In “The Scouring of the Shire,” the penultimate chapter to The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf gives Frodo, Sam, Pip, and Merry a warning about Saruman. Though defeated, his powers diminished, his master Sauron vanquished for good, the old wizard is still capable of a little meanness in a cruel way. Such is often the case after a major victory. The forces defeated linger and can continue to fester and cause harm in manners great and small.
Charlotte, North Carolina passed an ordinance to grant all LGBT folks protection against discrimination. This included the right for transgender folks to go to the restroom of their gender identity. Well, the Republican controlled state legislature wanted none of that. Forthwith, they passed one of those silly and highly bigoted “religious freedom” bills to usurp Charlotte’s ordinance, and all ordinances that grant basic civil liberties to LGBT folks. Many states have threatened to pass such bills, but North Carolina felt motivated to do so because of the Charlotte ordinance. In fact, writes NPR:
The state’s General Assembly wasn’t due to meet until late April, but it scheduled a special session — for the first time in 35 years, member station WUNC reports — on Wednesday to respond to the Charlotte measure before it went into effect.
–NPR, March 24, 2016
Georgia’s legislature passed a similar bill, House Bill 757. Another stupid “religious freedom” bill, it would:
…prevent individuals from being forced to perform or attend same-sex weddings …; allow faith-based groups, including churches and religious schools, to refuse employment and service to anyone who violates the group’s religious beliefs; and permit those groups to deny employment to anyone “whose religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.”
–Think Progress, March 25, 2016
This bill, says its sponsors, is the result of the Supreme Court’s overturning all anti-gay marriage laws in the country. Those of faith continue to feel threatened because their dogma isn’t the nation’s law, so they are passing these stupid laws. Such laws will not stop the tide of marriage equality, a done deal. But they will continue to enable those who feast at the troff of bigotry. It gives them an out. They can point to these laws and say “See, I ain’t a bigot. The state agrees with me.” The threat of boycotts by big companies and many Hollywood studios that film in Georgia likely compelled Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to veto the bill. But it has already done damage.
Was Georgia’s hate bill going through the mind of Martin Blackwell when he poured scalding hot water over Anthony Gooden, his girlfriend’s son, and Anthony’s boyfriend Marquez Tolbert? Marquez and Anthony were asleep at Anthony’s mother’s house when the attack happened. Blackwell complained to the police that he didn’t approve of the two young men or their relationship.
This wasn’t a little cruelness, it was a lot of cruelness. It’s hard to put into words the level of evil Blackwell committed. Marquez and Anthony suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns and require expensive medical procedures to heal them. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help defray expenses. Georgia lacks hate crime protections, but the FBI has stepped in to join the investigation. Let’s hope they stack a heap of charges against Blackwell.
State sponsored bigotry, like North Carolina’s law and the vetoed law in Georgia, embolden bigots like Martin Blackwell. They continue to use their hate and inflated sense of purpose to hurt, maim, and kill those whom they dislike, and do so with tacit state support. It used to be that the country moved in the direction of passing laws to prevent this type of targeted abuse against a harassed minority. But not anymore. Using religion as a shield, bigots are launching an all-out assault against not the just the rights but the very existence of LGBTQ people. It’s encouraging to hear the outrage against such bullshit “religious freedom” law. It’s great that many companies are lining up to excommunicate Georgia, should their bill become law.
We have to stand against such laws because of the fallout they produce, the hate they foster, and the damage they do to the real lives of real people. Marquez and Anthony never should have experienced what happened to them. None of us should rest easy until such hatred has been vanquished forever.
© 2016, gar. All rights reserved.