My senator wants to discriminate against me.
“ … homosexuals do not have the right to be served in every store,” Sen. Joseph Silk, R-Oklahoma, wrote back in 2015 on his campaign website to address comments he had recently made to the New York Times.
Silk at the time had introduced a bill to allow businesses or religious entities to deny services based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
According to the Advocate, Silk had written, “Yes I did say that homosexuals do not have the right to be served in every store, just as I do not believe that I, my family, or anyone else have the right to be served in every private business. The right to provide services should be the decision of the business owners. We need to keep our country free and stop this radical, intolerant, movement.
“People have a right to be homosexual and I will always protect that. However, that right does not give them an excuse to trample another person’s right to live out their religious beliefs in their place of business.
“The problem with the current LGBT movement is that they have zero tolerance or consideration of other people’s rights, and yes they are a threat to our freedoms and liberties in the United States and Oklahoma.
“I am not questioning the rights of the LGBT movement, I believe they have the right to live how they want to live. They, on the other hand, are launching a massive campaign that is attempting to strip other people’s individual liberties away if they hold different beliefs … this is complete intolerance.”
Silk conveniently wrote that he does not believe his family, or anyone else, had a right to be served at businesses, but Silk knows very well his family is not the one being targeted. He and his family will never have to worry about being denied services because of who they are.
When he says anyone should be denied services because a business owner decides so, it is a dangerous precedent to set. After all, if anyone can be denied services, Mr. Silk, does that mean the U.S. should start allowing again the denial of services based on race, sex, religion?
These laws exist for a reason. You do not have to agree with or accept us but that does not give you the right to make our lives harder.
Over the years, Silk has continued his attempt to pass the “Conscience Act” to allow discrimination against the LGBT community.
I’ve met Silk multiple times over the years. When he looked at me, spoke to me, and shook my hand, he was not aware of my transgender status. He did not know I was the target of his legislation. We smiled at each other, briefly chatted, exchanged business cards, and were on our way.
My question to Mr. Silk is a simple one: Why do you hate me?
I know his answer already would be, “I don’t hate you.” He would say this is about business and religious rights.
I call bullshit.
Mr. Silk, it is the LGBT community whose freedoms and liberties are being stripped away, or in most cases not given at all.
It is in our great state of Oklahoma that the LGBT community can be denied housing and fired from our jobs, for the simple fact of being LGBT. It is you, Mr. Silk, who lacks tolerance and consideration as you continuously try to beat down a community that already fights for the simple right to be alive.
You say you believe we have the right to “live how we want,” but promote businesses turning us away. Should they put “NO LGBT ALLOWED” signs in the windows, sir? I wonder what that is reminiscent of.
Should these same businesses, based on religious grounds, be allowed to turn away the divorced? Unwed mothers? The tattooed?
There are a great many things that can be twisted on religious grounds. Hairstyles, wearing mixed cloths, beards, how we plant crops, what we drink, when we work, the foods we eat. At what point do we say enough is enough?
The use of religion to justify discrimination is not a new one. Although their plight is a different one than that of our LGBT friends, religion was once used in American history to justify racial segregation and slavery. And it still is.
Here in the South, it is not uncommon to still meet Christians who say it is a religious conviction to be against interracial marriage. There are far too many racists who would be happy to put up a “STRAIGHT WHITES ONLY” sign in their business window. It’s disgusting.
Being LGBT is not the same as race. I will never say it is. After all, I, as a white trans man, am able to hide my status as a member of the LGBT. If I am ever able to pass as being a white cisgender male, I know that I will be afforded many privileges that people of color never will be. I already am highly privileged as a passing white female.
People of color cannot hide their race. Our fight is not the same, but the use of religious convictions to justify discrimination against minorities is a struggle our communities can relate to. Now imagine the difficulties of being LGBT and a person of color. I will not speak about their struggles because it is not my place to do so, but I know those struggles are more than anything I will ever face. My heart goes out to them every day.
If your religious beliefs adhere to discrimination, you should not be working in a business that works with the public. Religious freedom allows you not to be persecuted for your beliefs but it does not give you the right to persecute others. That infringes on our freedom.
If I do not believe in birth control and think that filling a prescription for someone else’s birth control means I am going against my religious beliefs, I should not work as a pharmacist. It does not mean I can decide who is allowed their prescriptions and who isn’t.
If I believe selling condoms to someone who plans to have sex out of wedlock means I condone the act, I should not be a cashier at a store that sells condoms.
Part of being a civilized community is our ability to come together, despite our differences. We should not be afraid to go into a store and be denied services because of who we are, whether it be due to our race, gender identity, sex, or orientation.
If your religion asks you to discriminate, perhaps you need to take a long look in the mirror and think about what you truly believe in.