Two days ago, February 12th marked the 10th anniversary since Gavin Newsom started the” Winter Of Love”. It was 2004 and marriage equality was thought to be a dream for most LGBT people. Gavin Newsom allowed marriages licenses to be issued by San Francisco City Clerks and over a period of a month over 4,000 couples from around the country came and got married. Mr. Newsom intended to put a face to the issue and did so at great risk to his own career. He was later blamed for John Kerry’s loss in the presidential election.
But Gavin put not only many faces to the issue but also allowed LGBT people to have hope. Hope that at some point in the not so distant future that they would be treated with equality in this country. He is a hero.
So contrast the happiness of celebrating the 10th anniversary of the “Winter of Love” with a recently proposed law in Kansas, which makes it legal to discriminate against gay couples in every area, including government. In fact in an article on Slate by Mark Joseph Stern he says
“But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to barring all anti-discrimination lawsuits against private employers, the new law permits government employees to deny service to gays in the name of “religious liberty.” This is nothing new, but the sweep of Kansas’ statute is breathtaking. Any government employee is given explicit permission to discriminate against gay couples—not just county clerks and DMV employees, but literally anyone who works for the state of Kansas. If a gay couple calls the police, an officer may refuse to help them if interacting with a gay couple violates his religious principles. State hospitals can turn away gay couples at the door and deny them treatment with impunity. Gay couples can be banned from public parks, public pools, anything that operates under the aegis of the Kansas state government.”
While I believe that this law will never actually go into effect it is stomach turning. Replace gay people with another minority; a person of color, an obese person, a Baptist, etc. and see if people are still comfortable with this law. In a free society if we let any one group be treated differently we allow the potential for any group to be treated differently.
So why write about this on my counseling blog? What does this have to do with a person’s well being? A lot it seems. There has been research done on use of mental health services post Proposition 8 passing in CA (Prop 8 took away the right to marry in CA) and it was found that they increased. Receiving messages that you are less than and undeserving of equal rights is devastating to one’s psychological well-being. And in this Kansas case it isn’t just an inability to obtain equal rights like marriage equality it is taking away your right to call the police or go to a community hospital or buy things at any store. This is no different than laws used to oppress racial minorities. It is a step away from separate bathrooms.
I get some people don’t like that there are gay people. Fine. Everyone has a fundamental right to his or her beliefs. What truly perplexes me is the total lack of empathy that laws such as this show. It basically says that gay people aren’t human. I don’t understand how one person can treat another like that and even more so when religion is used to justify the behavior. I know over the weeks to come I will be talking to my clients on ways that they can cope with seeing laws like this pass (which is predicted to do). How do you walk through the world not being angry when you hear such things?
I would encourage those who read this to speak out and spread the word about such laws. friends. Trust it matters to your LGBT friends when they hear you speak on their behalf.
***Since I wrote this post things have changed. When I wrote this post this bill had passed the House by a vote of 72-49 and was headed to the Senate and believed to be something that the Governor would sign. However, given the huge backlash this caused the Senate decided to kill the bill so it will never go into effect.People speaking out does make a difference. 2/16/14