S. E. Williams | Black Voice News
I cannot say I was surprised when the Supreme Court rendered its unanimous decision Thursday, June 17 or that it avoided the hard question of whether freedom of religion supersedes an individual’s civil rights.
The whole affair was just the latest “let’s try to codify discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community” effort by many religious conservatives, however once again the Court restricted its ruling to avoid setting a precedent just as it did in the 2018 case of the Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake to celebrate a gay marriage.
The case in question, Fulton et al v. City of Philadelphia, PA once again left the Justices skirting a thin line in another successful effort to avoid making a decision about what happens when freedom of religion infringes on human and civil rights.
Religious freedom should not mean freedom to discriminate. What is the real intent of the Religious Freedom protections of the Constitution? When did it morph from protecting the rights of religious people to religious freedom . . . to giving religious people the right to discriminate against others?
Yet, last week the Justices agreed the City of Philadelphia went too far when it imposed its anti-discrimination law on the Catholic charity—Catholic Social Services—for refusing to consider same-sex parents eligible to adopt foster children.
In a nation that historically has considered anyone who is not a heterosexual, “Anglo Saxon” Christian outside the norm—unless, of course, they possessed enough money to pay the price of admission (even when it does not include acceptance), this is just another in a long list of oppressive, discriminatory sanctions that—though limited in scope, gives green light exceptions to discrimination.
The ongoing battle for LGBTQ rights continues to ebb and flow while those who challenge the human and civil rights of this community are now leveraging two foundational, constitutional rights against one another and daring the Supreme Court to weigh in and set a moral compass.With the high court now packed with conservative judges those who hold this belief are pretty confident in their eventual victory. To borrow a cliché, let’s hope “they are not counting their chickens before they are hatched.”
Pundits were quick to assuage the sensibilities of the gay community when the Fulton ruling came down the gay community should take comfort in the case not being precedent setting.
What is most egregious or maybe ironic or maybe paradoxical or maybe just egregiously ironic and paradoxical about this Supreme Court decision in favor of the Catholic Social Services, is that for decades Catholic priests sexually abused tens of thousands of innocent children.
Perhaps what was equally if not more egregious, is it has been widely reported many church leaders knew it, the church hid it, some police agencies and/or government officials were allegedly complicit in covering it up and members of the Roman Catholic church have paid—by some estimates—nearly a billion dollars to settle cases over the long years of purported child abuse.
And yet, Catholic Social Services with a nod from the Supreme Court, dares sit on its self-constructed- irreparably-tarnished and deteriorating moral perch as some “Dark-Ages” authority over the lives of gay couples.
The church does this as if most everyone in America has collective memory loss about the church’s history. It is shocking to me, a charity so closely aligned with the Catholic Church would be allowed to manage a program involving children, especially since we all know the history of the church and far too many of its priests. This is hypocrisy–personified.
The struggle for full citizenship continues for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Now it seems LGBTQ+ rights are still caught in the moral morass of a land where freedom of religion is prized and yet, where there is also supposed to be a separation of church and state. So, it is difficult to understand how a particular religious belief can take precedence when it comes to one’s rights as a human being and citizen of this nation even though the court’s decision only applies to this case.
This is among the many reasons congress needs to pass legislation guaranteeing the rights of LGBTQ+ citizens. Among the many pieces of important legislation stuck in Congress along with the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the George Floyd Criminal Justice Reform Act and Immigration Reform is the all-important Equality Act.
This legislation will expand federal civil rights laws to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, jury service, and federally funded programs, particularly those related to health, education, and public places.
California leads the nation when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights and protections and locally, Riverside County remains home to one of the largest LGBTQ+ communities per capita in the nation.
As municipalities in the region continue working on issues related to equity in a variety of areas, one area where there are signs of progress was reflected in results published in the 9th Annual Municipal Equality Index Survey.
In the Survey published December 2020, municipalities were rated based on their non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality. The City of Riverside received the highest possible score of 100 percent.
The survey is a nationwide appraisal of LGBTQ+ inclusion in municipal law, policy, and services. Riverside scored exceptionally high for prohibiting discrimination in city employment, ensuring discrimination does not occur in the city contracting process, for offering benefits to the domestic partners of city employees, for having a Human Relations Commission and for having a LGBTQ+ liaison in the City Manager’s Office.
Other inland area communities scoring above 50 percent in the survey included Palm Desert (94), Moreno Valley (60), Corona and Fontana (59), San Bernardino (53) and Ontario (52).
Though much remains to be done to ensure equity for everyone regardless of race, creed, color, or sexual orientation in the inland region, it is encouraging to know local communities are to some extent, demonstrating their commitment to human rights by working to improve the quality of life for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.