By Tom Venzor, Nebraska Catholic Conference
Barronelle Stutzman is an ordinary citizen—like you and me—with an extraordinary adventure over the last few years. Barronelle—a woman of Christian faith—is the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington. Over her career, Barronelle has served and employed a variety of people, including those identifying with a same-sex attraction. Motivated by her faith, Barronelle declined to use her creative skills to serve a long-time customer, Robert Ingersoll, in his same-sex ceremony.
Because of her refusal, Barronelle was accused of unjust discrimination by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and the Washington Attorney General. With the assistance of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Barronelle has been working through the judicial system to protect her faith and artistic expression.
Recently, the Washington Supreme Court concluded that the government can force business owners—like Barronelle—to create products and participate in services with which they disagree. Barronelle will appeal her case to the United States Supreme Court.
Not only is Barronelle’s livelihood at risk, but if she loses she will be subject to millions of dollars in attorney’s fees.
Barronelle is not alone in her experience. Across the country, many other men and women who own small businesses are facing the sword of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) movement. This sword comes in the form of laws that make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes—in the same vein as race, religion, sex, etc. These laws prohibit discrimination in the areas of housing, public accommodations, and employment.
Though the idea of non-discrimination is seemingly benign, these “SOGI laws” have proven anything but benign. Just ask Barronelle.
At the statewide level, Nebraska has defended against implementing SOGI non-discrimination legislation into law, despite continuous, concerted, and well-organized attempts to the contrary. This year, once again, the state legislature faces another attempt at SOGI non-discrimination legislation. The bill is LB173 and it has been introduced by Sen. Adam Morfeld (of Legislative District 46, representing the areas of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and northeast Lincoln).
Sen. Morfeld and others vehemently defend SOGI non-discrimination legislation on the basis that somebody ought not be fired or discriminated against based on who they love and that doing so is “bad for business” in Nebraska.
As Catholics we must always remain cognizant of the fact that all men and women are created in the image and likeness of God, full of dignity. This remains just as true of those with same-sex attraction. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: Those with same-sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC, 2358).
Unfortunately, LB173 goes beyond protecting unjust discrimination against those with same-sex attraction and would force employers, small business owners, religious organizations, among others, to affirm not only same-sex attraction but also sexual conduct they find immoral as matter of faith and/or reason.
Further, the argument that not adopting such legislation would be “bad for business” in Nebraska is unsubstantiated. To begin with, reducing the success or failure of a state’s economy to the presence of this one law oversimplifies economic analysis. Even if it were possible to determine whether such a law is good/bad for business, it would be revealing that Forbes’ seven out of 10 top states for business have no SOGI laws, while eight of the 10 worst states for business have SOGI laws. Nevertheless, independent businesses remain free to adopt any sort of internal non-discrimination policies they see fit.
In short, SOGI laws have been problematic throughout the country (visit www.adflegal.org for more stories). They are used as a sword by LGBT activists to go after those who disagree with their ideological beliefs on human sexuality. Such an attitude flies in the face of what even Justice Kennedy recognized in his otherwise erroneous Supreme Court opinion that created a right to so-called same-sex marriage: “This view [on traditional marriage] long has been held and continues to be held in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world.” LB173 does not treat those with differing views as reasonable and sincere people, but in need of government coercion and punishment.