I am here in Nashville enjoying my friends and teaching at American Baptist College. However, on yesterday I got a call from Lisa (wife) and she shared with me that there were some pastors who took part in a press conference on Tuesday to opposed the anti-discrimination bill. http://www.commercialappeal.com/videos/detail/pastors-speak-out/ The bill simply says that Shelby county government or any of its agents cannot discriminate in its hiring against GLBT people. In short, the government cannot hire or fire juts because someone is gay.
It is utterly amazing that while this bill could get these pastors out of the confines of their churches, other issues such as the living wage bill, education, the mortgage and credit crisis, unemployment, homelessness, any poverty measure; green jobs, any measure that would make the community a better place or any real social justice issue, their prophetic tongues become paralyzed.
However, what was really sad and pathetic is that there were several well-known African American pastors promoting this pitiful position. What they don't understand and fail to realize is that they are using the exact "rhetorical template" that was used on African Americans in the case of civil rights. In other words, after the 13th , 14th and 15th amendments were passed, many believed that "civil rights" gave "special status" to blacks. The argument went something like this; sense they were no longer slaves, since they were no longer non-citizens, and since they could vote (at least black men), then they don't need any other special law to protect them. They can now stand on their own two feet. Well, we see how that worked out and even though it took almost 100 years, blacks (along with women) finally got the protection they needed. In short, no one can not hire me or fire me just because I am black, but one can be fired or not hired just because she or he is gay.
Some argue that the civil rights movement and the gay movement have nothing in common and we should stop comparing the two. People making this argument usually ground their case in the belief that being gay is a choice while being black is not. However, whether one believes in a predisposed sexual orientation or not is not the issue. The issue is do you believe that it is okay for a person not to hire or fire a person just because she or he is gay? Should a person have that right?
If this sounds familiar to older African Americans it should--because it is the same argument many whites used to discriminate against blacks when it came to hiring and firing. Blacks were not hired or fired just because they were black and many whites argued that it was their right to decide who to hire and who to fire. Matter of fact, they even argued that their rights were being trampled on because blacks were being given "special status" on top of the rights they already had as American citizens.
The reason African Americans fought for those "special considerations" was because they knew hearts and minds are sometimes tough to change. They realized that no matter how well they did their job or how well they could do a job, that being fired just because or not being hired just because was a permanent reality. They felt that if they had some protection, that maybe supervisors would think twice about not hiring and firing blacks just because.
As it stands now, GLBT people do not have that luxury. It is sad to say, but as this blow up proved, there are many who just do not want to recognize GLBT humanity in any way. I guess they can either stay in the proverbial "closet" or be out and open and hope their employers understand. It's time for GLBT people not to have to worry about job discrimination just because anymore; its time to pass the anti-discrimination bill.