Guest Editorials

Is the Fairness for All Act fair for all?

by Roger Cox

The most blaring and obvious question is this, “Why must there be two sides with respect to equality?” This Act, as explained in a recent Deseret News article entitled, “What You Need to Know about the Fairness for All Act,” by Kelsey Dallas pits religious and/or faith-based organizations against LGBTQ persons and organizations. At stake, of course, is federal funding, tax-exempt status, employment, housing, adoption, civil rights, etc. Your imagination can figure out which side is pining for which benefits and protections.

These benefits and protections were addressed also in the preceding Equality Act, now stuck in Congress for almost a year. Referring to the Equality Act, Dallas says, “It would preserve existing faith-based exemptions to civil rights laws…” She is attempting to just describe the Act, so it may not necessarily be her own opinion, however, the words jab at my sense of fairness. It contains exemptions to what? Civil rights! Exemptions for whom? Faith-based organizations who largely believe we are all brothers and sisters under Heaven whom God loves equally and unconditionally.

Some will criticize me as naïve, but I know our republic’s greatest achievement is the peaceful resolution of challenging issues; of these, one of the greatest is the peaceful transfer of power from one President to the next, but that is not the topic of this article. Factions from every perspective chime in to safeguard what they cherish as mandatory in order to pursue happiness. And that is where the clashes occur. Whose rights ought to outweigh those of others and why?

Well, that discussion could be a series of scholarly articles for another day, but fighting over civil rights is as American as baseball and apple pie… and marginalizing the minority. These days, faith-based organizations claim to be under attack and marginalized, yet the faithful are the majority. For time immemorial they have been the attackers. They have attacked scientists and their views of the solar system. They made very unscientific attacks on witches in the 19th century and earlier, attacks against other religions with different views on God or the lack of any belief in supernatural, immortal beings, attacks on folks with family values different than their own, especially when it comes to human sexuality.

One interesting, arguably controversial, tradition as it relates to the expression of sexuality is that of the Oneida community in New York in the 1800s. Considering today’s faith-based morality, their ironic family value was to attend the joining of a man and woman and then have sex with both. I learned of this custom from Dr. Mark Malan, a board-certified sexologist. Wikipedia goes on to say this faith-based, Christian group, with an affinity for the principle of perfection, by virtue of Jesus’ second coming has already occurred in AD 70, lived without sin and had reached “sanctification.” Therefore, it was impossible for them to commit sin, and marriage was abolished because it was an expression of jealousy and exclusion.

Imagine if the Oneidas were fighting for their civil rights in today’s charged environment. Well, it’s something akin to those who practice polyamory. What if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were fighting for their still-in-force doctrine of polygamy, though it’s only practiced inside the temples after one spouse has died? What if everybody were fighting for inclusion in the Fairness for All Act? What if everybody could recognize, codify and enact that everybody deserves the right to live as they see fit to take advantage of that truly American, inalienable principle of the pursuit of happiness?

What if this were not so difficult, or at least less difficult. What if people who serve coffee in restaurants while believing drinking coffee is a sin could apply the same principle to LGBTQ civil rights as they buy cakes, flowers, and otherwise engage in commerce and the public square? What if folks of other organizations that disagree with some practice could do the same? What if we put a higher value on caring for children than on which kind of marriage cares for them?

Americans will never have one version of anything.

It turns out then, that there are not just two sides demanding equality, yet it tends to boil down to two competing groups in an oversimplified Act. The two sides are FOR and AGAINST. Though I come down on the side of inclusion and diversity, I am not attempting to tell you what you should think. I do, however, want to encourage everyone to consider that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to equality.

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