By Dianne Skoll
LGBT Perspectives columnist
OTTAWA — Time Magazine is running a wonderful open letter by the father of a transgender teenager to Lance Berkman, a former baseball star who appeared in an ad opposing the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a measure designed to protect LGBT people from discrimination.
The anti-HERO people use typical scare tactics that essentially boil down to two arguments: “Think of the Children!” and “You’re trampling on religious freedom!” Let’s deconstruct the arguments.
The “Think of the Children!” argument (TOC) raises the spectre of hordes of male sexual predators cross-dressing as women to go into washrooms and take advantage of women and girls. Never mind that statistics from jurisdictions that have enacted HERO-like rules show that this just doesn’t happen.
But more important, the TOC argument really should be rephrased as “Think of our children, because yours don’t matter!” The proponents of the TOC argument somehow see their “normal” children, wives and girlfriends (they almost never care about protecting sons, husbands or boyfriends) as somehow worthy of protection while transgender girls and women should be thrown under the bus and given the choice of harassment or worse by going to the male washroom or facing legal hassles by going to the female washroom.
So, social conservatives, how about thinking of the children for a change? All the children . . .
The next argument used by some social conservatives is that preventing discrimination against LGBT people violates religious freedom. This is a pretty tenuous argument because religious organizations are already exempt from a whole bunch of anti-discrimination laws and this one is probably no exception. If the First Baptist Church of Gun Barrel City, Texas, wishes to prevent transgender people from using its washrooms, it’s unlikely to be challenged.
What social conservatives need to learn is that their religious freedom ends where it infringes on the civil rights of others. That’s the only way to run a decent society. Discriminate all you want in your churches and your sermons, but don’t expect the wider secular society to capitulate to your prejudice and ignorance.
I don’t know if HERO will pass. Texas is a very conservative state, though Houston is one of the more liberal cities. But if it fails to pass on Tuesday, it will be a stain on Houston, Texas, and the entire United States.