It’s time to show a little respect


Sergio Carlos

Parade-goers rally with government and LGBT flags as they march in Space Coast Pride’s first ever Gay Pride Parade in the Eau Gallie Art District on Sept. 26.

Sergio Carlos, Opinions Editor

Brown v. Board of Education. Roe v. Wade. And now Obergfell v. Hodges. The landmark 5-4 decision that legalized same-sex marriage this summer will go down in the history books as a triumph of civil rights comparable to the end of segregation. It is a testament to how far we have come as a nation to see that in 2015, in what appears to be the most reactionary Republican presidential field in recent memory, major candidates including John Kasich and Jeb Bush responded to the Obergfell decision by clamoring for “respect and tolerance” for those on both sides on the marriage divide.

Now, the new frontier in LGBT rights is being fought in the form of religious freedom. When Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk  refused to offer marriage licenses to gay couples,  claiming that doing so would violate her deeply-held religious beliefs, conservatives were in uproar. Mike Huckabee, the Republican presidential candidate who organized a rally in support of Davis, warned Christians around the nation that “five unelected judges” on the Supreme Court were slowly taking away their religious liberties. It is a an irrational claim, but just two weeks ago, our Florida legislature began deliberating on the “Pastor Protection Act,” which would ensure that clergy would not be forced to officiate a gay wedding. There is a false narrative that the LGBT community is hostile to religion, and that deception is being peddled by the proliferation of similar “religious freedom” bills proposed in several conservative states.

Hysterics aside, I sympathize with the scores of Christian bakers and wedding planners who have faced lawsuits when they have refused to violate their conscience. The free exercise of religion is a founding principle of this nation enshrined in the Constitution, and we should hesitate before infringing on that sacred right. But just 60 years ago, in the Jim Crow South, perversions of the Christian religion were used to justify discrimination against African-Americans. It took federal legislation to protect this minority group, and that same non-discrimination protection should extend to members of the LGBT community.

But perhaps the most effective solution to this issue of religious liberty and LGBT rights should be to use common sense. The law must protect gay couples from discrimination, but those couples should do their utmost to not force a Christian entrepreneur to violate their conscience.  There are other bakeries and other florists that will be more than willing to serve a gay couple, so why try to prove a point by making a strict Christian business participate in a wedding that violates their deeply-held beliefs? The times may be a-changin’, but invariably, some will be left behind. It is the duty of those on both sides to give a little respect.