Oct 30, 2020 | OPINION | By Ian Chalmers | Illustration by Xixi Qin

“Meet me in the middle,” says the unjust man.You take a step towards him. He takes a step back.“Meet me in the middle,” says the unjust man.

– A. R. Moxon

It was 2012 when David Mullins and Charlie Craig visited Jack Phillips’s bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, in Lakewood, Colo. They were going to get married in Massachusetts and wanted Phillips to bake their cake. Phillips denied their request by stating that he would not use his talents to convey a message of support for same-sex marriage, at odds with his religious faith.

The couple took Phillips to court, where the long and arduous battle took six years to resolve, with Phillips winning the case. The primary argument was between equality and liberty — which one is more important. Since people like artists, florists, and bakers are expressing themselves, their expressions are protected under the First Amendment freedom of speech, and in Phillip’s case, freedom of religion.

However, the U.S. has made it clear that it values equality over liberty in theory with voting reform, women’s suffrage, the abolition of slavery, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky so brilliantly summarizes, “The application of all anti-discrimination laws infringes the freedom to discriminate. But for decades, the law has made the choice that ensuring equality is worth sacrificing the liberty to discriminate.”

Will these anti-discrimination laws protecting queer individuals discriminate against religious individuals? That is the concern of some religious individuals, such as former Governor of Indiana and current Vice President Mike Pence. Back in 2015, the former governor signed into law a religious freedom bill that could allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of “religious freedom.”

This controversial law was plastered all over major news networks, and it was a step back from the progress being made in recent years for LGBTQIA+ individuals. Fortunately, a major milestone for the queer community would occur mere months later with the historical decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage across the U.S.

The crusade against queer rights did not end there, however. The ascension of Governor Pence to the vice presidency has led to more than 101 attempts to rescind LGBTQIA+ rights, with the most successful of these attempts being the ban against transgender individuals in the military.

Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher came under fire back in 2018 for saying, “Every homeowner should be able to make a decision not to sell their home to someone (if) they don’t agree with their lifestyle.”

Wayne Woodward, a member of the National Association of Realtors present at the meeting, recalls, “I told the congressman that we need to add federal protections for the LGBTQ community as the final piece of the Fair Housing Act, and the minute I stopped speaking, he said, ‘I just will not support that.’”

This only highlights the shift that the religious right is undertaking to slowly rescind the rights of queer individuals. The rate of homeless youth who identify as LGBT vary percentage wise, but estimates fall somewhere between 11% and 40%. There are also (the lack of) provisions against the firing of individuals for being queer, which have led some to argue that there should be another Civil Rights Act that includes protections for LGBTQIA+ individuals.

On Oct. 12, 2020, the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners voted unanimously on a section of its code of conduct, which will no longer prohibit social workers from turning away clients on the basis of disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The new rule has led to public outcry in Texas and across the country.

LGBTQIA+ are members of society who, in many cases, need some form of social work services, such as mental health treatment, as there are some parts of the country in which people vehemently ostracize and disown queer individuals.

This crisis is only furthering the religious right’s push against the LGBTQIA+ community, as the Republican Party is feeling emboldened to try to change American social and cultural norms by going against the grain and advocating for or passing these controversial policies.

The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Monday night, which the Republicans chose to prioritize rather than pass an economic stimulus plan to help a disgruntled country in the midst of a pandemic and recession, shows a disconnect with citizens and brings the fate of Roe v. Wade into question.

This upcoming election is of historic proportions and will decide the future of the U.S. If you have not done so already, go vote or mail in your ballot to ensure that your voice is heard, for every vote will count in this highly contested election — and the decisions made by the victors will undoubtedly have enormous impacts on ways of life across the country.  

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