We who live in Indiana recently went through a disturbing experience with legislation that turned many a dinner table into a debate forum at best or a war scene at worst. This blog post is not about the legislation, its origins, or its impacts. It is more about me thinking out loud about something that both troubles and intrigues me. This process is both professional and personal.
It is professional because I spout off weekly and at least some of you take a minute to listen. I studied and taught economics for about 40 years and it is hard to turn that thing off. It is personal because I am coming out. No, just kidding. I am not gay. But my daughter is a lesbian. And a lot of her friends are LGBTQ. And a lot of my friends and colleagues are too. And some of my friends also have LGBTQ children.
This personal aspect has changed over the years. Like many people I didn’t know one LGBTQ person. As a young teen I was afraid to go into certain public bathrooms because my friends told me that gay men would accost me. That was the sum total of my knowledge. Of course, no one ever did accost me but that image hung in my head for many years. I remember once after pitching in a little league game, a young boy approached me and said he heard I was Jewish. I said that was true. And then he said – but Jews are devils and have horns. He was very confused. Point – when you don’t have any personal experiences, you can carry around some really weird ideas.
As LGBTQs have become more courageous and have come out in greater numbers, more of us see more clearly that LGBTQs are just like anyone else. Robin William’s portrayal of a gay man in Bird Cage was one of many important pieces of art that helped me see LGBTQs in a new and different light. Okay they are different in their sexual orientation. Jews won’t mix meat and dairy. Koreans show respect by bowing and often the younger colleague pours the Soju for his senior counterpart. In some religions women are treated as less than equal. What is true about these and other groups is that we are all different. But most of us share many common values – like love of God, practice of the Golden Rule, raising good children, having loving partners, working hard, etc.
For some who may not have had the benefits of knowing LGBTQs, you should realize they are as diversified as any other group you care to single out. LGBTQs have everything we have – smarties, dummies, many with very conservative life behaviors and others with very crazy and colorful lifestyles. I know LGBTQ realtors, fitness instructors, business owners, and academic administrator. My daughter’s lesbian friends are public radio hosts, cops, veterinarians, healthcare workers, and roller derby queens. Speaking of my daughter, she lifted a 72 pound kettle bell over her head with one hand while holding a JD in the other hand. I once employed a woman who did excellent layouts for my newsletter. Her partner is a retired IU professor. They have been together longer than most married couples I know.
Going on with this line of analysis should be unnecessary today. Knowledge and attitudes have changed. Most of us know many LGBTQs. It is not respectful to them to have to make a point that we all know is true.
But this leads me to my main question. Why do some Christians insist that LGBTQs are sinners? Why is it that some Christians believe they would lose important religious rights if they had to cater a gay wedding? Why would they feel so horrible in catering this wedding, that it would undermine their own sense of spirituality?
One Christian friend told me that if a lesbian asked Christ to forgive her and if she renounced her sexual orientation, then she would be saved. Being a lesbian, he explained, is not the problem – it is acting as lesbian that is the sin. So if she stops that, then all is okay. But is it really okay? Yes, we want fewer divorces. Yes we want sinners to change their behavior. But is it really a sin against man or society if a loving LGBTQ couple dates, marries and does all the behaviors compatible with that love? If that is your personal belief then I won’t try to persuade you otherwise. But personal belief and public economic and business activity in a secular country are different things.
The Indiana legislation poked a finger into the eyeball of LGBTQs. I am not sure what impacts the amended law will have in the future. But I do know that it raises a very interesting question for the future. Can we really continue to think of LGBTQs as persons whose lives offend other so much that business or other laws can potentially be used to deny them normal functioning in society? I hope the answer is no.