ENID, Okla. —
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
That is the wording of section one of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, one of the so-called Reconstruction Amendments.
The amendment prohibits states from crafting laws that treat anyone differently from anyone else, regardless of race, creed or sex.
Of course, section two of the selfsame amendment discusses the election of representatives by the vote of males over the age of 21.
The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, but it took until 1920 and the 19th Amendment for women to be allowed to vote.
Americans of color were not guaranteed to vote until passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, proving that it often takes years of struggle before it is assured that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” truly means all persons.
Just the year before, the Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination against anyone because of their race, religion or sex.
Now Arizona has seemingly flown in the face of the 14th Amendment, as well as the Civil Rights Act.
On Thursday evening the Arizona state House passed a measure that would, in effect, allow business owners to discriminate against gays on the basis of “sincerely held” religious beliefs.
The measure, which passed 33-27, now goes to the desk of Gov. Jan Brewer, as it was previously approved by the state Senate.
Republican supporters of the measure say it was designed to protect the religious freedoms of business owners and not to encourage discrimination against homosexuals.
Supporters point to the case of a New Mexico photographer who was successfully sued after she refused to take wedding pictures of a gay couple because of her religious beliefs.
In 2006, photographer Elaine Huguenin turned down a lesbian couple that wanted to hire her to document their same-sex commitment ceremony. The couple easily found another photographer, and at a lower price, but they sued Huguenin, winning a judgment of $6,637.94 in court costs.
Huguenin appealed, the case eventually going to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court’s ruling. Now a request has been made to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. The high court’s decision on that request is expected next month.
The Arizona legislation would protect business owners from facing discrimination lawsuits.
So has this turned into a battle royal between religious freedom and discrimination laws, with free speech entering the ring as a third party? So it seems.
Critics say the law is rife for potential abuse, one calling it “state-sanctioned discrimination.” Supporters call those arguments preposterous, calling the measure instead a defense of religious freedoms and rights.
No one should be forced to do anything that is against his or her religious beliefs. But neither should people be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.
Huguenin says she does not discriminate against all gay people, which would be against New Mexico law.
Instead, in her request to the Supreme Court, she says she would “gladly serve gays and lesbians — by, for example, providing them with portrait photography,” but that by photographing a civil union ceremony, she was violating her religious views on gay marriage.
The matter may well wind up going to the highest court in the land. But perhaps it should be judged by another standard: WWJD, or What Would Jesus Do?
Jesus loved. He consorted with lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors and other sinners. His was a message of love. He loved his enemies and, in fact, prayed for them.
He didn’t agree with them, certainly, or condone their actions, but he loved them nonetheless.
Perhaps what we need is a lot more love, and a lot less litigation.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at email@example.com.