25 July 2014

Gay Rights = Loss Of Religious Freedom. Haven't We Heard That One Before?

New Orleans is often called "The Big Easy."  While that nickname might depict life--at least some aspects of it--in the Crescent City, it doesn't apply to the state--Louisiana--of which it is a part.

Interestingly, New Orleans extended its anti-discrimination laws to protect gender identity and expression in 1998, four years before New York City managed to do the same.  And, of course, New Orleans was known to have a lively gay culture and "scene"--even if much of it was underground--long before it held its first "official" Pride event in 1978.  

Even with such an environment, there were reminders--some of them truly awful--that the "N'awlins" is indeed located in Dixie.  On 24 June 1973, the UpStairs Lounge, club that provided meeting space for the city's first LGBT-affirming congregation, was set ablaze in an arson attack. Thirty-two people died as a result.  Rodger Dale Nunez, the only suspect arrested for the attack, escaped from psychiatric custody and was never again picked up by the police, even though he spent a lot of time hanging around in the French Quarter neighborhood surrounding the UpStairs Lounge.  He committed suicide in November 1974.  Six years later, the state fire marshal's office. lacking other leads, closed the case.

I mention this to give you an idea of what a formidable task some folks in Baton Rouge, the state's capital, are trying to do:  pass a "Fairness Ordinance" banning discrimination against gays and lesbians in their city. Not surprisingly, it's meeting with fierce opposition from people who claim that passing such an ordinance will inhibit their religious freedom?

How many times have we heard that argument?  How many more times must we hear it before everyone realizes how bogus it is?

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