Traverse City has become the latest Michigan city to approve an
ordinance that prohibits discrimination against people based on their
sexual orientation. And just like in many of those other cities, a
group opposed to the ordinance is attempting to put the matter before
This is a national phenomenon in which anti-discrimination measures,
typically passed after contentious debate, are then challenged at the
ballot. The measures are usually upheld by voters after additional
contention and campaign ugliness.
Apparently, there are those who believe it should be acceptable to
discriminate against some people. They have their reasons.
Some say those protected by such an ordinance, the gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender communities (GLBT), have chosen their
lifestyle and, therefore, are undeserving of anti-discrimination
Those who assume sexual orientation is nothing more than personal
choice should ask themselves why anyone would make a choice that
subjects them to intolerance, discrimination, sometimes violence and
does not provide them equal protection under the law, none of which
would be the case had they made a different choice.
In fact, there is no consensus on why anyone is gay, straight or
something in between. A growing body of researchers believe sexual
orientation is genetic, literally part of someones DNA at birth.
Others believe it is a combination of genetics and environment. No
one has yet discovered the absolutely definitive answer though the
research is starting to tilt strongly toward genetics.
There are others who oppose such anti-discrimination attempts because
they claim there is something called the homosexual agenda that will
destroy traditional marriage specifically, and society in general.
Unfortunately, those of us who are not gay, lesbian, bisexual or
transgender have done a splendid job of wrecking traditional marriages
without any outside assistance. According to the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, about half of all first marriages end in
divorce. The statistics get significantly worse for second and third
The long list of the causes of divorce does not include a GLBT
conspiracy successfully plotting the overthrow of Mom and Dad.
There is still another group that bases their opposition on the
teachings of the Bible. True enough, there are specific proscriptions
against male homosexuality in the Old Testament and especially in
Leviticus. The prohibition is first spelled out (chapter 18, verse
22) and then repeated with an attached penalty of death (verse 20,
chapter 13). But it also calls for death for adultery or cursing your
mother and father.
Leviticus is sort of a primer on how to live and behave thats part
medical and dietary guide, part worship guide (lots and lots of
sacrificing of livestock is required, and we dont see much of that
these days), part criminal justice system. Its plenty strict and
plenty harsh. Wearing linen and wool at the same time, for example,
is abominable. And everyone should read chapter 15s directions on
personal cleanliness. Women will be especially startled.
It is instructive that those who point to Leviticus to legitimize
discrimination cavalierly ignore and are oddly silent about the
chapters many, many instructions and other prohibitions.
Clearly, all of us are entitled to our religious beliefs. Various
sects, denominations, religions and belief systems are entitled to
theirs. None of us is entitled to force those beliefs on anybody
There are those who believe homosexuals, especially gay men, are
pedophiles. This is, of course, preposterous. Pedophilia, by
definition, is age-specific not gender-specific. To be sure there are
gay pedophiles but there is no one who is a pedophile because they are
And, finally, there are those opponents who believe these kinds of
state laws and local ordinances afford special rights to certain
people the rest of us do not enjoy. But laws and ordinances that
prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation protect all sexual
orientations, not just the GLBT communities.
But, you say, youve never heard of a straight person being
discriminated against because of their sexual orientation? Exactly.
What inevitably happens in these debates over anti-discrimination
efforts is opponents quickly run out of legitimate arguments,
especially for the most basic rights. Do we really think its all
right for someone to be denied a job or a place to live simply because
of their sexual orientation? Do we think its all right to summarily
fire someone for that reason?
There is absolutely no evidence to indicate that gay, lesbian,
bisexual or transgender people are any less caring, loving,
productive, protective, or patriotic members of society than anybody
We, like many other places, have a long history of discriminatory
behavior toward people and groups who either arent sufficiently
similar to the rest of us to blend in or who are powerless, or both.
We also have a history of eventually correcting those mistakes though
it almost always takes longer than it should and at least once
required a civil war.
It has taken us a long time to start the process by which we can now
end discrimination against another segment of society. Hopefully, the
voters of Traverse City, and any other Michigan community with a
similar issue headed for the ballot, will understand we have nothing
to lose and much to gain by supporting anti-discrimination laws and
This time of year, as were donning now our gay apparel, it would be
nice if we had some political peace on earth and goodwill toward
men... and women in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender