As in Every Reform

In support of Montevallo’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance (NDO), I delivered this brief speech on Monday, April 23, 2018 in front of the Montevallo City Council and other citizens who were both for and against the ordinance. On that evening, the Montevallo City Council voted and the Non-Discrimination Ordinance was passed. It protects LGBT people in areas of employment, housing, and public accommodation, just as other people have already been protected similarly from discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, and religion in areas of employment, housing, and public accommodation under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

At this meeting, citizens had the opportunity to speak, so I read a short prepared speech, less than three minutes in length, responding to criticisms of the Non-Discrimination Ordinance. Fittingly, two Christian men who opposed the NDO spoke right before me, claiming, in one way or another, that their Christian religious identities led them to oppose extending civil protections to LGBT people.

One of the speakers attempted to argue that, since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes protections for religion, it must mean that Christians, perhaps being superior to non-Christians in his mind, have the right to engage in selective discrimination as they please with no consequences whatsoever. In my relatively brief response, I address the issues which have, even since the passing of the NDO on that evening, remained in dialogue among Montevallo citizens.


Responding to the popular male supremacist interpretations of the Bible, Lucretia Mott, a feminist, an abolitionist, and an experienced Quaker minister, said in 1854: “The veneration of man has been misdirected, the pulpit has been prostituted, the Bible has been ill-used. It has been turned over and over as in every reform.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton likewise commented on the Church’s hostility toward women’s rights and toward progressive social reform. Reflecting upon the nineteenth century, Stanton writes in 1898 that, in responding to the feminists, “the clergy, as a body, [were] quite as hostile to their demands as the statesmen.” Historically, which can be seen vividly in America, religion, more specifically Christianity, has been used as the justification through which to maintain unquestioned inequality and stifle, if not altogether silence, social movements as a means of defending tradition and prejudice.

As a widely recognized, although criticized, piece of social reform legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes protections from discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, and religion in public accommodations. It does not, however, include sexual identity and gender identity [1]. To answer the issue of “free markets,” which was raised by the speakers at the forum in Montevallo on January 11, 2018, “free markets” are not truly free if selective discrimination is allowed; they are free to the privileged majority which can access the available public accommodations and services. But the group of “undesirables,” the unprotected minority of people, does not necessarily partake in a truly free market if certain goods and services can be denied on the bases of sexual identity and gender identity at the discretion of individual business owners [2].

America has been suffering from a disease of its body, but the problems did not start in recent years, in the past few decades, or even last century; they have existed since the beginning of this country. The affliction which has been ravaging America’s body, mind, and soul does not seem to be rooted in a lack of morality. Instead, this ongoing illness hurting our country seems to be related to an unapologetic rejection of what it is to compassionately and selflessly care for other human beings who are less privileged than and/or different from oneself [3].


Notes

[1] If I was to edit this brief speech, then I would replace “sexual identity” and “gender identity” with “sexual orientation.” This change seems sensible because, in fact, the logic behind why “transgender women” experience much discrimination and violence, primarily at the hands of other people of the male sex, is precisely because of male-pattern homophobia. Homophobic males assume homosexuality from another male-sexed person’s gender nonconformity, therefore homophobia remains the prevailing factor. We could, then, also discuss the problems of forcing males to look masculine and forcing females to look feminine, which, as such, could fall under “sex” and “sex stereotyping,” rather than “gender identity.”

[2] See note 1. In addition, exclusively female-only spaces in regard to changing rooms, locker rooms, and rape relief and crisis shelters matter, so selective discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity, for the purpose of sensibly upholding sex-segregated services, is not itself a form of “oppression” at odds with the equality principle. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated, in 1975:

“Separate places to disrobe, sleep, perform personal bodily functions are permitted, in some situations required, by regard for individual privacy. Individual privacy, a right of constitutional dimension, is appropriately harmonized with the equality principle.”

See also, generally, Kara Dansky, “Harris v. EEOC and the Women’s Rights Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” The Hill, October 8, 2019.

[3] While I do think we should all show compassion toward our fellow human beings, at the same time, I find far less compassion coming from left-wing people in regard to gay and lesbian children potentially being subjected to social and medical transitioning because they think that they are “the opposite sex.” I find far less compassion coming from left-wing people toward women and girls being further marginalized in their own spaces for the sake of males who self-identify as “female.” Intersex people find themselves marginalized by the new gender theorists who announce, with glee, that intersex males and intersex females, who need to know how their bodies work, are actually “neither male nor female.” Indeed, left-wing people treat the sex-based rights of women, lesbians, gay men, and intersex people as collateral damage for the sake of advancing “gender identity.”

Categories Women’s Studies and Feminist Theory
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