I have watched with some concern all the letters concerning the choice of Kate Hamilton to not perform on the same stage as Gov. Mike Pence. At first, when I read these letters (all condemning the choice of the singer), I thought they did make some sense. After all, they were saying that she was practicing her belief and choosing not to perform.
How is that different from what the religious right wants, in not having to serve those who they differ with, concerning the LBGT community? Sounds like good logic, doesn’t it?
No, it is not. We have misplaced the point of choice.
Let’s back up a bit to that pesky thing behind all this, our Constitution. The U.S. Constitution, when written, did guarantee freedom of religion and freedom of speech. You can say anything you want about someone else’s religion, and it is not against the law. You are free to follow any religion you wish, and that is protected.
Key to these fundamental rights is that speech and religion are both personal and individual choices. We grow up in families and cultures that teach all kind of options around these most intimate choices of ours.
Our choices are protected, simple as that. If only it was.
The U.S. Constitution, in the original form, did not protect anyone from being discriminated against. Since slavery was not initially outlawed, dramatic discrimination against African-Americans was rampant all over the country. It took 100 years after the abolition of slavery to outlaw discrimination of our black fellow Americans.
What followed was a struggle to expand discrimination to women, other races and finally the LGBT community. What is the common element behind this? Why are we allowed freedom of speech and religion but not freedom of discrimination?
At the core is that you cannot discriminate against the “being” of someone. People of color were born that way; they did not choose to be black, brown or other shades. It was not a choice. Women were not choosing to be born female; it is in their very being. And now to the LGBT community. This is where it gets more difficult.
Most of the religious right claims that sexual orientation and gender identity is a personal choice. They must do that because the Bible does not allow for that and declares it a sin. It must be choice, for God could not have created a living “being” that is innately wrong. That would mean that God made a mistake. That is too much to swallow for true believers.
When I hear people claim that being gay is a choice, I only hear that they have not known any gay people. Everyone I have known said they knew they were gay at a very young age. Their only choice in that world was whether to come out publicly. In the face of the tremendous hatred and discrimination, being openly gay was not an easy choice. To think it is some lifestyle choice is a tremendous lack of understanding and empathy.
We can believe what we want, but when you use those beliefs to deny some members of our society the rights and privileges of all members because of who they are, in their being, then you are violating the U.S. Constitution.
We can disagree all we want, we can argue and refuse to hang out with those we do not agree with. But if you are in a public business, you cannot deny service to anyone just on the basis of their innate being. That now means color, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. There is no longer a sitting in the back of the bus for those who are different in their very being.
To not show up for a performance is not exercising the same belief as not serving a patron because of their sexual identity.
Now, if Hamilton said she would not perform because Pence is a white male, then it would deserve all that reaction to her choice. We can always choose to disagree with ideas but not with human essence.
Columbus retiree Tom Lane is a community columnist and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. He served as a consultant to a number of companies in his career. He can be reached at email@example.com.