Considering Arizona LGBT Bill

All over my news feed is discussion about Arizona’s LGBT legislation. This legislation would let business owners use religious beliefs to refuse serving an LGBT individual.

Supporters of this bill claim that refusing service is religious freedom. Critics say it is legalizing discrimination. What’s in the middle of religious freedom and discrimination?

My first question was regarding signs I often see outside of businesses that say “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” What makes Arizona’s legislation necessary if business owners can refuse service? The Federal Civil Rights Act does. Legalzoom.com explains that it “guarantees all people the right to ‘full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.'”

Basically, a business owner can refuse service for arbitrary reasons, but refusing service based on a customer’s identity is illegal. A flower shop owner or baker cannot simply refuse an order for a wedding based on the sexual orientation of the couple. Arizona’s bill, that passed the legislature and is waiting Gov. Jan Brewer’s signature or veto, would allow a business to use religion as a reason to refuse service.

Outside of Arizona, there is vocal opposition against the law. The tech company Apple, which was planning to build a sapphire glass plant in the state, urged Governor Jan Brewer to veto the bill claiming it could seriously damage the economy. American Airlines and Marriot hotels also came out in opposition of the bill. The Super Bowl, which is supposed to take place in Arizona next year, may be in jeopardy. Now, leaders of the national GOP are urging Gov. Brewer to veto.

I think my Senator, Orrin Hatch’s confused comment in a Politico argument about the GOP shows how confusing the issue is:

“This is one of the societal issues that has to be resolved. I do believe states should be able to decide things for themselves, I do believe that that’s the constitutional way of handling these matters. And the states that want to go a certain way have a right to do so.”

But, Hatch added: “I don’t think we should have discrimination anyway. On the other hand, I think there’s a legitimate question raised about whether businesses have to conform to certain moral standards they disagree with. I think it’s a real important pivotal issue, and I don’t know how to resolve it, honestly.”

The question is whether baking a cake for a homosexual couple’s wedding is making the owner “conform to a certain moral standard they disagree with.” Standing up for beliefs is often an important part of a person’s religious experience. I can understand how participating in that ceremony may make a religious person feel as though they are forced to support something they find morally objectionable.

I found it interesting that Marriot opposed the bill since JW Marriot, Jr., Chairman of the Board, is Mormon. Marriot’s religion does not support gay marriage, but his hotels are still open to gay people, as well as plenty of other people who practice a whole myriad of objectionable acts in the eyes of the LDS church.

For example, does allowing unmarried couples reserve rooms mean Marriot supports pre-marital sex?

There’s never been a reason to think that businesses can control their customers’ identities and behaviors. If you want to open a business, you open it up for everyone in the area and hope they come and spend their money.

There needs to be an understanding that just because you own a business that sometimes serves people who don’t believe the same things you do, does not mean you support every action of a customer’s. I think once that is understood, the discomfort and objection will disappear.

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Considering Michael Sam

 

Mizzou Senior, Michael Sam, made history last week as the first potential NFL player to come out as gay before the draft. Reactions were mixed, but many questioned, “Why now?”

Sam answered that question in his interview with the New York Times. Scouts had already questioned Sam’s coaches about his sexuality. “I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” he told the New York Times. “I just want to own my truth.”

He is saying that the point of coming out when he did was not as much about attention now, as it was about avoiding unwanted attention later.

Sports Illustrated wrote a story on how Sam’s announcement could affect his draft prospects.

“I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet,” said an NFL player personnel assistant. “In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

So the two extremes are as follows: on one side, Michael Sam cannot play in the NFL and would cause a “chemically imbalanced” distraction. On the other side, Sam is a hero and trail blazer.

For one thing, I would like to point out that Sam’s announcement has already brought media attention to himself and the NFL. This is obvious by the fact that I, someone who does not keep track of football, know his name. The question is whether this media attention, along with Sam’s sexuality, will be a distraction.

I keep envisioning this scene in the movie 42. In this scene, Jackie Robinson is sitting alone in the locker room after the game waiting for the rest of the team to shower. He always lets everyone shower first. When a fellow player asks why he is sitting alone he responds, “I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.” The fellow player shrugs it off and tells him not to wait anymore. In that moment, Robinson is accepted as part of the team. Robinson created a lot of media attention and could be considered a distraction, but I keep wondering if Sam will gain that acceptance moment.

It seems he already has. From what I can tell (and I don’t typically follow these sorts of things) Mizzou had a great season, even though all the coaches and players knew Sam was gay. It did not distract their game or tear apart their team, and the school stood with him – quite literally. Last week, his classmates “Stood with Sam” to block a protest from the Westboro Baptist Church, and he received a standing ovation while receiving the team’s trophy during a basketball game.

Sam is a trail blazer, in that he is doing something no one has ever done before: entering the draft out of the closet. The question here, is whether we at the point where his sexuality should not matter.

Everyone keeps bringing up the locker rooms. Sports, and everything that goes with them, are a very hetero-normative arena. Football in particular is extremely hetero-normative with its muscular male players and sexy girl cheerleaders. That hetero-normality must be acknowledged in order to make adjustments for Sam, and other homosexual athletes. Those adjustments may include a different locker room setup. This should be done in a way not to “protect” straight athletes, but also make LGBT athletes comfortable.

Sam has already proven that by not making homosexual athletes welcome in professional sports, we are potentially missing out on great players.

Sam is a good football player who has proven his sexuality is not a factor in the game. If a team decides not to draft Sam based on his sexuality, that would be discrimination. The truth is that we, as a country, have not completely decided whether that discrimination is wrong yet. So coaches and players can still make comments about “chemical imbalances.”

The “NFL player personnel assistant” in the Sports Illustrated article admitted gay players in the NFL will  be acceptable in “a decade or two.” The acceptance has to begin somewhere, and will it begin now? We are about to find out. Michael Sam will definitely gain more media attention than other college seniors entering the draft this year, but this does not mean he can’t play a good game or help his team succeed.