Friday, June 08, 2007

Tony Perkins Must Be For Religious Discrimination, Right?

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council thinks that because gay men and women can choose their actions, therefore they aren’t like African-Americans who can’t change their skin color.

Unlike ethnicity, homosexual behavior is a choice. A person can choose to either participate in homosexual behavior or not to participate. An African-American cannot choose to participate in having black skin; they are born with it.
Perkins is reacting to New Hampshire’s Govenor John Lynch signing a bill to create civil unions, something which he touted as part of the state’s grand tradition opposing discrimination, dating back to the abolitionist movement. (By the way, yay New Hampshire!)

Of course Perkins is wrong to imply that gay men and women aren’t sometimes born the way they are, but in a tiny way he is right that gays, unlike blacks, can “pass” for straight if they really want to. They can hide their “differences” from sight.

Which makes discrimination based on sexual orientation look a heck of a lot like discrimination based on religious affiliation. No one knows I’m a Jew unless I tell them I am. I don’t have a Jewish last name and I don’t have stereotypical Jewish features. I guess I can hide my religion (in a closet if you will) so that no one will ever know. But let’s say my employer found out that a long time ago I mentioned to a shared colleague I attended a Batz Mitzvah. And because my employer doesn’t agree with the Jewish faith, suddenly he decides to fire me. No I didn’t wear a Star of David to work or try to convert my co-workers. In fact maybe I did everything I could to make sure my employer didn’t know I was Jewish precisely because I knew he would act that way.

But my secret got out anyways and now I’m out a job. Can someone ask Tony Perkins if being fired for being Jewish is any different than being fired for being gay? Sure I can choose not to practice my religion. Maybe I even have the option of converting to Christianity to keep my job. But that doesn’t mean I’m not…well...Christian in the way I think. And since American tradition isn’t to allow discrimination based on beliefs (as long as they don’t impact others), why is a gay person’s internal thoughts + private actions, any different than my internal religious thoughts + private religious practices? I have a “choice” not to be Jewish but that doesn’t mean I can be fired because I have that choice.

Hat tip to Slacktivist who has more to say.