Picture this: Cam and Mitchell from Modern Family are walking with Lily and Larry downtown and decide to stop for ice cream. The kids, excited about this unexpected treat, rush to the counter as Cam helps them up to look at all the flavors. Then, the manager walks up and tells them they can’t have any ice cream, because they have two daddies.
That’s how absurd the RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) is, allowing an organization to count as a “person” with religious beliefs that can refuse service to anyone they view as MOGAI (Marginalized Orientations, Gender identities, and Intersex). Those religious beliefs? A personal choice. Not a personal choice? Gender and orientation.Who is policing this procedure? What’s the criteria for looking gay? What about the bisexuals, pansexuals, the asexuals, intersex, and transgender people? Will they pass the test and receive goods from a company that invalidates them because it doesn’t consider them gay enough?
Here’s the issue: not only are people who work at companies who support the RFRA potentially alienating their friends, family, and neighbors, there are MOGAI people working in those companies who might end up losing their jobs (can a MOGAI person work at a place that won’t serve them?).
Another thing to think about are the stereotypes that will be reinforced, for both gender and orientation. There might be a straight girl with a mohawk and piercings who comes in and is deemed too “masculine” to be straight, or a person with a penchant for flower patterns that gets barred from purchasing a dessert because they’re not fitting into either box that the cisgender heterosexual world has continued to enforce, despite a world history full of individuals who were neither straight nor identified as exclusively male or female.
How far will the RFRA go? Will people have to start putting their gender and orientation identities on their drivers’ licenses? What about those who haven’t figured it out yet? What about people who change over time? If the RFRA gains traction, what does that mean for those who don’t subscribe to that particular religion? Or those who refuse to work for or buy from companies that claim it’s against their religious beliefs to sell food or clothes or electricity to people who happen to be MOGAI?
There has even been a law proposed in California that would allow gay people to be sentenced to death. Think about all the celebrities you know that are gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, etc.: Laverne Cox, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia deRossi, Matt Boman, Sir Ian McKellan, Zachary Quinto, and more. How can we even entertain the thought of losing one of these people, let alone our friends and family members who share their orientations with this group?
Oddly, it seems there’s a lot of people who support RFRA and still enjoy shows like Modern Family, Orphan Black, and Continuum. They even love the MOGAI characters — I know, because I have family members who love Mitch and Cam but would support the RFRA in a heartbeat, not recognizing the dissonance in their behavior.
Businesses aren’t people. Even these characters aren’t “real” people. But we’re real. We exist. And we matter.
This is what the RFRA boils down to: if someone is quantifying us and sorting us into neat little piles and then denying us goods and services because we don’t measure up to their idea of the ideal human, they might as well be pinning pink stars to our chests.Image Credits: Mike Licht