It is timely and easy to dispel the compelling narrative put forward by those opposed to equal rights, that there is some sort of tension between opposing rights. Social conservatives/bigots would have you believe that their right to freedom of speech or religion is somehow at odds with that of LGBT people to live their lives parallel and equal in law. This is not true. LGBT people are not asking for the right to burn bibles, or churches, or dissolve heterosexual marriages or refuse to serve social conservatives. All LGBT people are asking for is equality. This argument is hard to refute, so often religion is brought in as a ballast.
A City Council member of Shreveport, Louisiana has abandoned efforts to remove recently passed legal protections for LGBT people, after public outcry. During testimony against the plans, a Trans woman dared the Councilman to stone her to death, if he truly believed the scripture he was quoting to support his personal prejudices.
Following a successful campaign by LGBT coalition Be Fair Shreveport, the Councilvoted 6-1 last December to pass ordinance which bans discrimination in housing and employment within city limits on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The lone ‘no vote’ came from Councilman Ron Webb, telling KSLA TV station “The Bible tells you homosexuals are an abomination,”
Ten days later, Webb drafted ordinance that would repeal these newly extended legal protections, and when they were brought before the Council chamber last Tuesday – droves of people registered to speak against the Councilman’s regressive proposal.
The most profound of these speakers was trans woman Pamela Raintree, who took just one minute to expose Councilman Webbs professed religiosity as nothing more than a smokescreen for his own personal bigotry. She addressed the following to Webb before the packed Council house:
“Leviticus 20:13 states, ‘If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, they shall surely put him to death,'” Raintree began. “I brought the first stone, Mr. Webb, in case that your Bible talk isn’t just a smoke screen for personal prejudices.”
Webb declined to follow the clear order of scripture and stone Pamela to death. He also recalled his proposal before it was put to a vote, meaning the hard won protections of Shreveport’s LGBT community remain intact – thanks to the unity and defiance of the local community and campaigners.You can watch the confrontation below:
‘Look, I am not judging you or your lifestyle,’ says Mr/Ms Social Conservative with a frowny face ‘I have these religious convictions and you are actually preventing me from exercising them by demanding equal rights. Your inequality is right and proper according to my deeply held religious views, it is written in scripture, and those views are protected by the constitution’.
If this is the case, then the person using such an argument can not pick and choose which bits of scripture are protected under law and which are not. Why? Because at the point which they make such a personal distinction, it is simply their subjective opinion. Which by their own logic, not mine, is trumped by religious scripture. By calling on the Councilman to stone her, and enforce the orders of Leviticus, Pamela Raintree made this contradiction clear for all to see. She may never change Councilman Webb into a progressive character, but she made a stand on behalf of herself and her community that made a profound difference – and that is worthy of acknowledgment and celebration.