G.L. Hawkins’ Nov. 22 letter to The Enterprise makes some interesting points.
The basic message is opposition to a bill passed by the House of Representatives called The Equality Act of 2019. This legislation seeks to apply, nationally and uniformly, laws against LGBTQ discrimination that are currently on the books in 21 states and the District of Columbia.
While that letter paints the blackest possible picture of potential ramifications of the legislation, concerns about its contents that have been raised by both religious and secular groups.
My purpose here is not to argue the pros and cons of the bill, but to address something more fundamental.
I heartily agree with the first part of the statement that “every American citizen has the same rights as stated in the Constitution.” It’s the second part of the statement where the logic breaks down: “without having to establish special laws regarding who shall be given those rights.”
What’s not recognized is that there would be no need for such laws if those rights were uniformly accorded. For example, there would have been no need for voting rights legislation if black citizens had been given equal access to the ballot box.
There is a word that has disappeared from our national discourse which was once part of the foundation of our public and private life. That word is “tolerance,” one definition of which is “to recognize and respect others’ beliefs and practices without necessarily agreeing or sympathizing.” Why this practice has fallen into disuse would make for a lively discussion, I’m sure.
But, to the extent that tolerance has fallen by the wayside and the mantra is “my way or the highway,” there will continue to be need for legislation to protect the constitutional rights of “special groups” that are otherwise denied them.