Dennis McCarty column for 6-3-15 Opinion

The Columbus Human Rights Commission asked city residents at its May 27 meeting to put into writing comments regarding whether it should expand protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Here is my comment.

Dear commissioners,

Concerned citizens of this community packed the May 27 meeting of the Columbus Human Rights Commission. I was one of them.

At issue was a proposed amendment to the Columbus Human Rights Ordinance extending full legal protection to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members of this community.

At this time, there is a serious weakness in legal protection for some of our fellow citizens. Discrimination due to age, sexual orientation and gender identity is officially discouraged. But protection from such discrimination does not have the weight of law.

That is, compliance is voluntary. A person who discriminates due to, say, a person’s race is punishable under the Human Rights Ordinance. A person who discriminates against a gay couple must — basically — be talked into ending the discrimination voluntarily.

Commissioners, this is the same as no protection at all.

Yet even in these early stages, the proposal to grant full legal protection from discrimination to LGBT folks has drawn shrill opposition from some quarters. I have personally heard some people say greater legal protection for LGBT folks is unnecessary.

You know, when one person has a full belly, it becomes easy to say someone else has no right to be hungry. The logic is exactly the same here.

Remember, there are still people so uninformed that they insist there is no such thing as racial discrimination, either. A quick glance at a newspaper shows how false that is. People insist all sorts of things that are just plain false.

The very shrillness of opposition is itself a demonstration of the prejudice against LGBT people. Not every person will act on that prejudice. But there are always those who will, if they think they can get away with it.

As a straight member of this community, my personal worries are minimal. It would be easy to look away from harm to others. But I have talked to numerous people in the non-protected categories who fear loss of job, denial of services and even physical harm due to their sexuality or gender identity.

Commissioners, the very soul of the American experiment is that America itself is a community of differences. This nation is made up of different races, different national and cultural identities, different religions, different beliefs, and, yes, different sexualities and gender identities. It is not always comfortable.

Our national history is one of religious strife, cultural tension and ethnic bigotry. Yet through it all, we have groped toward the light. We have groped toward greater justice and equality for all. That imperfect struggle toward the common, full humanity of all our people is what it means to be American.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks work, live, love and pay taxes, the same as everyone else. They give fully to the life of this community. They have the right to full protection under its laws. Anything less is a sham and a disgrace.

Commissioners, to quote Oliver Cromwell, “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ” to recommend full protection for LGBT folks under the Columbus Human Rights Ordinance. I beseech Columbus’ mayor and city council to accept and approve the recommendation.

Columbus must move into the 21st century with the rest of the enlightened world. We must grant full protection under the law to all our citizens.

Yours in faith,

Rev. Dennis McCarty