just the start of the revenge legislation the state is piling upon its dockets for the coming years. The fear is that this particular bill might be attached to an omnibus adoption bill that is meant to remove the gay adoption ban (already struck down by the courts) and a legislative tennis match on language will result in the bill landing back in the House ultimately, and the governor signing it.
"If this bill passes, does it mean that state-funded adoption agencies will have signs that say 'Gays, lesbians and Jews need not apply'?" Equality Florida public policy specialist Carlos Smith asks. "And Jason Brodeur should be ashamed of himself."