Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Moving from cakes to housing and adoption - 'religious liberty' is being weaponized to discriminate against gays

So many of us repeated the simple fact that "religious liberty" or "religious freedom" as defined by the anti-LGBTQ evangelical right was not simply about a cake or a bakery or participation at a same-sex wedding. Those trite things were merely the beginning of a plan to codify anti-LGBTQ discrimination by using religion as a weapon.

According to a recent events,  things have moved steadily from businesses supposedly not wanting to participate in same-sex weddings. We are now talking about senior living communities who don't want to house gay couples:

A St. Louis County senior community has denied housing to a married lesbian couple who have been together for nearly four decades because of the couple's sexual orientation, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court. 
Mary Walsh, 72, and Bev Nance, 68, both of Shrewsbury, say the Friendship Village senior living community, which has locations in Sunset Hills and Chesterfield, denied occupancy to the couple to live at the Sunset Hills community in 2016 because their relationship violated its cohabitation policy that defines marriage as "the union of one man and one woman, as marriage is understood in the Bible," according to the lawsuit.
The policy, the suit says, violates the Fair Housing Act and the Missouri Human Rights Act. It names Friendship Village and its parent company FV Services Inc. as defendants. The couple is represented by the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington D.C.-based firm Relman, Dane & Colfax. 
Walsh and Nance were married in Massachusetts in 2009 but have been together for 37 years, their suit says. They tried to move to Friendship Village in July 2016, got on a waiting list and paid a $2,000 deposit but were later told they couldn't because of the "longstanding policy." Friendship Village continues to enforce the "cohabitation policy" that has denied housing to other same-sex couples, the suit claims. 

And let's not forget the laws in Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, as well as a bill moving through the House of  Representatives which contains an amendment that, under the grounds of "religious liberty," allows foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples while still being able to receive tax dollars.

Today, 40 Democratic Senators targeted the amendment:

In a letter to Senate appropriators, the senators slammed a House Republican proposal passed earlier this month that would shield taxpayer-funded adoption and child welfare agencies that refuse to provide services to children and parents on the basis of religion, LGBTQ status, or family structure. The senators urged the Senate Appropriations Committee not to include this dangerous proposal in the upcoming appropriations bill. 
“Allowing child welfare agencies to close the door to willing and fully qualified foster and adoptive parents due to a difference in religious belief opens the door to taxpayer-funded discrimination and deprives vulnerable children of safe and loving homes,” the senators wrote. “We strongly encourage you to reject this language and instead, support federal laws and regulations barring discrimination, and protect the rights of all qualified parents who answer the call to foster and adopt children in foster care.” 
The proposal would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to withhold federal funding from states that prevent child welfare agencies from denying services to LGBTQ parents or children, penalizing states with existing nondiscrimination policies. Late last week, over 100 child advocacy organizations sent a letter to Congress opposing this proposal. 
Wyden was joined on the letter by Sens. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass.; Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii; Tom Carper, D-Del.; Chris Coons, D-Del., Maggie Hassan D-N.H.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Dianne Feinstein D-Calif.; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Tim Kaine, D-Va.; Tina Smith, D-Minn.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Angus King, I-Maine; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Michael Bennet D-Colo.; Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Jack Reed, D-R.I.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.; Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Tom Udall, D-N.M.; Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Robert P. Casey, Jr., D-Pa.; Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Mark R. Warner, D-Va.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Amy Klobuchar D-Minn., Gary Peters, D-Mich.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

And I am certain that there will be more instances to come in which the anti-gay evangelical right will weaponize religious beliefs  against the LGBTQ community. You can count on that.

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