A Christian news website reveals two religious right organizations have been secretly plotting to make a deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists in 2017, in hopes of achieving what they’ve dubbed “Fairness for All.”
The compromise approach by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and the National Association of Evangelicals would bring together religious liberty defenders and LGBTQ activists to lay out federal legislation to secure rights for both, according to Christianity Today.
According to the website, leaders have met with more than 200 leaders in 9 cities to “discreetly” discuss their options going forward, but there is no mention of whether the groups have made any contact with organizations on the other side, like the Human Rights Campaign and the National LGBTQ Task Force. LGBTQNation reached out to both HRC and the Task Force for comment before press time.
So why compromise? Christianity Today presented its readers with the findings of a recent poll that suggested Americans are evenly split over who’s right and who’s wrong when it comes to the battle between “religious freedom” and LGBTQ rights.
“For example, the Pew Research Center found this fall that 48 percent of Americans believe that owners of wedding-related businesses should be able to refuse services to same-sex couples if they have religious objections, while 49 percent of Americans believe those owners should be required to serve same-sex couples.”
“What we’re looking at here is potentially a paradigm-shifting option,” said Shapri D. LoMaglio, the CCCU’s vice president for government and external relations. “The way that these two sets of rights have been talked about most often has been that they must compete. If something like this was to go forward, what might that mean about how we differently or better understand rights? Rights need not always be secured by one group at the expense of another group.”
So much for “Fairness for All.”
The article points to a landmark measure in Utah as having set a precedent with its 2015 compromise legislation. It’s now illegal for anyone in Utah to base employment and housing decisions on sexual orientation or gender identity.
LGBTQ residents hailed the law as a positive step, but they worried it still allows discrimination because religious organizations and their affiliates – such as schools and hospitals – are exempt.
One example they cited is Brigham Young University, which is owned by the Mormon church and can still evict people from student housing for being gay. That exemption also applies to the 1,400 landlords who contract with the private Provo school to provide off-campus housing.
“It felt just like scraps, that we were so desperate for any kind of legal protection that we’ll just take anything,” said Seth Anderson, 33, who lives with his husband in Salt Lake City.
Utah’s law is different from religious-objections bills in Indiana, Arkansas and Arizona because it’s limited to decisions about housing and employment. The other laws deal with the rights of businesses to refuse to provide services such as flowers or wedding cakes to same-sex couples.
What evangelicals focus on, however, is how lawmakers won the endorsement of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and HRC. That’s something they’d like to see happen again.
“Rather than trying to replicate the exact jots and tittles of what Utah did, we’re looking at the idea that if you try to address both concerns on the front end, you can actually get a more comprehensive set of religious liberties than if LGBT rights moves forward on its own and you try to come in later in the game and attach religious liberties,” said LoMaglio.