It’s an argument that’s been heard a hundred times across a hundred cities – this LGBTQ protection-centered legislation force Christians to act against their religious values and beliefs. This time, the argument is cropping up in Glendale as the the Phoenix suburb reviews an anti-discrimination ordinance prohibiting businesses from discriminating against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, among other factors, and would extend to employment, housing, and public accommodations.
Opposition of ordinance comes from one of two places, fear or indifference. 13% of the participants polled at the City Hall meetings regarding the matter believed Glendale does not have a discrimination problem, but voices of LGBTQ meeting members told a different story, with comments submitted including testimony about active discrimination based on perceived level of homosexuality. Greater opposition came from those who believe the ordinance would stifle their religious beliefs. So what will it take to get Glendale on board?
Let’s start with the first root of opposition – fear. There is fear that anti-discrimination laws could force Christians, specifically, to act against their religious beliefs; fear that these laws could allow strange men into women’s bathrooms under the guise of being gender queer; fear that once the law passes for businesses, they’ll force it on to churches and private social institutions as well.
Here’s what it’s important to understand about anti-discrimination legislation: it’s about protecting some people, not harming others. Inclusive policies allow for those who have traditionally been marginalized a measure of security. Glendale’s ordinance, specifically, would simply allow for LGBTQ individuals to maintain their jobs and homes regardless of their sexual identity.
The ordinance is not aimed at changing the minds or hearts of business owners – it’s aimed at protecting their patrons. A popular example that’s given is as follows:
An LGBTQ employee could get married on Saturday, post wedding pictures to Facebook on Sunday, and get fired on Monday with no recourse to help reclaim employment or protect their home and finances. A person of any religious persuasion, on the other hand, could get married on Saturday and post pictures on Sunday, and if they’re filed on Monday because their employer did not approve of their religious affiliation, they would have the whole legal system behind them to help reclaim their job and collect damages.
The ordinance in no way dictates that anyone needs to profess or adopt beliefs that aren’t their own. It simply allows LGBTQ individuals to maintain security should someone want to force their own beliefs that non-heterosexual individuals should be denied rights or services or otherwise persecuted based off of one person’s beliefs.
Making Anti-Discrimination Stick
So what about indifference? That’s a more difficult matter. Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson, and Tempe have all adopted similar anti-discrimination ordinances, and they can serve as a lesson and a template.
The battle in Phoenix was especially hard-fought, but won on the basis of benefit for the city, which included making the area more attractive for business. That’s where Glendale could take a lesson.
It’s risky business to argue religion in government, but everyone loves money. Glendale City Councilman Gary Sherwood knows as much, and has argued that the ordinance is important for economic development, showing relocation teams that visit Glendale that city is progressive and in tune with the comapnies’ needs. Major business relocation into the area means more people to spend more money bolstering local businesses.
Persuading those who think the ordinance will infringe on their religious liberties is a tall task. Persuading those who simply don’t think Glendale has an anti-discrimination problem that passing the ordinance will improve their revenue stream regardless of whether or not the problem is real (and it is very real), is another. After all, money talks.