March 14, 2014
Is bigotry on the rise? It would seem so from Arizona's recent ill-fated bill to allow businesses to discriminate against homosexuals if they cite religious beliefs. Is social progress and tolerance slipping?
Not at all. Aside from the fact that the vetoed law wouldn't have had much effect anyway, developments such as this are actually a long-term boon for gay rights. No, I'm not kidding. Here's why:
Historically, homosexuals in America have faced legal discrimination accompanying social marginalization. Now, the situation is quite different, with a growing majority supporting equal marriage rights for gay couples. Unfortunately, the government didn't get the memo. Only 17 of the 50 United States legally recognize gay marriage. Worse still, 13 states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books. For the most part they haven't
been enforced in a very long time, but they're still there in case some over-zealous state-level officer of the law gets some funny ideas. While across the board the American people are ready to decriminalize, if not wholeheartedly accept, homosexual relations, the current legal structure still leaves them oppressed.
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The bottom line is, people are responsible for standing up for their own rights. People are responsible for standing up for the rights of others. People are also responsible for deciding who they associate with, who they do business with, and for dealing with the consequences of those decisions. And legislation, in addition to being a clumsy tool with unintended consequences, gives people a false sense of security and an excuse to do nothing. Real change starts with individual action and responsibility.
Don't mourn when legal sanctions against bigotry threaten to disappear. Celebrate the thought of the government getting out of the morality business. They were terrible at it anyway.
Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx.