OCALA, Fla., October 1, 2013 — The last five years have brought astounding changes to American politics and society.
Perhaps this is no more visible than in the field of LGBT rights. Today, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals can serve openly in the U.S. military. Many of America’s wealthiest and most populous states have legalized same-sex marriage. The heart of the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down by the Supreme Court.
Our nation’s military has long been regarded as a bastion of social conservatism. With its strict emphasis on moral fitness and chains of authority, this is no surprise. What might come as a shock to some, though, is that non-heterosexual interests have been drastically advanced even here.
With a more accepting environment for those who are not straight has come much controversy, particularly among fundamentalist Christians.
These religionists dislike expansion of non-heterosexual rights because it conflicts, from their standpoint, with Christian principles. They are concerned that the federal government will eventually curtail Christians’ rights in the name of tolerance for non-heterosexuals.
Few people can be more familiar with military law than Mikey Weinstein. A former Air Force prosecutor who served in the Ronald Reagan Administration, he now leads the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
The organization fights for the rights of armed forces personnel who feel unfairly pressured by religious proselytization. The MRFF has generated a firestorm of controversy, most of which is fueled by fundamentalist Christian activists.
Does Weinstein think that the expansion of LGBT rights in any way encroaches on the right to religious liberty enjoyed by Christian military personnel?
“First of all,” he specifies, “‘T’ doesn’t apply, and it should. You still can’t be transgender if you’re in the military … If you believe that people who are gay have made a choice, as opposed to being born that way, if you can’t stand the fact that they have rights, you’re gonna have a problem if you want to work for many, many, many, many United States corporations, international corporations.
“In the United States military, they’ve made it very clear that discrimination against people because of their gender preference is not going to be allowed. I respond to anyone who feels, including chaplains, that can’t deal with this: Okay, on the left hand, what they can do is, there’s a choice: Door number one is neatly fold your uniform, fill out your paperwork, and get the hell out of the U.S. military.
“Door number two is ‘Oh, that’s right, I’ll lose my paycheck twice a month and my retirement and my great medical and vision and dental programs. What do I do? What do I do?’ If you don’t believe that you can handle this — and that doesn’t mean you have to like homosexual relationships or homosexual sex … the difference between an internal view about ‘I’m repulsed by that concept’ and if you’re a Democrat in the military, you’re repulsed by Republican political views, or vice versa.
“But it’s very different when you decide to act on those impulses. That becomes [your] behavior. That is what we call bigotry and prejudice. So, if anybody has these feelings, but they can’t deal with this, get out. Now. Move on to some other place. If you believe that you need to act on this, that [this] is somehow [afforded to you under] your constitutional rights, be prepared for the full weight of the law to come down upon you.”
It is beyond dispute that some people think their rights are being violated. The question is this: Why?
“Let’s make it real clear, the only Christians that are screaming about this are fundamentalist, or what is known as Dominionist, Christians,” Weinstein says. “I’m going back again. They can’t stand the fact that someone else is going to be allowed to play with their toys; they can’t have all the toys. They can’t own the toy store.”
He later mentions that “what you’re seeing is this sense of erosion of, formally, sacrosanct fundamentalist Christian privilege is giving way to civil rights of those being oppressed. Now they’re claiming fundamentalist Christian stigmatization. There’s a big difference between the fact that they have to be treated like everyone else and to be stigmatized.”
Far-left? Far-right? Get real: Read more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto
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