Marriage equality is gaining momentum. Equal-rights ordinances seeking to protect the LGBT community from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations are on the rise. Public opinion is shifting in regard to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals. But with advancement of rights comes backlash.
Presently my hometown of Plano, Texas, is in the middle of a battle over an equal-rights ordinance recently passed to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the city's nondiscrimination policy. And while the version passed has numerous exemptions (too many for now), there is still mounting support for overturning it. I struggle with comprehending the various objections to this particular civil-rights movement, but I am most affronted by the so-called argument that providing protection from discrimination for the LGBT community somehow violates religious liberty. It's argued as a battle cry based on some common understanding that being religious and being gay are mutually exclusive. But it's illogical and disingenuous to assume that everyone has the same understanding of religious doctrine and beliefs. Why do you believe that your religious beliefs are some kind of universal standard of all religious beliefs and morality? You throw around "religious liberty" as if all Christians agree on these topics, and as if our biblical interpretation and understanding hasn't been evolving for centuries.
And while, regardless of my faith, I do not believe that religious discussions should shape public policy and our laws, to ignore this religious-liberty argument is, to me, to concede that they are right that being gay and being beloved in the eyes of God are incompatible. So, addressing this singular argument only, I am compelled to ask my fellow Christians: What do we do when your religious beliefs violate my religious beliefs?
What if my religious beliefs tell me that all of us are created equal and our one true purpose is to love and help each other?
What if my religious beliefs tell me that we were given the ability to reason, learn, and evolve in our understanding of the world and our fellow man, and that we shouldn't be afraid to expand and change our hearts and minds?
What if my religious beliefs tell me that you don't need to have any religion to be a decent and moral person, that enough war and violence is done in the name of religion, so I certainly don't need to promote my belief in God as the only way to live a good life?
What if my religious beliefs tell me that, as a business owner, I should provide my services to those who are need of them regardless of whether I personally agree with everything they believe and how they live?
What if my religious beliefs tell me that to truly live in an open and vibrantly diverse society, our laws should not favor any one religion, denomination, or set of beliefs to govern all? Forget for a second what the Constitution says; what if my religious beliefs tell me that?
What if my religious beliefs tell me that so many passages in the Bible have been misinterpreted or are taken out of context to discriminate based on sexual orientation, race, and gender?
What if my religious beliefs told me in Sunday School week after week that God loves me, but now that I've grown up, you tell me that He does not?
What if my religious beliefs tell me that sin is anything that keeps one from walking with God; that I feel blessed -- yes, blessed -- that He made me this way, because it's given my life direction, purpose, and fulfillment; and that I feel closest to God when I am speaking about loving and accepting all people regardless of whether we understand or agree with everything about them?
What if my religious beliefs tell me that there are many different points of view, and that no one person can be certain that their point of view is the eternal truth, but that if we err on the side of love and acceptance, God can and will sort out the rest?
What if my religious beliefs tell me that living, working, and doing business with those with whom I disagree does not diminish my faith or my beliefs and in fact doesn't change anything about my life?
I'm not saying my religious beliefs are the way for everyone to live or believe. But neither are yours. In fact, they are not truly universal religious beliefs but your personal beliefs. And that's OK. But you don't get to impose those on everyone else to prevent them from living, working, and loving with the same freedom that you are afforded by virtue of who you are. And, as I stated above, I don't see why you have to have any religion in order to live a good and moral life. How I live is personal to me, but by no means do I believe everyone should believe as I do. And that is exactly the point.
I'm no expert in religion, but I believe in my faith as much as any of you, and my heart and soul tell me that my beliefs are just as legitimate as anyone else's. My faith tells me that God made me in His image, and that He is proud of His creation, and I seek to serve Him every day. I am perfectly imperfect but strive to be a more loving and kinder person in His honor. I am thankful to God for giving me this life. I know I am blessed to be who I am.