Freedom. It’s on the minds of many Americans for many reasons. Some deliberate on matters of freedom of speech, especially after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. Others have debated over Texas’ newest push of legislation, whether or not citizens should have the freedom to record their own police force. But more specific to the LGBT community and perhaps the hottest topic regarding freedom as of late, has been the big debate over Indiana’s newly enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act and how it ultimately takes away from the freedoms of the LGBTQIA community.
For those unfamiliar with the bill, in short, it allows for business owners and individuals to refuse services to customers that burden their religious beliefs. But to be frank, many look at this bill as a ticket to discriminate against members of the LGBT community without consequence. And the bill has garnered much criticism for its 1960s approach to awarding “religious freedom.”
Susan Cottrell, author of Mom, I’m Gay and founder of Austin nonprofit FreedHearts, an organization urging Christian support in LGBT communities, says legislation like Indiana and Arkansas’ religious freedom bill sounds too familiar: “We’ve been through this before with women, we’ve been through this before with Blacks, we’ve been through it before with other ethnicities. You would think humanity would learn that it’s not going to work, it’s not going to bring unity or harmony.” Cottrell says instead, the message should be to, “love your neighbor as yourself.”
That message seems pretty clear cut, but for some who, as Cottrell says, “don’t realize the ramifications of these laws and the hurt they cause,” it can be difficult to see how this bill truly affects the LGBT community. Susan Cottrell, however, who has two LGBT kids that prompted her advocacy for the LGBT community, believes that it takes some fight to challenge the laws that bring down our community. Equality Texas’s Freedom Advocacy Day is a good place to start. Although it doesn’t directly combat the new laws in Indiana, Arkansas and soon, maybe even Louisiana, it does present the opportunity for LGBT members and allies of the community to meet face-to-face with those who represent us in Texas. Equality Texas also says it presents the opportunity to, “talk to [our representatives] about how the freedoms we value as Texans are affected by discrimination based on bias against orientation and gender identity or expression.”
We may never know what moves people to approve of such actions, like enacting crippling religious freedom bills for instance. It could be out of fear, as Cottrell suggests. It could be that they’re in search of a solution that protects both LGBT people and Christian values alike, but may have veered down the wrong path to achieve it. Whatever the purpose may be for these bills that openly approve of LGBT discrimination, it calls for action on the LGBT community’s behalf. Our freedoms are just as important as any other American’s freedoms. Our families, our rights, and our love matters just as much as any other citizen’s. And with events such as Susan Cottrell’s weekend trip to Indianapolis and Austin’s own Equality Texas Freedom Advocacy Day, we can start calling for the freedom and rights we equally deserve.
What do you think of Indiana’s new bill?
freedom, advocacy, love, equality, unity
First United Methodist Church of Austin Family Life Center, Austin TX
04/13/2015 | 11:00 am – 4:00 pm