In what seems to have been an unforeseen debate of Mayor Annise Parker’s Equal Rights Ordinance, the public accommodations section on public restrooms has sparked a conversation that needs to be held. Should the rights of the entire gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community be considered apart of the protected class as defined by federal law? Before we answer that question, we must first examine what has caused this national debate to come to Houston.
Article IV, Section B of the proposed Equal Rights Ordinance begins "It shall be unlawful for any place of public accommodation or any employee or agent thereof to intentionally deny any person entry to any restroom, shower room, or similar facility if that facility is consistent with and appropriate to that person’s expression of gender identity." Opponents of the ordinance have dubbed this section as the "Sexual Predator Protection Act" because it allows a person to use a private facility, such as a restroom or shower room, based on how an individual perceives their gender. Many opponents of the ordinance are religious leaders who feel as though our city and nation have begun a slippery slope that will eventually lead to a nation based on immoral principles. While many can manage to stomach gay and lesbian citizens, transgender citizens seem to be the outcasts that turn tolerance into intolerance for the entire GLBT community. Opponents have stated that under the proposed ordinance a perverted man could easily put on a wig and dress and walk into a women’s restroom to do any dastardly deed.
This scenario has tainted the debate by placing a negative connotative into the minds of many Houstonians. But in actuality this image has divided even the GLBT community in many other cities. Throughout the years transgender citizens have become separated into a class of their own. So the question still remains: Should the rights of the entire GLBT community be considered apart of the protected class as defined by federal law? Currently the following are considered protected classes in the United States:
- Race, Color, Religion, National Origin, Familial Status & Sex- Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Age (40 and over)- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
- Pregnancy- Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
- Disability status – Vocational Rehabilitation and Other Rehabilitation Services of 1973 and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
- Veteran status – Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 and Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
- Genetic information – Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008
As you can tell from the list no member of the GLBT community is considered a protected class. Many have also pointed to list saying that you cannot change any of the above features, while sexual status can change. Also some have even asked for gay, lesbian, and bisexual citizens to be a completely different protected class than the transgender community. Either way this debate will continue.
While this debate will continue, my generation will continue to be caught in the middle. A good majority of my generation truly believes that all men and women should be equal regardless of their "sins". While sexual status may change, many of us do not understand the objections to placing it as a protected class. If we are truly honest with ourselves the only objection to sexual status is a moral one. I am Christian and truly believe in the words of the Bible. But I do not believe that it should be our responsibility to judge anyone. We have legalized prostitution, alcohol, and different drugs, while turning a blind eye to adultery, cheating, lying and many other immoral acts. If you truly believe in the forgiving power of God, then why are your sins forgivable and those of homosexuals are not. Though I believe that Mayor Parker’s ordinance is extremely weak, I do believe that we as a city and nation are moving in the right direction. If we are truly going to be a moral nation, then we are going to have to re-examine ourselves. Either we criminalize all sins against God or we allow God to actually do His job and judge us based on how we treat others. #ijs