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Legislating Intolerance
Posted by Jessica MacGilvray on May 12, 2011 - 7:30:11 AM

American Flag. Photo by Jocelyn Holt
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) is offering an amendment to the defense authoritarian bill that would require the armed forces to issue specific “conscience” protections for service members who view gay people as immoral.  So, in essence, what the measure says is that it is OK to be prejudiced and intolerant, so long as it is about gay people.

Specifically, the bill states, “The sincerely held religious or moral beliefs of a member of the Armed Forces that homosexual or bisexual conduct is immoral and/or an inappropriate expression of human sexuality according to the tenets of the member’s faith community shall be accommodated”¦”

What if my sincerely held religious or moral belief made me unable to work with black people or with Hispanic people or women or Muslims? Should my prejudices and phobias be accommodated? Should I get a free pass to act intolerantly to my fellow service members without any consequence?  Calling this miscarriage of justice a “conscience protection” just adds insult to injury.

The U.S. military has a long record of fighting prejudice. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman's Executive Order 9981 ordered the integration of the armed forces shortly after World War II, a major advance in civil rights. In the 1950s several attempts were made by Southern senators to introduce legislation to effectively re-segregate the armed services, but these were defeated. This legislative effort about condoning gay prejudice is the same kind of regressive measure. Prejudice and intolerance are wrong. They just are. It doesn’t really matter what group you target.

Being intolerant and hostile is harmful to everyone. 

According to Gallup and other mainstream polls, the majority of Americans, even the majority of religious Americans believe that discrimination against and abuse of gay people is wrong. To pass a law protecting intolerance and promoting prejudice is wrong. Like the re-segregation bills of the 1950s it is not supported by the general will of the people.

It is beyond any argument a really bad idea.

Our country was founded on the principle of fairness and equality under the law. Originally that fairness and equality only applied to wealthy white men, but since 1776, we have gradually and consistently progressed in the direction of making this country more fair and equal for all our citizens. I call this progress and a really good idea.

One would think that this would be a very simple thing for the conservative mind to get behind. It’s not just well-to-do white people, but poor white people, black people, women, blind people, deaf people, gay, lesbian, transgender people, and every kind and condition of people who are equal citizens in this nation. That idea is the cornerstone of liberty. When any group is deprived of liberty and equality under the law because some other group thinks they don’t deserve it, the liberty, equality, freedom and justice of all citizens is imperiled. Codifying intolerance into law makes liberty and justice for all an illusion.


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