By Stephanie Donald Publisher, LGBT-Today
Allow me to get this out of the way quickly so we can move on to more productive topics:
I told you so!
I feel better already. That just vindicated 18 years of predicting that forced judicial marriage equality on anti-gay states prior to the passage of some sort of federal equal civil rights amendment that includes everyone in the LGBT community would bring down a hell-storm of backlash laws from those anti-gay states who were forced to accept marriage. Well, now that's happened.
Since we can't go back and fix this the only question is what are we going to do about it?2015's first quarter putz: Indiana Governor Mike Pence
Indiana just passed the most heinous "religious freedom" law but despite all the brouhaha regarding the signing by Governor Pence this is hardly the first and will unlikely be the last. 31 states in all have religious freedom laws in place that amount to what I've called "Pink Crow" laws due to their similarity to earlier laws that affected the African American community between the Southern Reformation in 1865 and the end of it 100 years later in 1965.
At first glance everyone hailed the Utah LGBT protection bill but it was little more than an assassin's bullet wrapped in an attractive package. The hook was built-in religious freedom trap-doors all through the law.
Georgia recently had an interesting twist when the state's Democrats called the Republicans bluff that the Religious Freedom Bill wasn't designed to discriminate. The Democrats insisted that the existing Human Rights Bill apply in an amendment to the bill if the Republicans were so adamant about the bill not discriminating. After a blustering session where Republican State Senator Josh McKoon wailed about the amendment "gutting the intent of the bill." It was unanimously voted that the bill be tabled so it's 1 down and 31 to go.
These laws have precedent in history. In order to understand how to get through our current predicament we must look at those laws that made African Americans "separate but equal" in title but hardly in practice.
Many of my readers weren't alive during the age prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and due to deficiencies in our modern educational system they aren't even aware of what life was like during the Jim Crow era. For reasons of brevity I would refer you to a wonderful link provided by the National Parks Service that gives a very good cross-section of adversities black Americans had to face prior to the Civil Rights Act across all the states below the Mason-Dixon Line.
Although the LGBT community faces new religious freedom laws that mirror to some extent those laws in many ways, these new laws aren't necessarily confined to Southern States, as the Jim Crow laws were and the worst part of these news laws are that many African American churches—the same churches who participated heavily in the original civil rights movement—are now coming down on the side of bigotry and prejudice toward our community. It appears that those who were oppressed become the oppressors. I guess human nature is that being a bully is fun? I wouldn't know because I was always the person who got picked on so I'm open to information from readers about how fun this is. I hope no one writes me.
More to the point, many people associate Rosa Parks and her refusal to sit in the back of the bus as the beginning of the civil rights era, but the major turning point that most historians agree on in reversing Jim Crow was what is referred to as the Greensboro Four or the Greensboro A&T Four.
On a cold February 1, 1960, four students from North Carolina's Agriculture and Technical College in Greensboro decided it was time to take a stand against the racial segregation laws (not dissimilar to what the LGBT community is now facing in these new religious freedom laws that will forbid us from our patronage of certain businesses for religious reasons of the business owners—or just because the business owner is a bigot and may be an atheist and just claims we leave for religious reasons). Four well-dressed black students from North Carolina Agriculture and Technical College walked into the Woolworth 5 & 10 lunch counter in Greensboro and sat down—a direct violation of the North Carolina racial segregation law. They were arrested and released and continued to come back each day but with the TV news and press in the Washington Post, New York Times and other newspapers and major television network coverage, the numbers of protestors (both black and white) grew until Woolworth's had to close and eventually capitulate by agreeing to allow bi-racial service before they reopened.
This wasn't the first "sit-in" in black American history but apparently it's the most historically remembered. The first sit-in recorded in black American history was organized by attorney Samuel Wilbert Tucker in the public library in Alexandria, Va. in 1939. That action followed the teachings and successful campaign by Mahatma Gandhi to cease the English rule over their rule of India. Non-violence won the "war" over the British and in the end, under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King took his motivation of non-violence from a mixture of Jesus' Sermon on the Mound, Christian Anarchist Leo Tolstoy, American writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau and his close advisor and friend—who just happened to be gay—Bayard Rustin, who taught King about Gandhi for the first time. King never used the word "non-violence" until he learned of Gandhi's life from Rustin.
So what does all this mean to the LGBT community? Well, if you learned something new from reading this then perhaps you had a lightbulb go off over your head?
The bottom line is that we can't win this one with judicial actions. There are far too many layers of conservative judges to relieve this egregious situation quick enough before we find out that we're living a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth...) class existence! If you want to live in ghettos, be barred from regular grocery stores in some areas, risk the loss of your job and watch all our civil rights advances get erased one-by-one, then go ahead and try judicial actions. It will take decades and we'll all suffer greatly—particularly in the South!
We can't circulate internet petitions that will be paid attention to. If you truly think people like Ted Cruz or Paul Rand pay any attention to those things then you're living in a delusion!
This is an "old school" problem that can only be solved with "old school" tactics. We need to take this fight to the merchants who would use these laws against us. Just as the Greensboro Four did 55 years ago, we need to identify those shops that claim religious freedom to discriminate against the LGBT community and quietly, with non-violence, defy their requests to leave their stores, shops and restaurants.
This photo of the treatment by Birmingham, Alabama police on the peaceful black protestors in 1963 remains as graphic today as it was 52 years ago. I won't whitewash the situation for you. Just like those who defied the Jim Crow laws more than 50 years ago we will face imprisonment over our defiance. More than likely they would charge us with trespass after warning, but that's a minor charge and if we organize and find legal representation beforehand, we can probably beat the charges or pay a small fine.
If any 10 people will join me, I'll find a civil rights attorney and we can make our stand here in Florida.
Does anyone out there have the fortitude to stop flicking that keyboard and be a real activist so we can kick that Pink Crow in the ass?
If anyone cares to pick up this gauntlet you can catch me on Facebook @ LGBT-Today or on Twitter @lgbt_today.
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