The feud between the LGBT community and the strict boundaries of religion has been akin to the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys, the Montagues and the Capulets, Apple and Microsoft. The Indiana Religious Freedom Act, recently passed by Indiana Governor Mike Pence, is doing nothing more than fueling the flames. Although the intended purpose of the law is to apparently protect people’s (namely, business owner’s) freedom to practice and live by the rules of their chosen religion without having to worry about the confines of state or federal law, the use of the law has spiraled into a discriminatory measure against the entire LGBT community. Business owners are allegedly refusing to serve gays, lesbians and transgender people on the basis that it goes against their religion.
Obviously, refusing to serve someone based on their sexual orientation goes against the Constitution. Or does it? Are we supposed to look at the law as protecting freedom of religion, or as discriminating against a certain group of people?
Although the LGBT community has received a lot of positive press in recent years, what with thirty-seven states legalizing gay marriage (including our home state of New York), situations like this seem to stress that their problems are far from over. Even at our own school, LGBT students still experience quiet forms of discrimination.
“I have experienced some discrimination,” says Stephen Perez, an openly gay GHS sophomore. “I’ve been called slurs in the hallways of school, or just out in public.”
While he says that his peers and the majority of students at Guilderland have been very accepting of his sexuality, the student says he still experiences exclusion based on things he can’t change. “I’ve been excluded for my sexuality. In the locker room, a lot of guys will make sure they are far away from me. When we pick partners in class for projects, I’m usually the kid that doesn’t have a partner. A lot of people don’t really want to interact with ‘the gay kid,'” he says. “I don’t know if it’s out of fear or hate.”
As for the Indiana Religious Freedom Act, he believes it is disgusting and discriminatory. “I plan on taking a stand against it any way I can, even if it’s just over social media,” he says. “It’s important for LGBT youths to get their voice heard on important issues that could affect them for many years to come.”
JC, another LGBT sophomore, also believes that the Indiana law is discriminatory. “People do have the freedom to believe what they want, I have nothing against that,” JC said. “But to be able to keep people from jobs and having a peaceful life using your religion as an excuse is ridiculous.” JC is pansexual, meaning JC does not discriminate between gender when determining attraction.
Although JC’s peers are not aware of JC’s sexual orientation, JC did have problems at first coming out to their parents. “My parents didn’t really believe me when I came out to them,” they said. “They thought I was just ‘confused.'” JC remarked that their parents were more understanding now, although the stigma around young teens in the LGBT community might have attributed to JC’s parents’ hesitation.
Proponents of the Indiana Religious Freedom Act say that business owners should not have to serve people who do not agree with their religion. However, a problem with the law is that it furthers the growing divide between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church, as long as forcing homosexuals and the like into an almost separated, different community. JC’s peers do not know about JC’s sexuality, nor do they probably care. The question is, is the LGBT community so different from others? Or is Indiana’s new law just trying to make us believe that?