In 1892 a young man named Homer Plessy was arrested and jailed for sitting in the “White Only” car of the East Louisiana Railroad. That same year Louisiana had passed the Separate Car Act that segregated train cars based on race. Unfortunately in 1896, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Louisiana law, and so began the time in our Nation’s history where segregation was deemed Constitutional.
It was written by Justice Henry Brown, “A statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and colored races – has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races…”
Justice Henry Brown couldn’t have been more wrong. It wasn’t until 1954 with Brown v The Board of Education did segregation end.
Why am I comparing 2014 to 1896? I will tell you why- today we have states attempting to implement new segregation laws and these laws aren’t based on gender or skin color. These laws target the gay community.
Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, and Tennessee Lead the March Backwards on Civil Rights for the Gay Community
Arizona’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act
On Feb 20, 2014 the Arizona State Legislature sent the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to Gov. Jan Brewer for signing. The legislation would allow business owners to refuse service to LGBT customers, equal pay to women could be denied, and contractual obligations such as contracting for home improvements could be reneged all in the name of religious freedom.
We have seven military installations in Arizona.
Idaho Failed Extremely Discriminatory Legislation Might Show Up Again
The laws coming from Idaho’s state legislature were some of the worst in my opinion. The law had two parts and used “free exercise of religion” as the motivation for open discrimination. Both government and private businesses could refuse service to gay people, as well as turn away people who are perceived as gay.
The second part of the Idaho bill would allow anyone with a professional license or an occupational license to deny services to gay/perceived gay individuals. What does that mean? A real estate agent doesn’t have to sell a house to a gay couple. What does this proposed law really mean, that doctors could deny healthcare to a gay person just because they are gay. Last I checked that would violate the Hippocratic Oath. What a proposed law like this really violates, are the laws of human decency.
Fortunately, the bill was withdrawn, but could be reconsidered during the next legislative session. We have one military installation in Idaho.
Kansas Reclaims It’s Battleground Reputation, Remember Topeka v. Brown?
This state started it all. Gay couples could be denied any service in the state from restaurants, movies, social services, adoptions, and/or employment. Same sex couple would be barred from having the right to sue for discrimination as well. The bill passed in the House, but gained no traction in the Senate. Again, a bill similar could and probably will reappear in the future.
We have three military installations in Kansas.
Tennessee’s Proposed “Turn The Gays Away Bill”
In Tennessee, the proposed bill was nicknamed “Turn the Gays Away”. The bill would have protected businesses when denied services related to gay relationships such as: partnerships, civil unions, or same-sex marriage. Fortunately small businesses, corporations, and constituents were able to stop this bill for now.
We have two military installations in Tennessee.
These Jim Crow laws that segregate our society based on sexual preference are atrocious. There will be critics saying that these laws have nothing to do with the old Jim Crow laws of the segregated South, but I disagree. State governments are knowingly putting forth legislation that exclude a group of people based on a commonality. That commonality may not be skin color like before; however, state governments are essentially treating homosexuals like they are a racial group that must be segregated.
The states listed are not the only ones trying to pass similar legislation. Oregon, South Dakota, Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi, have all introduced similar bills. All of these states house military installations within their borders.
How can we as a nation allow this type of harmful segregation? How can we ask a gay servicemember to fight and potentially die for our country all while denying them basic human rights? Our military is the greatest vehicle of social change. President Truman desegregated our military almost a decade before Brown v. Board of Education. Why? It was the right thing to do.
Now is the time where doing what is right is necessary. We must put aside our differences and stand up for basic human rights.