Home > Delaware, Gay Rights, religion > “I’m Convinced that Lesbians Can Be Made”

“I’m Convinced that Lesbians Can Be Made”

Late last week, Delaware concluded a decade-long struggle, finally enacting the most basic anti-discrimination protection for gays and lesbians (but not the transgendered). The Governor is expected to sign the measure soon, thereby making Joe Biden’s home state the 21st state to offer workplace protection. The legislation also protects against discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and insurance.

The bill sailed through both chambers with broad, bipartisan support. This would have happened years ago had the measure been permitted to come to the floor of the State Senate for a vote. But one state senator had been able to kill the bill in committee again and again. It took his death to get the bill assigned to a different committee, where it was unanimously  voted forward to the full Senate.

It’s probably too easy to see the senator’s death as a metaphor for the passing of the kind of view that would deny basic workplace protection to gays and lesbians, but there’s something to it. Yet we need a few more celestial bodies to slam into the earth to vanquish all of the dinosaurs: Think about the fact that in a majority of states, one can still be fired or denied housing simply because of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

While the levers of power are tough to move, the vox populi is well past this issue. Overwhelming majorities of Americans support such non-discrimination laws. In large part, this support comes from the relatively recent recognition that sexual orientation is either genetically determined or so foundational to personal identity that it can’t or shouldn’t be changed. The ex-gay movement is all but an ex-movement by now, as more and more people live or work with openly gay men and lesbians, and understand that sexual orientation is as deeply rooted for them as for the straight majority.

Not state senator Robert Venables, though, who uttered the imperishable line that I’ve used for the title of this post. What “convinces” him that “lesbians can be made”? And does he think the same of gay men? Who cares? And even if he’s right(!), what difference should that make? He and the tiny minority of “no” voters represent the selvage of a view that was ascendant just a generation ago.

In desperation, opponents attempted to tack on several amendments, including one that would have effectively eviscerated the legislation by allowing reasons of belief or conscience to trump the anti-discrimination protection. This went nowhere.

As I prepare a series of posts on the new push to affix religious exemptions to marriage equality legislation, here’s a teaser: If we’re going to allow a broad religious exemption to allow discrimination against gay couples in connection with their wedding ceremony and surrounding events, why stop there? Why not allow religion to trump equality in the broader society? Thus far, there’s been little effort at systematically addressing this important issue by those who favor these broad religious exemptions. But the question can’t be avoided.

  1. Jonathan
    July 1st, 2009 at 20:54 | #1

    Looking at the voting record, you can see that a majority of the nay votes were from south of the canal, Kent and Sussex County. No surprises there. New Castle County has politics similar to Philadelphia. The political temperament in Kent and Sussex is similar to that of a Southern state.

  1. No trackbacks yet.