The internet outrage over the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics have called anti-gay, and Memories Pizza, whose owners publicly stated that providing service to a gay wedding would compromise their religious beliefs, has been impossible to escape, and the uncivil and downright hateful behavior from both sides has caused me to wonder if our Twitter mob culture has destroyed all hope of civil dialogue in our society. Each side seem determined to reduce the other to a set of stereotypes and crude caricatures, based on mutual misunderstanding. Indeed, the behavior has escalated beyond mere rudeness, as the death and arson threats towards the owners of Memories Pizza prove.
As a queer conservative Christian, my heart is broken. Two of the communities that I am part of are at war with each other. Between the cries of “Hateful bigots!” on one side and “Gaystapo!” on the other side, no one seems inclined to stop and to listen and to honestly accept that their opponents in this devastating culture war are real people with legitimate concerns. I would like to believe that our society is tolerant enough to accept both LGBT equality and the right of conservative religious believers to carry their faith with them when they go into business.
In future, legislation will have to be carefully crafted to protect the rights of both communities. In this current political environment, it may seem impossible, but Utah shows us that it can be done. Elders of the Mormon church, leaders of Utah LGBT community, and state politicians got together, and in a process that took several years and seemingly endless revisions, succeeding in introducing and passing a bill that “added sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s anti-discrimination protections for housing and employment, while at the same time expanding exemptions for religious institutions and their affiliates, and protecting religious expression.” The law was passed with the approval of both the Mormon and the LGBT communities, and is a stellar example not only of good legislation that protects the interests of both communities, but also of good political cooperation and respect between two typically disparate sides.
The effects of this culture war are devastating. Our democracy cannot long endure in an atmosphere of hatred, misunderstanding, and identity politics that pit one group against another. For everyone’s sake, let’s follow Utah’s example, and not Indiana’s.
Image Source: Indiana Daily Student