Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The value of knowing what you are talking about

Last month, there was a gay rights demonstration in my town.  Not too surprising considering the number of young people brought in by the university, but still a bit of a shocker to the sheltered Utahn's around here.  At the time, I was unable to tell what it was about.  I mean, really unable to tell.  I drove past it 3 times during my errands that day and I still couldn't see.  As one of my work associates commented, they needed to take some classes on protesting.  If you don't hold the sign still it means I can't read what it says, especially if someone is standing in front of it.

In priesthood meeting the following Sunday, my bishop said something essentially to the effect that it was a gay marriage demonstration and that we need to be careful in these last days etc... pretty predictable stuff.  Even though he stated or implied that the it was about marriage, I was pretty certain he didn't know because nobody else I had talked to had been able to figure it out yet.

So, today I finally looked up what they were actually protesting.  To make this make sense, I'll need to give some history.

A few months ago Salt Lake City passed a bill which protected homosexuals against employment and housing discrimination.  The LDS church, finding their concerns on the subject very much addressed made an official press release supporting the passage of the bill.  If you don't believe me the link to the press release/statement to the city council is here

In any case, church support for such a bill sparked similar bills across Utah.  In the Utah state legislature, there were simultaneous efforts to pass a bill similar to the one in Salt Lake and also to pass bills overturning any city discrimination law.  One lawmaker in particular, went on the record to say the following:

Our citizens shouldn't be doing things that are discriminatory. If they are, that's information we'll gather next year that will push legislation, If the GLBT community are doing offensive activities in a public setting, that will push legislation in the other direction," he added. "We need to be respectful of one another; we all need to all figure out how to live together."

I'll admit context is key on a subject like this.  But essentially from what it sounds like, he was saying that if homosexuals are publically obnoxious then said behavior will have to be criminalized or perhaps just repealing any city ordinances granting non discrimination rights.  I can understand a protest going against that kind of talk.  Especially since its so vague on what offensive activities means.  So what, if he loses his breakfast over seeing a gay couple make out next weekend he'll just have to take away their housing and employment discrimination rights to force them to move to California so his breakfast will sit better?  Perhaps he didn't mean that, but his statement was waaay to vague to be appropriate to a civil rights discussion.  To put it in context, if we were discussing race instead of orientation it would be like saying he didn't like segregation, but if he thought that the black community was offensive he'd be forced to allow segregation in employment and housing.  Not trying to say that all aspects of race and orientation arguments are equivalent or equal valued, but rephrasing his idiotic comment in a different context shows how badly worded and inappropriate the statement was.

So back to my actual point, my bishop thought he was speaking against a homosexual marriage demonstration.  He was actually speaking out against a proposal for non discrimination in housing and employment that the church he was representing had already made a statement supporting.  There's a value in knowing what you are talking about, which is why despite finding the protest interesting, I haven't commented on it until today when I found out what was actually going on.

More background on this situation can be found here, here, and here.

Oh, and having heard other people in congregation I've belonged to lament that in their opinion any publically known transgressor of any major commandment would be driven out of town in the little town he grew up in by ostracism and losing employment, I can see the value of a state ordinance.

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